This course is a specific application of a general rubric: MODES OF INQUIRY, studying the modern tools of cultural and discursive analysis, with an emphasis on modes of inquiry seeking to demystify the natural, as it appears in the formation of culture, their institutions, and individuals.
This course will study how "common sense" is formed, how cultures operate to turn the peculiarities of the institution, useful for a particular time and place, into the appearance of timeless and universal operations. Common sense converts "culture into nature," which is another way of saying that it operates under the skin, not by reasoning us into agreement but by presenting itself as simply THERE, like rocks and trees and smells. Our being is formed inside such systems, ideological systems, and so are the larger social institutions which sustain the illusions of naturalness. The course is intended as an exploration of how common sense gets formed, of how ugly its operations can be, and of how we might turn common sense back on itself: make it strange, penetrate its secrets, throw pies in its face. We want to make the familiar seem odd. Another way to put this is that we want to deconstruct the foundations of common sense in order to expose its principles and see how they function. This class will focus on three main instructional formations as they operate in our culture: the idea of "the family," "the criminal," and "age constructions."
Jack Henry Abbott. In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison. New York: Vintage, 1991.
Dorothy Allison. Bastard Out of Carolina. New York: Dutton/Plume, 1993.
Bill Buford. Among the Thugs. New York: Vintage, 1993.
Albert Camus. The Stranger. Trans. Matthew Ward. New York: Vintage, 1989.
Truman Capote. In Cold Blood. New York: Vintage, 1994.
Friedrich Engels. Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. New York: International Publishers, 1972.
Jeffrey Eugenides. The Virgin Suicides. New York: Warner Books, 1994.
Ian McEwan. The Cement Garden. New York: Random House, 1994.
Vladimir Nabokov. Lolita. New York: Vintage, 1989.
Adam Phillips. The Beast in the Nursery: On Curiosity and Other Appetites. New York: Vintage, 1999.
J. D. Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Warner Books, 1991.
Sophocles. Oedipus Tyrannus. New York: W. W. Norton, 1970.
D. M. Thomas. The White Hotel. New York: Viking Penguin, 1993.
Irvine Welsh. Trainspotting. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996.