Friday, July 10, 2009

Plan B

After posting my booklist last week, I saw a news report about another used book website, Better World Books. Personally, I haven't used Better World Books just yet, so I offer it up as an alternate book vendor with some reservations, simply because I haven't vetted it yet. From what I can tell, though, it could serve as a preferable option for anyone who has concerns about amazon's (and other behemoth sellers') increasingly strong stranglehold on book (and music, and movie, etc.) distribution--you know, crowding out the little guy. So give it a shot, if you wish.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Required Reading

While I realize that most--if not all--of my students probably don't know that this blog exists (yet), I'm still posting the booklist for my class, because I never know how excellent my students' Internet search skills might be. Who knows? Maybe they'll stumble on this blog with enough time to order used copies of these books before the start of the semester.

So in any case, here's the list, with some helpful links to

The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, edited by Vincent B. Leitch

Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, edited by Stuart Hall

Celine Dion's Let's Talk about Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, by Carl Wilson

Wilson's book, if I might be so bold, is probably the most important text that we will be reading in the course, because it encourages us to interrogate personal taste and the ways in which our tastes might actually reveal class, gender, racial, etc. biases to which we are largely oblivious. While I suspect that many of us have talked around these biases, it seems that few of us are brave enough to hold our tastes under the kind of rigorous scrutiny that we tend to apply to the things that we find distasteful.

And so if Critical Methods is meant to teach the important methodologies that we must know in order to perform "correct," "sophisticated," "intellectual" criticism, then it seems fitting to devote some time to talking about what it means for us to hold poststructuralism, to name just one example, in such high regard. To put it another way, what does it mean to imply that sophisticated criticism is something that can only be learned in the academy? That question doesn't even broach the thorny problematics of determining which cultural objects/artifacts/representations are tasteful enough to warrant criticism in the first place. As I've been promising, though, we'll get there.