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Guide The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television

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The anxiety of obsolescence: the American novel in the age of television.

I am not sure how to interpret these statements, as they seem to preclude any possibility of satire. Fitzpatrick's own reading would seem to suggest, on the other hand, that Pynchon incorporates these misogynistic views in order to illustrate and critique the patriarchal drive to control and dominate women. If so, it would seem possible to interpret the novel not as a representation of "the dangers of the feminine" and the fear of a "masculine loss of potency" 97 , but rather as a critique of the male obsession with potency and the belief that it can be augmented and enhanced by technological means.

The third chapter focuses on the theme of spectacle and the perceived threat that images pose to the primacy of writing. Fitzpatrick summarizes various critiques of television culture, such as the work of Neil Postman, Guy Debord, and Jean Baudrillard, in order to address three key dangers that are most often attributed to images: 1 "the image is thought to further a worldview in which things take precedence over ideas" ; 2 "the spectacle.

In his essay "The Power of History," for example, DeLillo claims that there is "always another set of images for you to want and need and get sick of and need nonetheless, and it separates you from the reality that beats ever more softly in the diminishing world outside the tape" Fitzpatrick points out that this claim bears remarkable similarities to Baudrillard's simulation theory, and she interprets DeLillo's novels as an attempt to recuperate this "disappearing profound reality" In her reading of Mao II , for example, Fitzpatrick argues that DeLillo presents the threat posed by photography by describing the ways in which the modern society of the spectacle has effaced writers and the written word.

According to Fitzpatrick, the photographs taken of Bill Gray, the reclusive author, turn him "into a trading card, something that can be owned rather than understood," and the image "drains the world of meaning by erasing its connections to the real" By reducing the writer to an image, in other words, photographs effectively silence the authorial voice, and Gray's eventual disappearance thus represents "the final vanishing of the writer in an image-driven culture" Indeed, the novel describes many ways in which photographs are employed to consolidate political power, and Gray himself complains that having his picture taken makes him feel that he has become "someone's material," a "consumer event" DeLillo, Mao II However, it would be wrong to conclude that he is simply trapped by photography or that photography consistently threatens to destroy writing; rather, photography also allows Gray to escape from the trap represented by his own seclusion.

Gray has invited the photographer, for example, because he wants "to break down the monolith I've built," which makes him "afraid to go anywhere" and keeps him from writing anything new Rather than foreclosing his access to the real, in other words, photography actually enables Gray to escape his isolation and more fully engage in the outside world. There are also moments in the novel when writing and photography are depicted as complementary methods of engaging with the real. This is most clearly illustrated at the end of the novel, when Gray's sympathy for the boys that have been indoctrinated by the terrorists in Beirut is explicitly paralleled with the photographer's attempts to take a picture of these boys , These moments seem to demand a more subtle reading of the role of optical media in the novel, and they illustrate the dangers of equating the effects or different media, like photography and television.

Rather than simply describing images as either positive or negative, in other words, their value would seem to depend more on whether they are employed for the purposes of indoctrination or liberation, and photography would thus seem to represent yet another potential conduit to "the diminishing world outside the tape. A more pressing question, however, is how this issue relates to the book's primary argument.

This remains unclear until Fitzpatrick turns to White Noise. Critics frequently discuss how this novel illustrates Baudrillard's simulation theory, yet Fitzpatrick argues that the anxieties about the image represented in this novel actually conceal "fears about race and ethnicity" , and she asserts that the title could also be interpreted as a reference to "the noise.

This sentence echoes Tim Engles' claim that " White Noise can be read as a novel about the noise that white people make" , yet Engles argues that the characters in this novel are not "overt racists," but rather they "demonstrate the common American tendency to foreground race in their conceptions of other people by immediately conceiving of racialized others in racial terms" Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, interprets this tendency as evidence of the characters' underlying racist attitudes.

For example, Fitzpatrick claims that Jack Gladney's racism is revealed at those moments when he attempts to determine the ethnicity of others, like his son's friend Orest: "He might have been Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, a dark-skinned Eastern European, a light-skinned black. Did he have an accent? I wasn't sure. For Fitzpatrick, this scene illustrates the "threat that lurks in visually perceived but uncontained otherness" , while for Engles it exposes the "relationality of identity-formation" and contradicts the "white fantasy of autonomous individualism" by depicting Gladney's gradual realization of his "habitual reliance on" and "the eroding reliability of traditional American racial categories" Fitzpatrick also argues that the novel attributes this tendency to categorize others in racial terms to optical media, like television: "The realm of the visual.

The connection between visual media and the visual categorization of others becomes particularly evident, according to Fitzpatrick, when television is associated with images of Hitler: "Hitler - and thus the most virulent form of ethnocentric violence - is at the heart of the electronic media and its participation in images of terror; television, as the primary purveyor of the dominant ideology, carries his message of whiteness and maleness twenty-four hours a day" Unlike Engles, therefore, Fitzpatrick does not read the novel as intentionally foregrounding and criticizing the construction of white identity, but rather she interprets the novel's critique of television as a tactic that allows DeLillo to conceal his own racist agenda and preserve the space of the novel as the realm of white male privilege.

While Fitzpatrick's theory certainly provides a new and highly provocative approach to understanding the significance of race in White Noise , the logic of her argument is often confusing, and I still have difficulty understanding how the novel's explicit critique of racism on television could somehow also be interpreted as a means of concealing and implicitly promoting that same racism. Chapter four examines the discourse surrounding the media network and the perceived threat that it poses to writing. Fitzpatrick defines the network as the merging of electricity and information, which gave rise to cybernetics, information theory, and the concept of information entropy.

She also adds that these new theories of communication led to anxieties concerning the potential failure of communication systems and the breakdown of individual subjectivity. Fitzpatrick outlines three particular questions raised by these developments: 1 "If accurate and complete communication is impossible in a networked culture, might that impossibility have ramifications for print-based communication as well? The concept of the network thus "represents a threat to individual agency" as well as "the individual ability to communicate" Most of this chapter is devoted to examining how Pynchon and DeLillo incorporate the concepts of information theory and systems theory in their novels.

While Fitzpatrick does an excellent job of outlining these theories and explaining how they inform the literary texts, it is not clear how her readings differ from the work of previous critics. Fitzpatrick's claim that The Crying of Lot 49 represents an "overflow of information" that threatens to hasten "the entropic decline into meaninglessness" , for example, seems to represent a rather conventional way of interpreting this novel.

More importantly, however, it is unclear until the end of the chapter how this discussion relates to the book's primary argument. In her section on "Massification," however, Fitzpatrick addresses how fears of an interconnected "hive mind" also serve to reinforce traditional social hierarchies:. It is not accidental that, in a nation in which individualism is represented as the political ideal, otherness is often equated with the loss of individuality; the television network, in binding a disparate citizenry together, thus threatens the loss of the individual's primacy and the equation of the privileged form of the individual - white, male, Western - with those others he has for so long dominated.

Fitzpatrick supports this claim by returning to Mao II and its descriptions of mass events like the funeral of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the mass wedding at Yankee Stadium by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Fitzpatrick points out that Karen, who was herself a Moonie and took part in the mass wedding, also has a deep affinity for television. As Gray points out, "She's smart about people.

Looks right through us. Watches TV and knows what people are going to say next. According to Fitzpatrick, however, Gray fails to realize that "Karen in fact bears a striking resemblance to the television; she does not understand people but channels them. She is the multiplicitous and yet demultiplied subject of the future" , emphasis in original.

While Fitzpatrick is obviously correct in suggesting that there is a close connection between Karen's activities as a Moonie and her intuitive understanding of television culture, there are several other moments in the novel when the notion of a "hive mind" is represented in far more ambiguous terms. Karen defends the concept of a mass wedding, for example, by arguing for the value of empathy:. The point of mass marriage is to show that we have to survive as a community instead of individuals trying to master every complex force. Mass interracial marriage.

The conversion of the white-skinned by the dark. I know all the drawbacks of the Moon system but in theory it is brave and visionary. Think of the future and how depressed you get.

(PDF) Academic Obsolescence–between Metaphor and Reality | Camelia Gradinaru - gyqacyxaja.cf

All the news is bad. We can't survive by needing more, wanting more, standing out, grabbing all we can. This isn't a story about seeing the planet new.

Creativity & Collaboration in the Academy: Kathleen Fitzpatrick

It's about seeing people new. We see them from space, where gender and features don't matter, where names don't matter. We've learned to see ourselves as if from space, as if from satellite cameras, all the time, all the same. As if from the moon, even. We're all Moonies, or should learn to be. That said, I had a number of professors who planted the seeds for the work I wanted to do later on: Jim Bennett got me to understand writing as a discipline not just of expression but of discovery; Panthea Broughton made me think very hard about the relationship between the literary and the contemporary; Anthony Barthelemy pushed me to consider what I might be able to accomplish if I were brave enough to leave the nest, so to speak.

It was only later, and cumulatively, that those small moments turned into something larger. As an undergraduate, it appeared to me that the lives of my professors were as close to perfect as one could imagine: they spent tons of time reading and writing, and talking about reading and writing, and they had schedules that were more or less self-determined.

What more could you want? As you know, a growing majority of faculty are subject to an increasingly contingent relationship with their institutions; most students in the U. What makes a good teacher today? How do you manage to command attention in an age of interruption characterized by fractured attention and information overload? We are all compelled to multi-task today, by the multiple devices and inputs that connect us to the world. The most important thing for me, in the last few years that I was teaching, was to understand the classroom not as a pipeline for the transmission of information, but as a network for interaction among its participants.

I taught in a laptop-based classroom, and asked students to be responsible at different moments for leading discussions, for taking collaborative notes on those discussions, for finding new information to contribute to the discussions, and so forth, all of which were aimed at helping students — and me as well — figure out how to move their attention fluidly between the screen in front of them and the room in which they were all seated.

What advice would you give to aspiring university professors and what are some of the texts young scholars should be reading today? I will say that many graduate programs are beginning to rethink their orientation and their purposes in ways that I suspect will produce some exciting new developments in the years ahead. The Modern Language Association has, for instance, recently commissioned a task force on the future of graduate study, which is thinking seriously about the new directions and new career paths that graduate training might support.

Do you think the university as an institution is in crisis or at least under threat in this age of information? The university is an institution in a state of permanent crisis, I think, in a number of different respects. One of those respects may be that which McLuhan gestures toward: the continual development of new fields of knowledge with which the institution should reckon.

But those sovereignties have certainly complicated in a university that presents an increasing number of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary programs and certificates attempting, however imperfectly, to present more flexible, dynamic ways of engaging with the proliferation of information and the ways of organizing it into knowledge. But of course the university is facing a number of other kinds of crises that are far more pressing: the escalation of student debt, the continuing decline in public fiscal support, the increasing casualization of the workforce. In comparison, we can see that the age of information presents challenges rather than crises — and precisely the kinds of challenges with respect to knowledge with which the university ought to be engaged.

To build on the previous question, not long ago you made the decision to leave Pomona College to take on an executive position at the Modern Language Association.