Week 7 blogs: Cunard’s NEGRO ANTHOLOGY

All undergrads are to post blogs for this week. In your blog post, identify one or two claims from the assigned essay by Laura Winkiel that you find particularly intriguing, surprising, complicated, or otherwise worthy of further discussion. Use one (or more) of the readings you selected from Cunard’s Negro: An Anthology to engage with, challenge, or further develop Winkiel’s argument. In other words, your goal is to explore an argument from the secondary resource (Winkiel) by returning to the primary source (Cunard), adding depth to our understanding of both.

Nancy Cunard
Man Ray, photograph of Nancy Cunard (1926). Courtesy of http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/265168 .

You may, if you like, continue to build on the issues we addressed in class, e.g. the anthology as modernist form; Cunard’s “romanticizing” of Africa/African-Americans, and/vs. her self-awareness of her own anthropological perspective; etc. However, your main focus should be on engaging with a claim made in Winkiel’s article.

Due date: Friday, May 15, 11:59 p.m. 700-800 words or so. Please label your posting “Blog 5.”


Grad bloggy day

There are no blogs due for undergrads today–you’re working on your midterms.

Our grad students will be getting involved by posting either about the postcolonial readings they did (Bhabha, Spivak), or about their final paper projects. I encourage undergrad students to keep up on what their graduate classmates are up to.

We’ll resume regular undergrad blogging next week, with Cunard’s Negro Anthology. I’m hoping that Joshua’s presentation on Michael North’s Dialect of Modernism will help us engage with the tricky issues of imitation, appropriation, mask and dialect, authenticity and abstraction, etc., and how these are/aren’t core elements of modernist writing.

Bon courage!

Halftime/Make-ups – for May 1

Nice job on the blogs thus far — we’re almost halfway there!

For Friday, May 1, every student should reply to a posting from last week (300-400 words). Please use specific textual details to advance, develop, or complicate claims made in the original posting. Feel free also to build any of this week’s presentation materials into your reply.

After this reply is done, every student should have completed two posts and two replies. There will be no blogs due May 8.

Make-up blogs:
As the syllabus says, each student is permitted to make up one blog or one reply (not both) by the end of the quarter (June 5). (If you have to choose between making up a reply or making up a blog post, please do the latter.)

I would prefer students to stick to the rivers and the lakes that they’re used to the blog topics for which they were originally scheduled (i.e. if you missed your April 24 posting, please do your make-up on one of the April 24 topics).

You may do this posting any time between now and the end of the quarter. Please tag your posting “Make-Up Blog,” and please make sure you sign your name (first name and last initial is fine).

Blogs due April 24 – Passage to India

This week’s blog prompts have been written by the M.A. students in the class. BE GRATEFUL. (We’re still waiting on a few–we’ll have them by the end of the day on Wednesday.)

Blog Group 1 (A-H): reply to a blog entry from last week. 300-400 words.

Blog Group 2 (I-N): You have the week off; I encourage you to keep up with what others have written.

Blog Group 3 (O-Z): 700-800-word posts due Friday, April 24, by 11:59 p.m. Please tag your post “Blog 4.”

Please remember to sign your name (at least first name and last initial) so that it’s clear who’s posted what. And never miss an opportunity to close-read language.

Prompts: Feel free to bring in excerpts from previous texts, or from the Butler book, to illuminate whatever aspects of Forster’s novel you wish to discuss. And be sure to cite specific examples from the novel. The more you can analyze language, the better off you’ll be.

  1. How does Forster’s style, which seems to gloss the story as it tells it, adhere to, alter or reject one or two notions of modernist aesthetic we’ve encountered in this course so far (mediation, modernist as cultural diagnostician, the abstracting of art, fragmentation, noise, etc.)?
  2. How might or mightn’t we consider Adela a character on whom the imperial ideology in Chandrapore is inscribed?
  3. In Chapter 14 of A Passage to India the narrator remarks, “Like most Orientals, Aziz overrated hospitality, mistaking it for intimacy, and not seeing that it is tainted with the sense of possession” (142). Can you point to other moments in the text where the narrator seems to be asserting its opinion? Is our narrator consistent? Reliable? Unbiased? Western? How, would you argue, do the narrator’s interjections shape our experiences of the characters in this novel?
  4. After Mrs. Moore leaves the caves, she thinks about how the echo in caves upset her and that “Prof. Godbole had never mentioned an echo; it never impressed him, perhaps” (147). Mrs. Moore is not the only one who learns of the echoes as they happen. In the detailed description of the caves in chapter 12, there is no mention of the echoes that are central to the characters’ experience in the caves. What do you make of this omission, of letting the reader experience the echoes for the first time alongside the characters? What significance do echoes hold in the first section of novel, and does the meaning change once they reach the caves?
  5. Close-read the significance of the imagery in the opening chapter of the “Caves” section.  How do these images correlate with the subsequent action?
  6. Discuss specific instances that presage Aziz’s arrest.  What does the disconnect between Indian and English cultures reveal about these moments?
  7. “Caves” highlights the binary of “dull” versus “interesting” life experience at least twice (“the visitor returns to Chandrapore uncertain whether he has had an interesting experience or a dull one or any experience at all” [137];  “most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it” [146]). The traveling party’s encounter with the tree stump/snake (155) shows us that Aziz would rather scare his guests with an interesting untruth (i.e., it’s a snake) rather than calm them with the dull truth (i.e., it’s a stump). Considering Aziz’s obsession with being a perfect host, why is his choice here significant and how does it shed light on the book’s theme of intercultural intelligibility?
  8. Inside the caves, all sound is distilled into a single echoing “boum” (163) that instigates a panic attack for Mrs. Moore.  Once she emerges from the cave, this “terrifying echo” (162) grows more articulate:  “Coming at a moment when she chanced to be fatigued, [the echo] had managed to murmur, ‘Pathos, piety, courage – they exist, but are identical…Everything exists, nothing has value’” (165). What enables Mrs. Moore – and no one else – to decipher the echo’s muddled message?

Blog posts due 4.17

Group 1 (A-H): you have the week off, but I encourage you to keep up on what others are doing.

Group 2 (I-N): write a blog (700-800 words), due Friday 4/17, 11:59 p.m. Please tag your posting “Blog 3.”

Group 3 (O-Z): by Friday, 4/17, 11:59 p.m., reply (300 words) to blogs from last week. Unless I’m mistaken, only one person wrote a blog last week, so he’s going to get a lot of responses.


(1) Use one of the “key terms” on the handout from Kelsey’s graduate presentation last week, and explore its applicability to one of the Pisan Cantos.

(2) Engage with one of the critical excerpts on Canto 81 found here. Use specific textual references from C81 to develop the original critic’s conclusions; you may also refer to other Cantos and draw connections back to C81.

(3) With specific reference to the text, analyze how Pound develops one of the following themes, images, ideas, or motifs in one or two of the Pisan Cantos. Keep your focus as tight and narrow as possible so that you can explore the motif in depth.

  • counterpoint
  • periplum/voyage
  • ritual/ceremony/dance
  • noise (cf. Canto 83 – “noise in the chimney”)
  • printing/imprinting/inscription/carving (etc.)
  • Pound’s African-American DTC comrades
  • money
  • usury
  • ants/wasps/insects/spiders
  • precision
  • mask

Blog instructions and prompts for 10 April 2015.

This week we begin rotating our blog posts. This week’s blogs are due Friday, 4/10, by 11:59 p.m.

Blog Group 1: if your last name begins with A through H (inclusive), you are hereafter in “Blog Group 1,” and you have a blog post due this Friday by 11:59 p.m.. Prompts are below. 700+ words.

Blog Group 2: last names I through N. This week, by 23:59 on Friday, you need to read and reply to a blog posting from last week. You can find all of last week’s postings by clicking on the link marked “Week 1 blogs.”

Pick a blog post you find particularly interesting, thought-provoking, question-raising, etc., and probe it further. Again, your goal is not to praise or to bury the original posting, but to engage with its ideas and extend them further. Ideally, you could use materials from this week’s materials that allow you to reflect back on a posting from a previous week…but as long as you’re citing specific examples, you can approach this in many different ways. 300+ words.

Blog Group 3: O through Z. You have this week off. (You’ll have a reply due on 4/17.)

Prompts: As always, you’re welcome to remake or reinvent these prompts however you like, provided that you’re citing specific examples. Please tag your blogs “Blog 2.”

1. Based on your readings and listenings for this week, respond to and elaborate on the following passage from Emily Thompson’s book The Soundscape of Modernity:

To composers like Antheil and Varèse, the noises of the modern city inspired the creation of a new kind of music. When this music was performed in places like Carnegie Hall, audiences were challenged to test their ideas about the distinction between music and noise. Some–including critics like [Lawrence] Gilman and [Paul] Rosenfeld, as well as other perceptive listeners like [William Carlos] Williams–clearly developed a new way of listening, learning not only to celebrate the noise in music, but also to appreciate the music in noise. This was not, however, the only way to test the definition of noise. Acousticians and engineers were also redefining the meaning of sound, with new instruments of their own. When they took those tools out of the laboratory and put them to work in a world filled with sound, they, too, challenged listeners to listen in new ways. (144)

(If you’re super-curious, you can find Thompson’s book on reserve—or parts of it on Google Books).

2. Pound’s Testament de Villon is hardly a noise-music composition of the Amériques or Ballet Mécanique sort; indeed, after hearing those two pieces, Pound’s might sound rather tame. Yet there are many respects in which it still reflects artistic ideals that we might call “modernist”: for example, its settings of Francois Villon, the 15th-century French poet, represent a decisive stroke of classicism, and Antheil aided Pound’s composition of the piece. Analyze how Pound’s Testament de Villon reflects a modernist aesthetic, using Butler’s Very Short Introduction as well as Pound’s essays (“A Retrospect,” on Antheil) to buttress your analysis.

3. Perform a close reading of Russolo’s “Arts of Noise” manifesto. What case does he make for the new kinds of noise that could help remake music? Why, specifically, does he champion noise, either as an artistic material, or as a cultural/social phenomenon? (Here, if you’re curious, are what Russolo’s noisemakers–intonarumori–sound like.)

4. Antheil’s essay “My Ballet Mecanique,” briefly discussed in class, can be found on D2L (under “Course Content” –> “Optional/Recommended”). It’s short: read it and assess its claims in relation to the piece itself.

5. Watch Léger’s film Ballet Mécanique, which includes a reconstruction of Antheil’s score made to fit the film. As discussed in class, the film and music were composed separately, and so we need to be cautious about taking this video too literally. Still, speculate about the relationship between the images onscreen and the music. What’s going on in the film? How do the implications of the title apply to the images as well as to the music? What “themes” from the film can you abstract, and how do they compare or conflict with the music?

6. Why are player-pianos (“pianolas”) so important to Antheil’s Ballet? How do player-pianos work, what might they symbolize, and what might their inner workings tell us about the cultural resonances of Antheil’s piece? (There’s a lot of good recent scholarship on modernism’s player-pianos–let me know if you want to do more research.)

7. Choose your own adventure. (You might want to tackle Antheil’s essay on music and race, if you’re brave, or the relationship between Antheil’s music and jazz, or take up an issue from the scholarly presentation, or any materials from the PowerPoint that I didn’t get to.)

Blog postings, round one! (Due 3 April 2015)

In a blog of 700-800 words, reflect on one of the following prompts. You are not required to answer every single question within a given prompt, nor are you necessarily limited to these topics. You may merge prompts or invent your own, if you like. These are intended merely to guide your thinking.

Whichever prompt(s) you select, be sure to cite specific examples from the reading(s) in support of your arguments. You don’t need to attach a bibliography—it will do simply to cite sources parenthetically, like this (Butler 9). Do be sure, however, to cite your sources if you go outside/beyond the syllabus. (If you are using a web source, the simplest solution is probably to link to it directly; WordPress makes this pretty easy to do.)

Blog postings are due by 11:59 p.m. on 3 April 2015. Please either sign your name to the posting, or make sure your name appears in the subject heading (e.g. “Ricky M.’s post on Schoenberg). First name and last initial are adequate, if you don’t feel like baring your identity to the world, but I certainly encourage you to stand behind what you write.

Finally, before posting your blog, please tag it “Blog 1.” Do this by going to the “Tags and Categories” menu (you’ll see this at left when you go to post); under “Enter your tags below,” enter “Blog 1” (no quote marks). Next week’s will be tagged “Blog 2,” etc. This will make it much easier for me to keep track of your blogs at the end of the quarter.

Have fun, write well, and cite specific examples. Feel free to bring in other media, links, etc. if you find them illustrative.

(1) Though Piet Mondrian is a visual artist, you will note that he uses the words “rhythm” and “harmony” in his philosophical ruminations (see Butler 24). Aren’t these predominantly musical terms? How can a painting have “rhythm”? Since you have the painting there on the page, reflect on how these musical/aural terms might apply also to a visual document. You might (or might not) then also consider how music, visual art, and language might be interacting with each other.

(1.5) You could also quickly peruse the correspondence between Schoenberg and Kandinsky, found in the Albright anthology, pp.169-172. This wasn’t assigned, but it might help you underscore specific points. Given what you’ve read in Butler, and what you’ve read from Schoenberg himself, how can we interpret this dialogue between a painter and a composer? What does each take from the other?

(2) In the excerpt from Roland Barthes’ “The Grain of the Voice” discussed in Monday’s class, Barthes suggests a little “parlour game”: “talk about a piece of music without using a single adjective.” Sounds good. Describe one of the musical compositions discussed in Butler’s Very Short Introduction, or discuss Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (excerpted in the Albright anthology), using no adjectives. What you might do here is spend 300 words or so trying this parlour game, and then the other 400-500 words reflecting on your own efforts. It might be useful, for example, consider what Barthes’/Schoenberg’s/Butler’s reflections say about music, language, modernism, or the relationships between and among them. (You can find any of these compositions on YouTube, and you don’t have to describe the whole thing. Use whatever sample will help you engage with what Schoenberg/Barthes/[whoever] are saying.)

(3) Christopher Butler uses James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922) to illustrate specific aspects of modernist writing. Given that, closely analyze the extract from Ulysses that we get in Albright’s Modernism and Music anthology (the opening–overture, if you will–of the episode called “Sirens”). How does this excerpt exemplify a relationship between literature and music, or exemplify the qualities of “allusion,” “echoes,” “structural parallels,” etc. that Butler describes of modernism? (Given that “echo” is itself a sound-related term, how might Joyce be playing with both literal and figurative kinds of echoing?)

If you’ve read Ulysses, more power to you—feel free to draw on any part of the novel. If you haven’t read it, however, you can stick with the excerpts given to us by Butler and Albright.

(4) Various forms of modernism, as Butler notes, are “against expressionist individualism, and anti-romantic” (9)–invested, in other words, in an impersonal ideal for art. Based on your readings this week, why do you think that is? What do impersonality, abstraction, geometrical purity, etc. have to do with artistic beauty? What do they have to do with music (sound, hearing) specifically?

(5) Choose your own adventure (i.e. create your own topic). Just make sure to keep your ideas grounded in specific textual examples from this week’s reading.