english 725 |spring 2007

ethnic mannequins or the obscene machine
a graduate seminar on ethnic american theory and gender studies in film and literature

w. nericcio | eyegiene.sdsu.edu | obscenemachineblogtex[t]-mex blog | day-to-day tasks

what will we do in our seminar this semester?

we will pursue a cultural study of stereotypes and chase as well, resistant aesthetic antidotes (literary, cinematic, photographic, etc.) of the same.

if we think of stereotypes as a species of puppet or mannequin, who then are their authors, their agents, their puppeteers?

Geneviève Van der Wielenextending this allegorical premise, who builds and finances the theater within which these puppets play? and why are we such a captive, supportive audience?

we know (but forget) that film and fiction hand us artifacts that traffic in verisimilitude. a graduate seminar in a literature department, then, is an agent in the commerce of illicit fictional exchanges--an economy of the obscene, which grows even more complex when we aspire to attend to the categories of ethnicity and gender.

and, aspire we do!

different segments of the class will focus on insidious and inspiring, reprehensible and deconstructive representations of african americans, mexican americans, latin americans, and other assorted peculiar "ethnic" bodies.

printed texts include:

dover art sticker collections of frida kahlo and diego rivera; juan felipe herrera's and artemio rodriguez's loteria cards and fortune poems; frantz fanon's black skin, white masks; eduardo galeano's century of the wind; flor garduño's inner light; cristina rivera garza's no one will see me cry; gilbert hernandez's house of raging women; my text[t]-mex: seductive hallucination of the "mexican" in america; and frida kahlo's diary.

films include: peter greenaway's the pillow book; orson welles's touch of evil; charles vidor's gilda; friz freleng's and robert mckimson's speedy gonzales shorts films (various); and richard fleischer's mandingo.

additional readings will include cultural studies essays by sander gilman, henry louis gates jr., spike lee, thelma golden, and jessica hagedorn.

optional readings by gilbert hernandez, duck feet, are also part of the mix.

graduate students in film, women's studies, ethnic studies, art, anthropology, and latin american studies are strongly urged to consider joining our cultural studies cohort. more info? email me at memo@sdsu.edu
how to be in a seminar

office hours

my office hours are before class on tuesdays from 12:30 to  3:20 or so in arts and letters 273--make the time to introduce yourself and be a real, living, breathing, dynamic part of our seminar. my phone number is 619.594.1524 and email address is memo AT sdsu DOT edu.


a graduate seminar course--the closest you can get to doing doctoral level work in our sdsu english and comparative literature graduate program--is a pretty serious thing. 

my expectation, of course, is that you will enter each seminar having carefully completed the assigned reading for a given day. 

but my desires far outstrip my expectations! 

my desire is that you will have both prepared the material by doing the reading, but that you will also have “prepared” the material as if you were the professor for the class.  that means doing the reading, surveying recent research in the field of said work, looking up published reviews and scholarship that focus on said work, and preparing questions (both discussion questions and close-reading-related questions) to share with your professor and your colleagues.


in addition to the required reading for a given tuesday, you are also expected to read our two course related blogs, textmex.blogspot.com and theobscenemachine.blogspot.com,  and to contribute/comment on the latter.

big scary seminar paper

this being a graduate seminar, it is, as you might anticipate, expected that you will produce a scintillating piece of rhetorical excellence in the course of the semester; far be it for me to dash your hopes of this situation.  to that end, you will submit to me tuesday, may 8, 2007 in our seminar, a well-researched, nicely crafted, exquisitely honed critical essay anywhere from 13 to 15 pages.

what will this beautiful essay be about?

that's the fun part! consider the obvious: you are a graduate student.

what does that mean?

it means that you are a scholarly apprentice of sorts. you are one in a long line of individuals who aspire to scholarship, and, in the case of this class, a cultural studies/ethnic studies/film/lit exegesis of the first order.

like it or not one of the things which will determine whether or not you have what it takes to get past the gates at the ivory tower is your scholarly writing. it used to be that writing for literary journals was an extended exercise in pain and self-abuse. but the field is changing and so are its journals.

when you arrive may 8 at 3:30pm, your fatigued palms will be holding a 13 to 15 page essay (please don’t write past 15 pages, quantity is never an attractive proxy for quality). the essay should be typed, double-spaced and carefully proofread. it should not have any special cover page or plastic cover--a staple or paper clip in the upper left hand corner is fine.

that is the easy part.

how will you go about imagining this essay? please have your essay derive or be based in large part on a text, author, director, theme, genre which is part of the required material for our class; moreover, i am also open to you conceiving of your submission to me as a draft chapter from your master's thesis, or a possible submission to critical journal.

footnote vs. endnote? mla style vs. chicago style?

these controversies have been solved for you in advance. as part of your assignment, i want you to immerse yourself in the variety of journals now publishing essays in literature, philosophy, film studies, cultural studies, comparative literature and contemporary studies in comparative cultures. you may complete this immersion here in love library, at usd  (better/prettier) or ucsd.

some pretty good journals include: boundary 2, diacritics, critical inquiry, social text, pmla, south atlantic quarterly, camera obscura and cinema journal.

think of your e725 essay, then, as an exercise in role playing--any question you might have about format, tone, styles, footnoting tactics and the like will be answered by the editorial policy of the journal you select as your guide. do please submit with your seminar essay, a copy of one essay from the journal you have selected.

do note that our library has great, full-text, online journal archives like project muse and jstor. if you have any question as to the appropriateness of a journal just give me a call or pull me aside and ask me.

what can you write on? well just about anything. i imagine the best exercise will be to throw all your books and notes on a table, think about what are some of the provocative issues which have stayed with you during the term and then head off to the library and those endless stacks of scholarly journals. by the time you’ve paged through all those journals and get back to your books and notes, you’ll have a firmer grasp on the goals of your analytical adventure. you’ll also probably have a headache--welcome to academe.