the obscene machine

gender, ethnicity, & visual culture

Spring 2007 | | professor w. nericcio | e493
Wednesdays from 4 to 6:40 in SS 1401 | | 619.594.1524
info on CFA possible strike this semester

office hours!  new and improved!

bill nericcio, A & L 273, tuesdays from 1:20pm to 3:20 pm
mark young, A & L 260, mondays from 10 am to 12 noon

bigSCARYessay day to day menu obscenemachine blog textmex blog

or years and years,'s English 493 has unfolded as an exploration of cinema and literature—their connections, interactions, collusions, etc. etc.—and we will honor that tradition in Spring 2007; however, we will bring other new kinks to our exploits as well.
For example, our experimental (not to say chaotic!) seminar will spend a lot of time on a very simple question: do we create fiction or does it create us? Do literature and film, as the cliché goes, depict or render or recreate “reality,” or are they machines with a peculiar nature, rendered artifices that alter the very nature of being.

It may well be that after close observation, the obscene machines of literature and film reveal themselves to be nothing more and nothing less than an attempt by humans to immortalize themselves in living facsimiles—ersatz, seductive mannequins in whose forms we create and recreate our psyches!  The machines we "forge," become the factories of our own metamorphosis-- Holy Ovid, Batman! Throughout the semester, in the books, films, art, and photography we consume feverishly—allowing the influenza of textuality to consume our imagination—we will confront various odd, curious, bizarre, and perverse (yikes) writers and artists who have created various odd, curious, bizarre, and perverse characters: "women" and "men," "gay" and "straight," "black," "white," "mexican," and "asian."  The beauty or the uncanniness of these figures, the thing they share in common, is that each, in its own way, transcends the category that it "represents."  Man as "the obscene machine"—the printed word (the novel, essay, and poetry) and film will emerge during the course of the semester as a remarkable semiotic and semantic factory of sorts, a voyeuristic while rhetorical, rhetorical while voyeuristic asylum. Weekly we will wrestle with twin media that represent in the course of entertaining, and entertain in the course of forging the very ether that makes thought possible.

This will very much be a course in "cultural studies," sensitive at once to the machinery of race and class, gender and ethnicity, desire and destruction while also remaining highly sensitive to formal, critical issues regarding the play of word and image. Our seminar is open to ALL majors of all ranks--freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors are welcome to come give us a test drive.

books include...

humberto eco
the mysterious flame of queen loana

cristina rivera garza          
no one will see me cry

william nericcio                  

eduardo galeano
century of the wind

frida kahlo
diary of frida kahlo

frida kahlo | diego rivera
dover art stickers

flor garduño
inner light: still life and nudes

the hurt business: early works plus [+]
oliver mayer

tortilla flat
john steinbeck

films include

peter greenaway               
the pillow book

hal hartley                          

orson welles                      
touch of evil

king vidor                           

friz freleng                          
speedy gonzales shorts (various)

These sites are required reading for the seminar

course blog experiment 1 | the obscene machine

course blog experiment 2 | the tex[t]-mex galleryblog

This second blog is more directly related to the graduate seminar I am also teaching this term; however, as it is connected to the project of one of the required texts, I am placing it here as a resource.

Office Hours

My regular office hours from Spring 2007 are  on Tuesdays from 1:20pm to 3:20pm; my office is located in Arts and Letters 273--second floor, end of the hall.  Though there are many undergraduates in this class, I hope that each of you will make the time to introduce yourself at least once during the course of the semester.  You are also welcome to make an appointment with me if these hours are not convenient--email me at
 or call 619.298.4903. Office Hours are a key element of the university experience--basically, if you don't take advantage of them, you may well be stuck with a "high school" mentality where "talkin' to da teacher" outs you as an inveterate "brown-noser." However, this is a university and office hours--where you are free to engage in discussions and ask questions pertinent to the class--are an essential part of the collegiate intellectual experience.

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Mark Young is a second-year graduate student in our amazing Graduate Program in English; with loads of experience and the imagination and energy of a wizard, he brings his intellectual superpowers to our seminar. Seek him out while you have the time! Young's office hours are in A & L 260, the pacific review offices, mondays from 10 am to 12 noon

The Professor

Much too much about your would-be ringleader is here.

Seminar Preparation

You come to class having finished the reading--finished finished; it does not refer to skimming, scanning, googling a summary, etc.  It means you enter our class having carefully read, taken notes, written down questions in preparation for our class sessions--if there is a reading for a given day, you walk in having spent a fair amount of time not only completing the reading, but also having thought about what you have read; if we are screening a film, perhaps you will have spent some time beforehand at or other WWW info-trough having looked up info on the film, director, actors etc.  Class sessions will very much rely on exchanges between students and professors and our graduate teaching assistant.  Without careful preparation, why come to class?


Because we meet only once a week, attendance in this seminar is essential.  If you intend to miss more than TWO classes during the term (or you know yourself to be a dyed in the wool slacker), do please consider adding another class and giving this one a pass.


Your grade will be based on just about everything: attendance, participation (questions and contributions to class discussions), quiz-grades (quizzes will occur only if I get the sense that the class is acting like 10nth-grade stooges), in-class writing surprises, and the final exam.  The grade breakdown is as follows:

24%   Riveting Participation and Attendance
25%   Horrible, Surprising Quizzes
25%   The Big Scary Exam
25%   The Big Scary Essay
   1%   Chutzpah, Drive, Ganas, Will...

Essays and Writing Assignments

25% of your grade is provided by your "horrible, surprising quizzes." Also included in this category are two substantive entries on the obscene machine blog.  As I have said IN class several times during the semester, these entries need to be substantitve AND derive/focus/develop/challenge ideas that have been bounced around in our class.  You will be turning out printouts of this work on April 25, 2007, so you should have your commentaries posted, as I have to review them before letting them "out the corral" and up on the internet.  Your BIG SCARY ESSAY, also constituting 25% of your final grade, should be conceived as an original, amazing, riveting, if not dramatic piece of analysis.  DO TAKE CHANCES on your essays and don't be shy about incorporating captioned, cited images if they assist with your argument.

The Final Exam

Your final challenge for the term will be a comprehensive exam that will take place on May 2, 2007 at 4pm in West Commons 220; your exam is a "traditional" final exam in that all required readings and screenings may be covered in its pages.  This "Big Scary Exam," as it was called above in the original course syllabus, is "closed book."  All you need to bring that Tuesday afternoon are a couple of good pens, your imagination, and your memory--do this, and you will be a rad, successful, obscene undergraduate machine!