Continuing what we started…What is the relationship between a critic and a text? (Prompt 7)

Posted in prompts at 1:18 pm by Dominique



The Critic as Host, a deconstructionist approach to reading and criticism, by J. Hillis Miller (1977)

Hi all,

The links above are those that I was hoping to project during Thursday’s class. Please take a look at both the critical chronology handout and the Miller reading, “The Critic as Host,” which we referenced in class. I am excited by how quickly many of you “latched on” to Miller’s claims and hope that this reading provides a new way for you to conceptualize how a deconstructionist critic–and perhaps critics in general–thinks about relationships between critics and texts, critics and other critics, and texts and their predecessors. The piece above, by MIller, is short and well worth reading in full!

Now, a technology update (can you hear my teeth gnashing?): We’ll have someone from tech services in our room on Tuesday before class who will hopefully help me to resolve once and for all whether it will be possible to rely on the internet connection in our classroom in the future. I am–as you are, I’m know–entirely sick of wasting time in class to try to get the internet to work. In recent conversations with tech services they have told me that the connection in our room in unreliable and, though there is a connection hub in the room right next door, the cinder-block walls in Rathaus can sometimes interfere with the signal coming into our room. We’ll see what our personal tech expert says on Tuesday. The only option may be to connect a cable to a jack in the room and access the internet through a landline rather than the wireless system.

Okay, on to our next task. For this week Kelly Haff and Jesse Goirn have agreed to be our main bloggers. Though the required reading is on post-colonialism (see your syllabus for specifics), which we’ll discuss together on Tuesday, I would like us to continue to work with the critical selections from Heart of Darkness that you were assigned at the end of class on Thursday. Though we’re reading these passages from a deconstructionist perspective when we use Miller and the notion of “binary oppositions,” we might also look at the same passages through a post-colonial lens in class on Tuesday. So, let’s go back to where we left off. Here are the selections you were assigned in class:

Group 1: pages 27-29 (“I left in a French steamer”… “hints for nightmares”)

Group 2: pages 40-42: (“He blew the candle out suddenly”… “the very essence of dreams”)

Group 3: pages 49-51 (“try to be civil Marlow”…  “and no memories”)

Group 4: pages 63-66 (“He went silent for a long time”… “like a claim of distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment”)

Group 5: pages 84-86 (“The brown current ran swiftly”… “in a muddy hole”) 

By Monday at midnight, Kelly and Jesse will guide us through the in-class exercise by returning to the passages they were assigned in their respective groups and posting a response, of 500-550 words, that address the following questions:  What binary oppositions are implied or assumed in this passage? Of the binaries you’ve mentioned, which one seems most important to address if we are to understand why this passage is relevant to the novel as a whole? For the binary you have chosen, describe the way that its two terms (e.g. savage/civilized, dark/light, god/servant, etc.) “feed off of each other” in one of the ways that Miller describes in his lecture, “The Critic as Host.” Please be sure to quote Miller at least once and to cite the Conrad passage itself at least once as you explain and illustrate how this binary operates, from a deconstructionist perspective, in Conrad’s novel.

Commentators: by Wednesday at midnight, you should do an abbreviated version of this exercise–in 150-200 words–for the passage you were assigned.  If you were not in class, you may choose any of the five passages indicated above to analyze more closely.

All: please be sure to indicate clearly the passage to which you are responding at the top of your post. 

Lastly, I know that many people were hoping to receive their quizzes on Thursday, which was part of our original plan. Some people have emailed me requesting their grades, and I have responded. I will be sure to return your quizzes to you near the end of this Tuesday’s class.

Read–write–and do enjoy this very beautiful fall weekend,


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