Prompt #8: Entering the Panopticon

Posted in prompts at 12:49 am by Dominique

Dear all,

We only scratched the surface of our journey into panopticism on Thursday; I hope to be able to hear a few more of your reactions to the in class exercise when we are together again this Tuesday. In the meantime, I am going to ask that you not forget to look at the helpful (and entertaining) guide to Foucault that I passed around in class. It will give you a clearer sense of how the notion of the “Panopticon” as a mechanism of coercion and control fits into Foucault’s larger beliefs about the way much of modern Western culture operates; it will also help you to begin to understand why one might call Foucault a New Historicist–something we’ll talk a bit more about on Tuesday.

Steve Carpio and Arianne Williams have agreed to be our main bloggers this week. By Monday at midnight, they will respond to the following prompt in 500-550 words:

After reviewing the packet that serves as an introduction to Foucault’s well-known New Historicist critique of power relations in modern society, Discipline and Punish (1975), please return to the excerpt from the chapter on “Panopticism” and re-read it. (It’s posted on the “course readings” page as part of the excerpt from Foucault’s work, pp. 206-213).

Then, find a passage from Heart of Darkness (no more than  250 words or so) that illustrates what you understand Foucault to be saying about the concept of “discipline.” Write out a passage from the novel and a passage from Foucault, too. You might start by thinking about the section I read aloud to you near the end of Thursday’s class: “…discipline fixes…it clears up confusion [read: it attempts to clear up confusion]…[it functions through] hierarchical surveillance, continuous registration, perpetual assessment and classification….[it is] a power that insidiously objectifies those on whom it is applied…” (208, 209). After you’ve made your selections and typed them out, write a three sentence description of  why the Foucault passage illustrates, highlights, or clarifies some aspect of Heart of Darkness for you.

By Wednesday at midnight, commentators will reply to the main bloggers’ responses in 150-200 words by describing a scene of their own from Heart of Darkness (NOT by writing out a passage but summarizing an event, dialogue, or reflective moment in the text in a few sentences) and indicating why you think it illustrates Foucault’s notion of discipline in the excerpt from “Panopticism.”  If you’re feeling brave, I invite you to look to the sections that precede “Panopticism” (“Docile Bodies”–Foucault’s critique of the soldier–and “The Means of Correct Training”–his analysis of the way exams work as instruments of power) to find other connections to scenes from Heart of Darkness. Finally (an in addition to your analysis of the text) if Foucault really gets you going, please let us know what examples of the power dynamics he’s describing seem to you to be reflected in the people, places, or interactions of your daily life!

Finally, two additional reminders:

1) In addition to the normal reading and post, your one-page proposal for the first paper is due in the appropriate Dropbox folder before the start of class this coming Tuesday. For a reminder of what belongs in the proposal and how to complete it, refer to your notes from the first half of Thursday’s class and to the prompt and directions for paper 1. If you have already searched your inbox and still cannot locate an invitation from me to join our shared folder, “English 170W, An Introduction to Literary Study” on Dropbox, please email me before the end of the weekend to gain access to that folder. 

2) The bookstore is beginning to send back books that have not been bought. If you need to buy The Turn of the Screw, which we’ll be using in about a week, please do so first thing on Monday before the bookstore sends it back. (Thanks for Marissa Gonta for alerting me to this!)

Have a fantastic, productive weekend,


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