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  Notes from class on


Notes from class on 4/21


Anne: Topics for papers due on Friday.

Ariel: Gertrude Stein’s play…going to be writing out stage directions and the characters, etc. It’s a subjective reality idea.

Alex: Want to have the reader engage in conversation with William James. There will be several different answers to questions and depending on what you choose, you’ll go off in different directions. It’s a way to tie in different sorts of philosophies that I am still grappling with.

Julia: I want to see how William James’ philosophy is a recipe for how to live your life. It is non-deterministic. Like guidelines for experiences. He is so open ended that you can’t be a follower; he wants you to figure it out on your own, like a chef knows you will do with a cake recipe. Your life is a function of your own creation. Maybe write it as a recipe.

Katelyn: A combination of both Julia’s and Alex’s. Put William James’ writings in terms that are relevant to our lives and do not seem like orders but suggestions. 

Isabel: At the beginning of William James we talked about habit. I had this thing with Pringles. Well, I stopped eating them and kept a blog about it. I tried to relate it back to James. Feels like a little bit cheating to use a blog that I’ve already written, but with an added part.

Katherine: I’m going to draw comic strips, some of which will take direct quotes from William James’ works. Looking at James in a totally different genre that has a more humorous mentality.

Anne: So it is another attempt to translate it for our audience.

Jessica: I Think I’ll use Gertrude Stein and expand on the exercise of glossing passages and then make a map of it.

Marina: In my cultural phsyc class William James came up in a mental disorder where your brain becomes so stimulated that becomes tired. They called it Americanitis. I’m going to look at in college students who are in a cultural pit of insecurities.

Weezy: I thought about the images of the fish bowl and the shrunken heads. I’m going to go through the readings from William James and do a photo essay of his metaphors. The critical question is to discuss the images and talk about one versus the other and how it changes the metaphor. I’m going to deconstruct why I think the images are helpful and give alternative metaphors.

Anne: I like the photo essay. I’m really liking the multiple meanings of words like in Gertrude Stein. We need to not assume a word has only one meaning or image. You might be able to turn this into a final project.

Weezy: I could add in the places Henry James writes and about his protagonists.

Anne: My hope is to post responses over the weekend and them have a conference about the final project. I will not take it until we have talked about it one Monday. We will also talk about the final portfolio. Come ready to let me know about your performances. Readings might be an inspiration for performances. Look at them comparison with the modern commencement speeches. They are like 20th century versions of the earlier talks. This class has also been about reader response theory where you try to highlight multiple irreducible subjectivity. James does not trivialize or write a script, but asks us to start where we are and use what we have. I framed the class with a bio of the James family. Paul Jefferson thought our understanding should be framed in a larger cultural position…hence The Metaphysical Club. He was a cultural historian. A lot of what he writes is very William Jamesian.

Jessica: It was surprisingly funny.

Anne: He makes a contextual history funny and interesting. The argument and literally the idea is that there is no one-way to live in the world. He rejected absolutes. I had you read the passages that focused on William James. They were useful because it has a larger expanse. Starts with Oliver Wendell Holmes who decided that no abstraction was worth the cost of that kind of violence…after he fought in the Civil War. He felt that having an abstract idea leads to violence so he turned to pragmatism. So we are going to gloss the reading like we did last class.

Weezy: pg 89 top paragraph – Essentially encapsulates the fact that pragmatism effects the ability to question things that exist socially. Gives us the ability to question what we think necessary. An undercurrent of skepticism. It doesn’t necessarily run deeper than that until you have a theory. It completely undermines society and the idea that the human is independent of the animal world. A really complex, concise, encapsulation of pragmatism and the way it lead to enabling James and thinking about further.

Marina: pg 91 “Psychics…”I like it because it ties back to the stream of consciousness. How some people can penetrate into other people’s streams.

Anne: A psychic can access another’s stream and a realm beyond the material. Like when William stays after Henry’s and tried to communicate with his brother after his death. Very different dimensions that we are interested in. Incredible breadth that James was interested in.

Jessica: pg. 361 “They just use a hand…” It pokes a little fun at the importance we place on little things. Not so much why we have the idea, but what we do with them.

Anne: Cash value of them.

Katheirne: p. 86 bottom “This confirmed…” I felt sad for Alice. All of us are going to be pissed. This must be why Alice killed herself.

Ariel: I think it is interesting that all those things require strength and stamina but yet woman are weak.

Anne: It gives you a very particular motivation for Alice’s hysteria.

Weezy: I’ve been waiting for someone to shed light on her life and the nature of her disease and mental aversion to society. 

Isabel: There is another good line about how it affected their lives and thinking about them, but it wouldn’t have changed for her. Pg. 75 “His solution” I thought it was nice context for saying he couldn’t make up his mind in practices and theories. It makes sense that he couldn’t make up his mind in his own life.

Anne: In the book, it says that William James hated Hegel. (pg. 358) Did he really?

Katherine: No, he barely even knew who he was.

Anne; That passage was just a flag that you can’t trust any storyteller. He didn’t hate him…he decided what ideas to hold onto and to discard. It was a little bit of overwriting.

Julia: Pg. 351 1st full paragraph I like the emphasis on uncertainty and the process of decision making.

Anne: Is there a difference between the decisions? Does the category affect the hardness of making the decision? I think his philosophy comes from a character trait: the inability to make decisions.

Alex: pg. 76 He was just so indecisive. What kind of effect would that have on you psychologically?

Wezzy: He was replicating the way he was raised.

Anne: He differed from his father in many ways, but it is an interesting echo.

Isabel: I think he felt left out of the defining experience of his generation of going to war. It would have been redefining.

Anne: He seemed to be relieved but felt guilty.

Ariel: pg 121 last paragraph Genre and generalizations of genres. If it is important to make generalizations, how can anything be subjective? I’m confused. 

Jessica: In our conversation with Vallbah we said it was not how we divide things into groups but what they have in common.

Isabel: We have to accept the problem. Sometimes generalizations are inaccurate but you have to make them.

Anne: Make them with the awareness that they are inaccurate. One of the primary themes is that the value of pragmatism is tolerance. Pragmatism made it hard to go to violence based on your beliefs.

Katherine: Menard has the civil war as being this huge event in their lives, but we never looked at it in class so I didn’t see its relevance or connection.

Weezy: It was in the Holmes intro, but they didn’t have to say what they were talking about because it was the current context. But we needed to hear it. It was the elephant in the room for us, but everyone else had already met it.

Anne: Should we have read this first?

Jessica: I think that I needed to struggle through the readings, but this makes it clearer and makes me like James.  

Weezy: It was like a treat we had to earn. We needed to explore our own theories.

Alex: It could’ve come first because I had so much trouble understanding I almost felt like giving up. This might have helped me.

Ariel: But it makes us like him as a character which would have helped some of us who just hated him.

Weezy: It was a good background.

Anne: pg. 441 “Martin King was not…” At the end he pulls the rug out from under pragmatism. The civil rights movement, the civil war wouldn’t have happened.

Wezzy: But pragmatists have to have structures to exist in order to be conversed. It needs to be an antithesis.

Isabel: It ignores human nature. The last line…overwhelming human emotions that you are going to fight to the death for it. It is very motivating and important. It’s great for when things are fine.

Anne: It wouldn’t let you believe so intensely that you would be willing to for a belief.

Isabel: It is explained by human nature which pragmatism cannot trump.

Anne: It highlights our rationality by not acknowledging passionate sources. Is there an idea that anyone would be willing to die for?

Isabel: Not yet, but I hope there will be.



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