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Notes Towards Day 25: Saving Lives, Serially

Anne Dalke's picture


"House saves lives, and that is all he is interested in."
(House unauthorized

Scheherazade [in the Burton version] had perused the books, annals, and legends of preceding kings, and the stories, examples, and instances of bygone men and things. Indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart, she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts, and accomplishments. And she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred.

"Listen," said Scheherazade [in the Lang translation]. "I am determined to stop this barbarous practice of the Sultan's, and to deliver the girls and mothers from the awful fate that hangs over them .... If I fail, my death will be a glorious one, and if I succeed I shall have done a great service to my country."

today we'll be trying to link up Scheherazade--
so far away, so (in)accessible?--
with absolutely current material--Gregory House, M.D.:

both use education and intelligence to
save lives (including their own?)
and do so in a fictional, serial format;
the first character is altruistic, the second...?

but first--
I. coursekeeping
Herbie's notes

tomorrow by 5 p.m.: on-line papers
due, tagged as "Genres Web Paper 3"

for Tuesday, come ready to sign up for your final performances;
also watch 2 more episodes of House, M.D.
(chosen by aseidman, who will now explain and disclaim):
Season 4, Episodes 15 and 16, "House's Head" and "Wilson's Heart"
a few looking-backwards--

re: Tuesday's conversation regarding the relationship between "instructing" and "dreaming," this from the American pragmatist philosopher-psychologist William James:

"the American textbook Moloch, in whose belly living children's minds are turned to ashes, and in which the science is pre-digested for the teacher and for the pupil comminuted into small print and large print and paragraph headings and cross references and examination questions, and every up to date device for frustrating the natural movement of the mind when reading and preventing that irresponsible rumination of the material in one's own way which is the soul of culture .... Textbooks grew out of the specialist attitude, akin to that of the feudal lord behind his moat" (Jacques Barzun, A Stroll with William James. New York: Harper and Row, 1983, p. 284).

from Katherine Rowe re: Shakespeare Quarterly's
"Open Review" process: Anyone who wishes to post can (and have -- a filmmaker, some digital humanists who are not Renaissance scholars). But the word "peer" is as important here as the word "open" -- they modify each other. We've solicited experts in the various topics the essays touch down in because that expertise constitutes the peer relationship. It's the function of a journal to provide stuff about its field that experts review, not just stuff about its field. Seems to me (and the students I've been working with advocate this idea quite hard) that academic filtering activities such as curating, reviewing, editing are increasingly valuable on the web, not less so. Sometimes you want to find stuff; sometimes you want to find carefully filtered stuff; it helps to know which kind of stuff you've found when you find it.

There are multiple ways to filter, of course; that's the interesting part of all this. Seems to me that a key way to define different genres of publication (on and off the web) is in terms of the filtering process they choose. That said, there is a whole lot of invisibly mixed practice out there on the web. Wikipedia might seem a model of a fully open process, but of course it's not; it has its hierarchy of contributors (experts) and it locks down entries. More importantly, it contains a huge amount of content produced through old-fashioned editorial and curatorial processes (lifted directly from Ency Brittanica, the Dictionary of National Biography, etc.), rather than through collaborative wiki-ing.

***I'd very much welcome student comments on the SQ project. For the Thompson essay in particular I'd say that undergraduates have relevant expertise, in that they operated quite recently (are peers) in the teaching and video-making environment that Thompson describes. I don't think you have to be a Shakespearean to assess her account of ethical quotation of HS student videos on YouTube. You might consider discussing her argument as a group and posting collectively?

YouTube videos unmoor Othello racially with casts comprised solely of Asian-American students...

Shakespeare is too small for the contemporary racial and cultural performances and productions that Asian-Americans students want to create ... updates to the plot provide a type of historical challenge to the notion of Shakespeare’s universality....First, there is the challenge of casting with (or without) regards to race when pedagogical practices turn “classrooms into rehearsal spaces".... And second, in the twenty-first century, there is the challenge of addressing the ways the performances that result from our classroom assignments may have public afterlives on the internet.

The debates about online research are still ongoing: does internet research constitute human subjects research? Is cyberspace a private or public space? Are online communications private or public? Does reading, citing, and analyzing postings on internet sites, like YouTube, entail an “intervention or interaction” with the individuals who create them, and, thus, require oversight by an institutional review board (IRB)?
from Tim Burke, My Books, My Selves
this story of the creation of an on-line self
is quite relevant to "Private Lives," so...

correction/possible misperception/articulation from Tuesday:
I pointed out that the versions most of you were using did not "close the frame"; but the PRINTED version of (Burton's) 1001 Nights actually does so quite dramatically:
Now, during this time, Shahrazad had borne the King three boy children : so, when she had made an end of the story of Ma'aruf, she rose to her feet and kissing ground before him, said, " O King of the time and unique one of the age and the tide, I am thine hand- maid and these thousand nights and a night have I entertained thee with stories of folk gone before and admonitory instances of the men of yore. May I then make bold to crave a boon of Thy Highness ? " He replied, " Ask, O Shahrazad, and it shall be granted to thee.^" ... " O King of the age, these are thy children and I crave that thou release me from the doom of death, as a dole to these infants ; for, an thou kill me, they will become motherless and will find none among women to rear them as they should be reared." When the King heard this, he wept and straining the boys to his bosom, said, "By Allah, O Shahrazad, I pardoned thee before the coming of these children, for that I found thee chaste, pure, ingenuous and pious!...I exempt thee from aught that can harm thee." So she kissed his hands and feet and rejoiced with exceeding joy, saying, "... Thou marvelledst at that which befel thee on the part of women ; yet there betided the Kings of the Chosroes before thee greater mishaps and more grievous than that which hath befallen thee, and indeed I have set forth unto thee that which happened to Caliphs and Kings and others with their women, but the relation is longsome and hearkening groweth tedious, and in this is all-sufficient warning for the man of wits and admonishment for the wise." Then she ceased to speak, and ... King Shahriyar heard her speech and profited by that which she said...
[his brother (who for three years has been sleeping w/ virgins every night and killing them each morning), marries her sister, on condition that they won't be parted, and they all live harmoniously. In due time...
King Shahriyah summoned chroniclers and copyists and bade them write all that had betided him with his wife, first and last; so they wrote this and named it "The Stories of the Thousand Nights and A Night." The book came to thirty volumes and these the King laid up in his treasury.... ...on this wise they continued till there took them the Destroyer — of delights and the Severer of societies, the Desolator of dwelling- places and Garnerer of grave-yards, and they were translated to the ruth of the Almighty Allah; their houses fell waste and their palaces lay in ruins and the Kings inherited their riches. And there reigned after them a wise ruler, who was just, keen-witted and accomplished and loved tales and legends, especially those which chronicle the doings of Sovrans and Sultans, and he found in the treasury these marvellous stories and wondrous histories, contained in the thirty volumes aforesaid. So he read in them a first book and a second and a third and so on to the last of them, and each book astounded and delighted him more than that which preceded it till he came to the end of them. Then he admired whatso he had read therein of description and discourse and rare traits and anecdotes and moral instances and reminiscences and bade the folk copy them and dispread them over all lands and climes; wherefore their report was bruited abroad and the people named them "The Marvels and Wonders of the Thousand nights and a Night." This is all that hath come down to us of the origin of this book, and Allah is All-knowing.' So Glory be to Him whom the shifts of Time waste not away, nor doth aught of chance or change affect His sway: whom one case diverteth not from other case and Who is sole in the attributes of perfect grace. And prayer and peace be upon the Lord's Pontiff and Chosen One among His creatures, our lord MOHAMMED the Prince of mankind through whom we supplicate Him for a goodly and a godly FINIS.
use this "close" to think about how t.v.
series end: is the frame always closed?

(how would you "close" House M.D.?)

how hard (or useful?) is it to do analytical work
on contemporary material? how resistant are
you to doing this?

what may be lost, w/out having any distance?

(the conv'l argument against teaching current work:
not enough time to know if it's "worth" analyzing)
rachelr: some stories hold for me more magic in the way they are told to me, rather than perhaps my full analysis and probing into the text.
spleenfiend: Drawing a comparison between House and 1001 Nights feels really strange.  However, just like each story in 1001 Nights seems to function on its own but is in fact tied to the others, episodes of House have episodic "patient of the week" plots, but there are still ongoing plots related to the main characters, and those don't make as much sense out of context.

nk0825: Thinking about t.v. series as a descendent of "framed tales" I think it's very possible. Much like 1001 Nights, a viewer must have followed the series (for the most part) in order to understand the many nuances of relationships, personas, etc. However, viewers don't necessarily have to watch EVERY episode, or even many of the episodes, in order to understand the basics of what's going on in the episodes.

turning to the particular topic of blogging,
nk0825's original idea: the relationship between bloggers and their audiences ... would bring our discussion of material full-circle.
afterthoughts: I realized that this episode did not merely question Frankie's privacy matters, but the entire casts as well. It was interesting to see House, Wilson, and even Chase's privacy incorporated. From House's questions about his biological father to Wilson's porno past, it was truly revealed that everyone has skeletons in their closets and privacy enables these skeletons to hide. It was interesting to see how an outside individual handled questions of privacy in conjunction with bloggers.
spleenfiend: a lot of things in the "Private Lives" episode really reminded me of the issues brought up in the first half of our class. For one thing, the blogger was very opposed to self-censoring.  She played up to her audience's expectations of truthfulness, even though she could lie about anything.  I found that atypical of bloggers and people in general.

Also, one quote that was really funny was something the blogger said to her husband: "I hate that you don't have a blog.  I hate that I don't know what you're thinking."  Why couldn't she just talk to her husband?  And why would a blog definitely reflect his true thoughts?  I feel like this episode played up the negative aspects of blogging...But she still touched upon some valid, positive things, like the sentiment that people never have to be alone because they can connect online.
TPB1988: Frankie says in the episode that people behave badly when they think no one is watching and that she would not be honest if she chose which parts of her life to blog about. ...“no one has to be alone again"...[but] a certain amount of respect has to exist for the others in his/her life .... decisions concerning privacy, or “membership to the club”, are not hers alone .... “everyone needs secrets”.

Herbie: I frankly like Frankie's reasoning, that we as people behave better when we know we're being judged....It's not until the end that Frankie is capable of making decisions on her own, without her readers' influence .... at what point does it become her own life, and not their lives?  It's clear she found a line that she would not cross, but would she have found that line if she hadn't been ill?

ShaynaS: It seems as though the writer(s?) of this episode were asking the same questions we did at the beginning of the semester. Is blogging about one's life ok? What if it includes other people that have not said whether or not they would be ok about it? Can an audience that is interacting with the author in real time (as through a blog) shape the writing and even the author? Taylor even asks Frankie to choose between her audience and him, telling her that her writing was not about friendship and bonding, it was a performance.

what do others think?
1) how does the episode function as a commentary
on (extend/reduce/challenge) our earlier conversations about blogging?
2) how well does it work, as a contemporary
version of the "framed tale"?
3) what's the relation between 'blogging' and 'framing'?
what is added to our conversation (for instance) by placing this episode in the context of the pilot, "Everybody Lies," or the episodes immediately preceding or following this one: "5 to 9" or "Black Hole"?
ShaynaS: the previous episode "5 to 9" did not give me any context that would help me understand the characters and their motives. 

III. Critical material on t.v. serials
Roger Hagedorn, "Doubtless to be continued: a brief history of serial narrative." To be continued--: soap operas around the world. Ed. Robert Clyde Allen. New York: Routledge, 1995. 27-48.
serials are not limited to a particular genre:
no particular specificity re: surface narrative content or medium;
include newspapers, comic strips, film, radio, newspapers,
television soap operas and mini-series: comedies, mysteries, westerns, courtroom, medical dramas, etc.

distinguished by mode of production, distribution, consumption,
between producing industry and readers/spectators/listeners

the crucial trait is episodicity: successive episodes/
materially independent units available @ different, predictable times

breaks w/ three classical unities of time, space, character:
for infinitely greater narrative complication
multiplied enigmas, partial answers, snares
regularly activating delays across the narrative breaks:
"cliff hangers"--suspension to promote continued
consumption of later episodes/product loyalty
[or commercializing Scheherazade!]
serialization of the series: one problem resolved @ conclusion of episode; another problem (usually a developing relationship between central characters) left unresolved from one episode to the next

reference to elements from one episode in subsequent ones
creates a sense of fictional space, history and character development

House unauthorized [electronic resource] : vasculitis, clinic duty, and bad bedside manner. Ed. Leah Wilson. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2007.
rejects the usual "let's learn a lesson" approach
to television in favor of character-driven writing

House must constantly seek out a balance between the odd character at its core and the relatively ordinary formula designed ... to be acceptable to a large audience ... an odd and alienating character ... in a formulaic series .... no matter how far out House-the-character goes, House-the-series will always remain safely nearby

Steven Johnson, Everything Bad is Good for You:
How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter:

twenty-five years of increasingly complex television
has honed our analytic skills

two core elements: bizarre,  hard-to-diagnose illnesses,
and brilliant but antisocial Dr. Gregory House

a show built on giving us a picture and then inverting it
parallels to Sherlock Holmes:

brilliance, drug addition, apartment #221B, boon companion
(James Wilson=John Watson)

What is a House but a "Home"--
a homophonic punnish reference to Holmes

Holmes, while eccentric, falls short of deviance: believes in God
(vs. House: "I find it more comforting to
believe that this life simply isn't a test")

Holmes' story narrated after the fact by sympathetic Watson;
t.v. gives external "objective" gaze of camera; see all negative reactions

a role model?
pig-headedness can help us overcome limitations
not caring what other people think can
free us to focus on what's important
cynicism helps you make better decisions and save the days
brutal honesty will earn you respect and results
being manipulative will help you succeed
ignoring rules and regulations can mean
the difference between life and death
applying the principles of differential diagnosis will help
you to analyze and solve the problems that come your way
"He pushes everyone around him to challenge the status quo, internal and external ... to aspire to become more than they are ... and not to let personal suffering prevent them from attaining their goals."

Open House: How He Thinks
for a lot of situations you simply can't use logic to make decisions;
the availability heuristic can lead to the wrong answer
doctors typically search for the most likely/ most
"parsimonious" explanation for a set of symptoms
"confirmation bias": amassing evidence
in favor of your current hypothesis
doctors work in an inherently probabilistic problem space
cognitive value of recoding a difficult problem
creative thinking: avoid settling too soon on a decision
personal analogue to groupthink:
mental set--using approach that worked before

House Divided Against Himself

opiates dodge effects of set thinking?

Playing House
unconscious processing can lead to great success in problem-solving: "incubation effect": better decisions when distracted
than when deliberating (T.V. watching, napping)

Putting House in Order
freeing up working memory

House of Cards?
knows so much he can be playful w/ his knowledge
skilled intuition: from thorough knowledge w/in a domain
more expert you are, the more you can trust your instincts
combines authority and vulnerability

not interested in his students' success; no
mentoring, and no critical self-reflection...
Herbie's notes