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Notes Towards Day 26: Putting (Our) House in Order

Anne Dalke's picture



I. course evaluations

II. sweetp's class notes

III. comments up on all your papers
Herbie/Molly/TBP1988 all wrote on adaptation
(what we used to call "intertexuality"-->"intermediality")
aybala/rachelr/ShaynaS all wrote about framing

an anonymous visitor added to a thread that aybala,
rachelr, Paul and I had been pursuing a few months ago, on
The Self, Mental Illness, and Category-Making: "As a Bryn Mawr student, who has at various times been labeled as depressed, bipolar, borderline personality, etc .... I try to stifle those qualities that will make me seem "Other" .... The construction of self, I think, leads ultimately to every other construction, every other category .... I am so aware of how fragile, how interconnected the self is with everything else, that stating my identity is ... a pretension of an ego that is a category created due to the limits of our perceptions in the first place...

a reminder of the larger issues @ play in our talking about "literary kinds": the very real social and psychological consequences of all the kinds we construct

IV. sign up sheet for final performances

V. end-of-semester arrangements re: portfolios, etc.

after you have a proposal,
but before it's set in stone...

VI. our final conversation about "literary (and medical!) kinds"

Episodes 15 and 16, Season 4, of House, M.D.:
"House's Head" and "Wilson's Heart"

another exemplary episode, via spleenfiend:
Episode 21, Season 1: "3 Stories"--
House's lecture on diagnostics includes his own case history

via teal: Mad TV's parody

what has thinking about this series taught us about genre?
what has thinking about genre taught us about this series?
(or: is this a usual "frame" for thinking-with?)

serializations make sure we don't get bored: we are given set characters who will hopefully grow and develop over time, but we are also given a new 'adventure'/plot for each serialization. The subplots are made from continuous threads .... But are the plots all the same?

TBP1988: I noticed a pattern .... as if there is a recipe to making a House episode ....why do I keep watching the show if I already know the ingredients?... because it provides familiarity and comfort ... the House series is a genre ... genres are reliable, and to a certain extent you know what to expect.

sgb90: I completely agree with your characterization of the “not so subtle pattern” that is intrinsic to popular television ... the most successful and enduring series ... abide by an addictive formula, that while identifiable, does not become so absolute as to bore the viewer. The challenge with the genre that is a television series is that, to succeed, it must ... be made for easy consumption. At the same time, it must have a distinguishing characteristic, an unusual premise or a compelling or outlandish character, that differentiates it from the rest of the formulas vying for a place in popular culture. Our culture is bound by the comfort of such formulas, which somehow have to integrate the social interests of any given time and place to achieve wide appeal.

nk0825 on "House's trips to 'Wonderland': I like formulaic things, it makes me feel comfortable because I [sort of] know what to expect ....

"House's Head" and "Wilson's Heart" [had] the qualities of dreamlands .... we were as helplessly confused as House ... not being able to distinguish anything during ... "A drug induced trip to Wonderland" .... I found it slightly ironic that House was trying to use his dreams to trigger a memory of reality.

VII. looping back to week 1 (of the class ...

hm...also functioning as a "serial"--
predictable? with variation? comforting, but surprising?)

what's still applicable?
what was useful?

 "As soon as genre announces itself, one must respect a norm must not risk impurity, anomaly, or monstrosity"
(Jacques Derrida, “The Law of Genre”).

Is this true for "House, M.D."?
How much variation is allowed in this genre?


1.Kind, sort, class
But what is the genre of character...which, if in true keeping
to life and manners, should not be found to resemble any body?

Two very remarkable men...but of entirely different genres.

"Individuality outruns all classification, yet we insist on
classifying every one we meet under some general head" (Wm James)

Herbie on malpractice:
doctors should not practice medicine on their own family

2. A particular style or category of works of art; esp. a type
of literary work characterized by a particular form, style, or purpose.

What "literary kinds" are in play in House, M.D.?
What "sorts" of characters?


  • exist at various levels of abstraction
  • belong to discourse communities, not individuals
  • involve a (moving!) spectrum of sameness & difference/
    identification & division/recognition & novelty
  • are a lot about expectations
    (about how texts are read: the "uptake").

Dimock in PMLA issue on Rethinking Genre:

  • all genres are "liquified": 
  • "empirical, not logical,"
  • "all open sets, continually confronted with new specimens."
  • "Every genre is virtual":
  • "not yet realized, emerging,"
  • with an "ephemeral horizon of expectations."

"What would students learn if
literature were taught under this rubric?"

"seeing the conceptual universe put together differently..."?

 sweetp's class notes