My original plan of a documentary media-themed freshman composition course didn’t work out this semester. Because the course is supposed to introduce students to literature/literary studies, my documentary emphasis didn’t quite fit. So, instead, I’ve decided to teach a very loosely related theme, “Spectacle, Surveillance, Control,” using Debord, Foucault, and Deleuze as reference points for each of these themes. I taught a section of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish together with Deleuze’s “Postscript on Control Societies” at Tech a few years ago, and the discussion of both essays turned out to be fairly productive (thanks to Anne for the link). I’m planning to use excerpts from The Society of the Spectacle for Debord, but that’s still somewhat up in the air.
I think that one of the major benefits of this type of approach will be that it will portray the means by which academic argument can proceed. Foucault responds to Debord. Deleuze responds to Foucault. At the same time, we can “test” their approaches on a range of contemporary phenomena. Inspired by Ryan, I’ll likely start the semester with the unit on spectacle, by focusing on the inauguration and protests as forms of spectacle (and given last year’s controversy, the Super Bowl halftime show might be interesting to watch, too). Later in the semester, I’ve heard that Georgia Tech is planning a symposium on Freedom Tower, so that might be a useful moment to revisit those questions.
I will also require students to read Douglas Coupland’s Miss Wyoming and William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. The latter, especially, can introduce students to questions about control societies quite nicely. Plus, I think both novels would be fun to teach. I’ve been trying to think of some good short stories/films for teaching alongside of Foucault. I think Bentham’s Panopticon is such a powerful image that it stands on its own, so I’m more intrigued by the ways in which Foucault talks about disciplinarity. If you have any suggestions, I’d appreciate them. I have thought about teaching Cube, but that doesn’t quite seem to fit what I’d like to do in terms of surveillance and disciplinarity. One other possibility (again, for control societies) would be Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World, another film I’ve long wanted to teach.