Saturday, April 9, 2011


My final project will be somewhat a summation of the texts of the semester. An interesting point I touched upon in my essay about “Song of Myself,” was the examination of Marcuse’s idea of “desublimation.” In this essay I made brief (perhaps too brief) a mention of Noam Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent.” Chomsky’s book deals heavily with the nature of mass media and propaganda.

In the book, Chomsky uses the propaganda model to examine our mass media. Similarly I plan to examine three of the texts which we have studied (Invisible man, Parable of the sower, and Moby Dick). The three of these novels are, in many circles, well-respected and also taught in numerous high school curriculums. One of the points I’d like to examine in my paper will be the ostensibly radical nature of these texts’ message, juxtaposed with their “desublimized” reading.

The propaganda model examines several “filters” through which media is passed through. The back end of Parable of the sower features an instruction manual of sorts to read the novel, similarly Invisible Man is found in the “African American” section in the library. I plan on examining filters of this nature on the overall effect of certain texts.

Ralph Ellison’s relationship with the communist party was discussed in class. Also, his desire to distance “invisible man” from the conventions of “protest literature,” using Marcuse, Chomsky, and other writers on the subject I plan to examine if, despite Ellison’s efforts, the fate of invisible man was altered by its popularity.

A common thread between at least two of these novels (an argument can be made for Moby Dick) is their depiction/effect on African-American culture. I mentioned earlier the location these books can be found in libraries. There exists, several critics of the existence of “African-American studies,” in universities because they see it as a separation rather than integration of African-American culture, this can be examined through the propaganda model and I think Marcuse and Chomsky could be relevant sources for this.


Herman, Edward S., and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon, 1988. Print.

Furse, Sophie, Penko Gelev, and Herman Melville. Moby Dick. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's, 2007. Print.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisble Man. London: Penguin, 1965. Print.

Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993. Print.

Marcuse, Herbert. One Dimensional Man. London: Sphere, 1968. Print.


  1. While this is only a rough sketch of an idea, I think it's a good return to a good idea from earlier in the semester. Clearly as you do it needs to become more specific, but in which direction?

    If you want to do a critique of African-American studies (whether in general, or in the context of this class), I'll all for that. If you want to do so, I think you should take a good look at as many of Ellison's essays and interviews as possible, and at as many of Butler's interviews as possible (Ellison's major interviews and essays are collected in "The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison", and there's a book which collects Butler's major interviews as well).

    That isn't to say that you absolutely need to know what they have to say about the institutions of African-American studies to critique how they are used/abused by those institutions - but it could be a starting point.

    If you're interested in the role of mass media, that seems to be to be at least a somewhat separate subject from the critique of African-American studies. Ellison, Melville, and Butler all have their own relationships with the mass media of their times. Butler's particularly interests me, since she was certainly interested in the marketing and presentation of her own work, and was very successful within the highly commercial institutions of the science fiction community.

    I'm not sure what any of that gave you - to summarize, I like your ideas, but you're working with at least two big major topics. Probably you need to pick one (or find some way of clearly combining them) before moving on to a more specific argument.

    I do think doing all three novels in one essay is a stretch - I'd suggest one or two.

  2. I am a huge fan of analyzing the residuals and consequences of labeling. I think looking at the way the books, once "higher culture", have become assimilated (though horrendously in most cases) will do them justice. The idea of how classics become dangerous (useless?) is one that Marcuse feels strongly about.

    I agree with Adam though when he says that the amount of literature you want to examine is a lot. You could probably write a book about any number of the ideas you have, so boiling the essay down to one or two aspects would create a much more focused argument.