Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Entertainment and Art: Mimetic or Productive?

Several of my classes are currently exploring how entertainment and art serve a mimetic and productive function. On the one hand, entertainment can reflect the world around us (mimetic). On the other hand, entertainment can "produce" or influence our society. 

For instance, Suzanne Collin's novel The Hunger Games reflects certain cultural realities: our preoccupation with violence, the reality television phenomenon, and class warfare. This imitation is what "mimetic effect" means.  The novel "tells us about ourselves." 

The novel also has a productive effect; the book promotes a particular awareness that has the potential, by changing our perception of our society world, to actually change our world. This influence is the "productive" effect of Collin's novel. 

These dual functions also hold true for music. We are all familiar with criticisms about certain types of rap and heavy metal which some hold responsible for certain social phenomenon: misogyny, homophobia, violence, materialism, and nihilism. For example, Rapper Ice Cube's' "Black Korea" can be read as a mirror of the growing Black and Korean tensions extant in the eighties and nineties, one of the factors that lead to the LA Riots of '92. Cube's song records the reality of the streets. Cube sings about shopping at the local Korean-American run convenience store: "  . . . the two oriental one-penny countin' motherfuckers that make a nigga mad enough to cause a little ruckus, thinkin' every brother in the world's out to take, so they watch every damn move that I make." 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Behind the Mask: Tupac's Rose, Introducing Rhetoric, and Surprising Revelations

I am constantly blown away by my students' vulnerability, perseverance, and courage. But I can only appreciate those qualities when I create the conditions for them to feel safe enough to share their stories with me. Often, that's tough to do given the pressure to meet our learning goals and objectives.

So it's on me to figure out how I can do "double-duty" in the class, i.e., find activities that meet a legitimate learning objective and that allows students to share something that helps me appreciate them for the three dimensional human beings they are.

Luckily, since our class is about strengthening rhetorical skills, I get to choose texts that serve the needs of textual analysis and that lend themselves for introspection and personal reflection. To demonstrate and practice the sort of rhetorical analysis we will do all semester, we analyzed s poem by Tupac Shakur, "The Rose that Grew From Concrete" from an anthology of the same name.