English R1A

Reading and Composition: Bad Managements

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
13 Fall 2006 Jami Bartlett
TTh 3:30-5 222 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho (1991)

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, The Office (2001-03)

Henry James, The Awkward Age (1899)

Andrea Lunsford, Easy Writer (2005)

Herman Melville, The Confidence Man (1857)

Vladimir Nabokov, Despair (1966)

Nicholas Ray, Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Gertrude Stein, Three Lives (1909)"


"""I enjoy seeing the lengths to which bad managements go to preserve what they call their independence�which really just means their jobs."" Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal (1987)

""To cast in my lot with Jekyll was to die to those appetites which I had long secretly indulged and had of late begun to pamper. To cast it in with Hyde was to die to a thousand interests and aspirations, and to become, at a blow and for ever, despised and friendless."" Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)

One of the most striking absences in this Stevenson epigraph is the identity of its �I,� for as even a casual familiarity with the story tells us, Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. In order to cast in my lot with one or the other I�d have to transcend them both, making the decision as pointless as the novel would be without its drama. This course will begin with the assumption that stories about self-management (including the stories we tell to and about ourselves) are driven by this kind of foreclosure, a friction that develops after we already know what we are. Donald Trump, no stranger to the kinds of management-speak that means �jobs� when it says �independence,� wouldn�t be wrong to think of Jekyll and Hyde as a kind of corporation, a body with bodies inside. For just as euphemisms do two kinds of work�syntactically using words like �independence� to stand in for a group of correlated interests while pragmatically clueing us into the vulnerable �jobs� beneath them�the logic of incorporation puts its bodies to work in unequal and often unrewarding roles. If the choice of becoming-Jekyll or becoming-Hyde requires incompatible costs, we know they aren�t equivalent, and that it�s only after one incorporates the other that it becomes impossible to be both.

Each of the novels we�ll be reading this semester dramatizes the negotiation that takes place once its roles have been assigned, and looks for new ways to talk about maintaining them: Ellis�s psycho leads a double life, Nabokov�s Hermann plots his own murder, the confidence man could be anyone, and Dean�s rebel is everyone. Theirs is a perspective with real costs: the ethics of personal and social relationships, identities, and obligations are clearly at stake, so while we will never see the successful transgression that the illusion of �I� (or its �independence�) promises, we will always feel its corporate weight. A closer look at these �bad managements� will reveal all the friction there is in a done deal, giving us cause to review the knotty organization of our own self-expression, and the energy to be found in a foreclosed place.

I will assign five short (2-4 page) papers in this course (at least three of which will require revision), two in-class essays, four rounds of peer editing, and weekly blog responses to required reading. The 1A course is intended to develop your practical fluency with sentence, paragraph, and thesis-development skills; we�ll work on your ability to analyze difficult work, and to use that analysis to produce credible arguments. My hope is that a topic like �Bad Managements,� with its stress on the forms that we use to contain and express ourselves, will bring us close to the compromises of and in our own writing. "

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