Good or bad a play always includes an image of the world…there is no play and no theatrical performance which does not in some way affect the dispositions and conceptions of the audience. Art is never without consequences.
In the above quote Brecht is saying that all texts are political because all texts contain an imagination of the world. Brecht is a playwright. As someone creating a play, making choices about how that world is arranged, about who wins and who loses, about where the danger comes from and where safety is found, is a way of deploying one’s ideological predispositions. This is true weather or not the creator of a cultural production is aware of it. Creating a play, or any text really, is an exercise in world building. In creating a universe, you have to decide not only who are the good guys and who are the bad guys but what peoples and values will define what is represented as “normal.” Each choice made, each selection offered is an inherently political act.
While Brecht is specifically referencing plays, we can apply his insights more broadly to an array of different texts, narratives, and primary sources. All texts, include our course syllabus, Canvass course site, down to and including the questions in class the instructor asks and what they choose to wear, “includes and image of the world” one that both “affect(s) the dispositions and conceptions of the audience” and one that is “never without consequences.”
Your final project is to examine our History 2310 course carefully, and unpack its politics. You must think of the entire course as it’s laid out on our Canvass course site as a primary source text that answers a question and then provide a symptomatic or close reading of this text.
Write a 4 to 6 page, typed and double-spaced essay in response to the above prompt. What politics and ideological predispositions are embedded in the course’s orientation? Point to specific examples to back up your larger claims. Every syllabus is about the process of selection, about what to include and why. The moment I (or any instructor) pauses and says something like, “let’s examine these texts and explore these ideas,” it necessarily means the class will not and can not examine a thousand other worthwhile topics, readings, and ideas. Every act of selection, then, is necessarily also an act of de-selection. If creating a text is an exercise in world building, then what world have I constructed as we examined “globalization and the challenge of popular culture?” It is important to think about the “voices” I both allowed you to hear and the types of voices I centered in our readings and conversations. It is also important to consider the pathways I built into these texts. Also consider chronology and the flow of events introduced in this survey. Where did we start and where did we end up? Who did we meet inbetween and how (or in what context) did we meet them? Finally, it will also be important to think about erasures, about the voices, topics, and ideas that I did not present or center in our discussions. It will be important to consider the paths not taken. This may be harder to accomplish but here I am asking you to think about the things I could have done but did not do in this course. And then, to make an argument about why these voices were included or erased.
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