fall break assignment

Over break and between units 2 and 3 we would like you to spend some time thinking about your definition of revolution.

Take Lapham’s Revolutions with you and read around there, “promiscuously” as Prof. Quillen put it in her lecture last month. Be sure to read Lewis Lapham’s introductory essay “Crowd Control” (also here as a pdf). Lapham you should own already, but if you’ve not gotten it yet, there are copies in the bookstore. The whole issue is also available through the library as an ebook here.

Don’t read the entire book start to finish. Yes, read the first essay, but beyond that: read around, browse, dip in and out, read hard, then skim, then put it down and come back to it later, become familiar with this strange compendium of revolution things. Then choose at least ten entries in Lapham and make notes on those. The aim here is to help you get a sense of the kinds of texts and images that Lewis Lapham chose to put into a collection about revolution. There are some explicit and some implied kinds of definitions he must be using. We’d like you to think about those definitions. But we also want you to have fun browsing. And reading in what is a really lush and rich and diverse collections of texts and images that somehow, in lots of different ways, represent ideas of revolution. 

Imagine this book is like a museum. As you walk through the museum you will be drawn to some items, but not others. Some things will catch your eye because you recognize them in some way, or you know the dates or the author or artist. Some of those you’ll want to examine more closely: I want to see if this thing is what I think it is, you might think. Some others you’ll skip: I know about that already, you might think. Other items will be completely new. You might think why is this in here? And then you might decide to ponder that kind of item for a while. You don’t have the time or energy to examine and reflect on every item on one visit, and even after several visits to the museum, you still have items you’ve never paid much attention to, while there are some others that you are drawn to each time, such that they become familiar. We love the Lapham collection because it really forces us to browse, to slow down and take our time. And to wonder about how the items were curated—why in this order? Why these images? Why is this thing in my hands about revolution? Is it—the book—revolutionary in some way? Is it a guidebook or a handbook? How might that be? It’s a gorgeous book and yet troubling in many ways. Can we capture revolution, which is so often lethal and violent, and put it in a pretty book? Are the images of violence different when they are photographs instead of paintings? How are the texts different when they are documentary and raw, rather than historical an synthetic or analytical, or even imaginary? And on and on. Don’t read start to finish. Don’t read in order. Maybe don’t read Lapham’s opening essay first, but after you get a sense of all the different kinds of things that are collected in the book. And we hope your notes reflect how you respond to and engage with various kinds of texts and images. Some of your notes might capture visceral, difficult responses. Some might be descriptive. Some analytical. Affirmative. Outraged. Sympathetic. Maybe even personal. We’ll be doing the same kind of reading and browsing ourselves. It will be fun for us all to be able to compare our experiences and share some notes and thoughts about these revolution things in Lapham’s collection over the next months.

Read Prof. Robb’s primer on definitions, under the resources tab on this site, direct link here.

In your red notebook, make some reading notes on at least 10 different artifacts in Lapham’s collection.
• At least two of those should be images or figures, rather than texts.
• Additionally, one must be about a photograph.
• At least two of the artifacts you choose to focus on should in some way be about the body.
Bring your red notebook with those notes to Prof. Tamura’s plenary on Thursday morning, October 17 and be ready to share out some of your observations (!) and questions (?). You will use photos of some parts of these notes in your portfolio definition of revolution in December and in May.