Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Long Goodbye

I'm now done three of five exams. Another take-home is due this Wednesday, the final product of the course I most came to dislike over the term, to my surprise: Literature and Film. I'm all for close reading and innovative interpretation of texts, but the theory section of this class went off the deep end; go too far in deconstructing a coherent story according to arbitrarily-specified genre conventions, and you're left with what'll seem like strung-together thematic fragments. I, for one, do not believe that the Noir genre is contrasted with previous or subsequent works by any dramatic change in the nature of the dynamics of gazing, nor that there was any sudden increase in "the culture of conformity" between 1943 and 1959; however, those are the professor's pet theories, so that's the filter to view everything through. Less annoying, but still mildly unnerving, is his (ab)use of the word "protocol" for in-class work collected only to confirm attendance; it always put me in mind of the infamous anti-Semitic propaganda hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This was never explained, and I never worked up the courage to find out whatever horrifying reason why he'd use such an odd term. I never thought I'd say it, but taking this class has seriously diminished my enjoyment of the entire genre. That's a new experience for me; it didn't happen with any of the other English classes I've taken. I'm hoping it was just the marginally monocratic concept behind the lesson plan, and this isn't necessarily indicative of anything else, because I normally enjoy playing with literary theory. Now I can't read a Noir text or watch Film Noir without unconsciously dissecting it beyond recognition. That's a terrible thing to do to art.

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