interpretive assignment

The last assessment for this course has be changed to a Final Interpretive Assignment. You are being asked to choose ONE of our four texts from this semester – Faludi, Bell, Foer, or Nafisi – to formulate an interpretation of the current pandemic. I have provided four lenses for you to choose from below. The choice is completely up to you, as is the direction of that lens application. Please take risks here. There are no right or wrong answers to these. You have already been guided for 12 weeks in how to form analytical arguments; you know how to do this. Consider it like a paper 2 or 4, where you have two texts – one text you have chosen from the list below, the other ‘text’ is the pandemic (and quarantine). You are interpreting the pandemic (whatever aspect of it you choose) through the lens of the other text. In short, this assignment’s overarching goal is for you to have the chance to connect some aspect of what you’ve learned in Expos to some aspect of our society’s experience of this unsettled and unsettling moment.

Text Lenses:

Faludi: Consider how Faludi describes the Citadel (and the military stage in general) as “false front and a welcome trapdoor – an escape hatch from the social burdens of traditional” ideals and ways of living (99). She posits that its forced conformity allows its members to “act like human beings in the safety of the daily domestic life” while ignoring the changes occurring outside of the Citadel walls (100). What happens when we view the pandemic – and the requisite quarantine (and thus separation from the outside world) – through this lens?

Bell: Consider Bell’s concept of splitting, which is also referred to as dualistic or binary thinking: “There are neither total nor absolute splits in the grand narrative sense of the term… but multiple splits that people invoke at different times and in various situations to manage anxiety and to defend against uncertainty” (28). What happens if we view society’s reaction to the pandemic through the lens of splitting? Why might one demonstrate this psychological response? What are the dangers of doing so?

Foer: Consider what Foer says about mechanical thinking: “The engineering mid-set has little patience for the fetishization of words and images, for the mystique of art, for moral complexity and emotional expression. It views humans as data, components of systems, abstractions… The whole effort is to make human beings predictable – to anticipate their behavior, which makes them easier to manipulate” (77). What happens when we view the pandemic – perhaps the virus itself – through the lens of the algorithm and the engineering mindset? What are the dangers of doing so?

Nafisi: Consider what Nafisi says about poshlust: “[We] grasped both the tragedy and the absurdity of the cruelty to which we were subjected. We had to poke fun at our own misery in order to survive. We also instinctively recognized poshlust – not just in others, but in ourselves. This was one reason that art and literature became so essential to our lives; they were not a luxury but a necessity. What Nabakov captured was the texture of life in a totalitarian society, where you are completely alone in an illusory world full of false promises, where you can no longer differentiate between your savior and your executioner” (433). What happens when we view the pandemic – and our quarantine – through the lens of poshlust?

Completed Assignment Due: Monday, May 4th (three full pages)

Please upload (as an attachment – either document or PDF format) to Canvas by the end of the day on Monday, May 4th..

Required formatting: Double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-pt. font (Times New Roman), MLA format (Your headers, page numbers, and quotations should be formatted properly. See The Pocket Wadsworth Handbook.)