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The Presidential Election and Literary Interpretation (unofficial post)

Our readings for Monday’s class and again for class tomorrow have focused largely on race, the way we conceptualize groups, and understand literature and, ultimately, humanity. In light of the historic presidential election results announced earlier tonight and our readings and discussions, what role do you think race, or, more accurately, our conceptualization of race, played in the election? I heard one of the reporters commenting that voters had acted as though they were “colorblind.” Is this accurate or even possible given the ways our brains organize? What further connections, if any, can you draw between the readings for Wednesday and ethnic identity in this election in particular and America in general?

Personally, I thought Gilroy’s early concepts of an ever-blending black culture and identity were relevant to the way Americans understood Barack Obama. Early in his campaign, members of the media and opponents sought to narrowly classify him as African or American or African-American; white, black or biracial; Muslim or Christian; a capitalist or a socialist; etc. While some of these claims aren’t grounded in fact, at least in terms of ethnicity and origin, Obama seems to be “both inside and outside the West” (972) as a result of his diverse background. For me, that very synthesis of cultural perspectives is at least some part of his appeal. (Of course, many of Gilroy’s other conclusions are based upon African-Americans reacting against the expectations of slavery (eg, focusing on creativity rather than labor), which one may argue don’t apply to Obama as he was not descended from slaves.)

What do you guys think about the perspectives of race we have read in relation to what we’ve witnessed in the past, what this election might imply, and where we hope to go in American racial/ethnic understanding?

The Politics of Post-structuralism

First off, let me apologize for the lateness of this post. I hope this didn’t screw with anyone’s schedule or cause any general sense of unease.

Both essays by Eagleton and Said seem to suggest a material quality of a text, questioning the binary relation of speech to writing. According to Eagleton, the text has been treated as the shadow of the spoken word since Plato, considered in Western thought as a tool to approximate the presence of experience. In response to the structuralists who had constructed scientific methods of interpretation based on a model of representation,  E and S attempt to unground the referents that stand before them (e.g. God or Truth), claiming that a fiction’s will can be felt directly in the creation of its own contexts. To these authors, there is something deeply political at work in a writing. With this in mind, how do E and S constitute meaning as a system of power relations?