ayjay
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Crowdsourcing Help for a Class

Crowdsourcing Help for a Class

Aug 09, 2023

Hello friends,

I'm teaching a first-year seminar this coming term, and my topic is RETRO: How the Past Comes Back. You may find a description of the course here. You'll see that we will try to understand how and why, in our neophilic age, we seek to reclaim a usable past. Sometimes this is just a matter of style, while at other times it involves more substantive reclamation; we'll need to sort out those various tendencies. We'll want to disentangle various words that we use in these contexts: retro is not quite the same as vintage, which is not quite the same as antique. And then we have the complications of retrofuturism. Those words are mainly related to style; in the realm of substance we might speak of tradition or primitivism or ancient wisdom. (Bob Dylan used to say that he was interested in historical-traditional music.)

In brief: What do we do when the resources of the present don't seem adequate or appealing, and we don't believe in the future that has been promised to us — or anyway don't trust the promisers? Well, we turn to the past, and we do it in a thousand different ways. In this course my students and I will be trying to disentangle our various retrograde motions and understand their appeal. We won't seek to achieve a systematic understanding of these phenomena, but we'll hope to bring a little order out of the chaos. And my own goal for my students will be to help them to become wiser and shrewder users of the resources of the past; to practice the arts of discernment.

Because this is such a far-reaching topic, I thought I would ask those of you who read and support my work — and who will therefore have a sense of my interests and inclinations — to take a look at that webpage and suggest some other things that we might read or think about. (It's too late to order books, so shorter pieces found online would be ideal.)

Wishing you all well,

AJ

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