Tuesday, January 19, 2010

[ snack schedule ]

January 25: Jess R.

February 1: Nicky B.

February 8: Sanae

February 15 (Oates visit): Molly & Liza

February 22: Colette

March 1: Jared

March 15: Jess Y.

March 22 (Howe visit) Cecilia & Rebekah

March 29: Lily

April 5: Alex

April 12: Vicky

April 19: Kelly

April 26: (Milch visit) Kristen & Sarah

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

[ before Frank confesses ]

Screen shot from the end of "Trial by Fury," Hill Street Blues, episode 1, season 3.

Monday, January 11, 2010

[ Fanny Howe on Mark DeWolfe Howe ]

“The presence of our missing father trailed us everywhere.”

“Our father was the only reason we were anywhere then; and he was nowhere. When the snow came, the blood-red brick of the city grew white and the ice on the river was a stiff winding sheet that led out to the Atlantic and across to Ireland. The sky was dramatic and emotional at every hour of the day. The war contributed to every shadow and drop; consciousness of its force was made up only of objects and loose parts, of animate and inanimate, of constant motion, wind, rain, hope, dread, and expectation. / That war was like an immense umbrella held high in the air and shadowing our every move. (Even now I can feel its shade, even if only a corner is left.)”

"At that time I had only one memory of my father from the top of the stairs in Buffalo. He was in a uniform and he was saying a hesitant goodbye. Otherwise there were few photographs. He had left his job as dean of a new law school at Buffalo and had left behind his work on the letters and life of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. He was thirty-seven. He had been to Europe only once before, as far as Ireland, where he had met his in-laws and where he vowed never to return. He was known to have a dread of travel yet he was gone longer than most fathers."


[ Perloff on Howe's "Frame Structures" ]

Susan Howe's Frame Structures is one of the main topics discussed in Marjorie Perloff's essay, "Language Poetry and the Lyric Subject: Ron Silliman's Albany, Susan Howe's Buffalo." She describes Frame Structure as an experiment in disjunctive autobiographical writing.

Here is a link to the whole essay. And here, below, are the opening paragraphs of the section on Howe:

- - -

Like Ron Silliman's "Under Albany," Susan Howe’s Frame Structures (1996) refigures the poet’s earlier work. It collects four of her earliest long poems (Hinge Picture, 1974; Chanting at the Crystal Sea, 1975; Cabbage Gardens, 1979; Secret History of the Dividing Line, 1978) in slightly revised versions and adds a long “preface” that gives the book its title. The poems are characterized by their distinctive visual layout: in Secret History of the Dividing Line, for example, the title (derived, minus the word “Secret,” from William Byrd’s eighteenth-century journal of explorations in the Virginia wilderness) appears in the center of a blank page with its mirror image (figure 1), even as the opening horizontal rectangles (the four-line units havejustified left and right margins and double spacing) play on the word “MARK”:

mark mar ha forest 1 a boundary manic a land a
tract indicate position 2 record bunting interval
free also event starting the slightly position of
O about both of don’t something INDICATION Americ

made or also symbol sachem maimed as on her for
ar in teacher duct excellent figure MARK lead be
knife knows his hogs dogs a boundary model nucle
hearted land land land district boundary times un (FS 89)

Here mark refers first of all to the surveyor’s (William Byrd’s) mark made in delineating a boundary between “tract[s]” of forest land. But the mark is also a trace, a sign that points us to specific things that have happened: one thinks of Blake’s “London,” with its lines, “And mark in every face I meet / Marks of weakness, marks of woe.” The poem’s opening “Mark mar ha forest 1 a boundary manic” gives the word mark a number of paragrammatic possibilities. “Mark ma ha”: stutter is followed by exclamation, an inability, perhaps, to “mark” the boundary in question. Or again, “mar ha” may be parts of the name Martha, the t missing in the imagined source manuscript Here and throughout the text, “boundary manic” is central to the poet’s thought; she is mesmerized by questions of “secret” divisions, borders, boundaries, fault lines. Then, too, Mark refers both to Howe’s father (Mark DeWolfe Howe) and to her son, as the italicized line on the third page of the poem, “for Mark my father; and Mark my son” tells us (FS, p. 91). Indeed, the frontispiece informs us that Mark DeWolfe Howe’s Touched with Fire: The Civil War Letters and Diary of Oliver Wendell Holmes (Harvard University Press, 1947) is one of the poem’s sources.
On the second page of Secret History of the Dividing Line, we find the following passage:

Close at hand the ocean
until before
hidden from our vision
bulwark, an object set up to indicate a boundary or position
hence a sign or token
impression or trace

The Horizon

I am of another generation
when next I looked he was gone.

The final line is repeated three times on this page and relates the Colonial expedition of William Byrd to the “MARK” who is the poet’s father.
How does this allusive visual poem relate to Howe’s so-called preface, which interweaves autobiography, visual poetry, and the founding and early history of Buffalo? For example:
I was never sure what my father was doing in the army. Then I was never sure of anything what with his rushing away or changing cities and World War banging at windows the boundless phenomena of madness. I remember him coming back to Buffalo from basic training by snapshot once or twice in a uniform. Absence is always present in a picture in its right relations. There is a split then how to act. Laws are relations among individuals.

When Theophile Cazenove reached America in 1789, he realized that Philadelphia was the best scene for his operations because the future of American funds, federal and state, depended on the actions of the federal government. Pavements were in wider space and getting social satisfaction he carried along a letter of introduction from his backers in Amsterdam to Andrew Craigie in New York. The Van Staphorts told Craigie their envoy came to America “to gratify his thirst after knowledge in order to become better acquainted with the Genius of their Government and the objects of their growing commerce.” (FS, p. 6)

The common wisdom would be that these two paragraphs are “straight”—although rather odd—prose; in the first sentence above, for example, the noun phrase “the boundless phenomena of madness” is syntactically but not semantically in apposition to the noun “windows.” And the relation of syntax to semantics gets stranger as the paragraph continues: how, for example, can the poet’s father be “coming back from basic training by snapshot”? Similar nonsequiturs characterize the passage about Cazenove, as when “pavements . . . in wider space” are linked to “social satisfaction.”

How to construe this curious way of writing an autobiographical memoir, a memoir designed to serve as “frame structure” for the disjointed and fragmentary lyric poems that follow?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

[ Joyce Davenport's smile ]

Hill Street Blues, season 3, episode 6, "Stan the Man." Joyce Davenport walks into Hill Street Station and responds with tolerant amusement at a loud "crazy" guy being brought in by several officers.

[ Milch at panel ]

from the "New York Entertainment" blog of New York Magazine, October 9, 2007:

David Milch Headlines Most Uncomfortable Panel Discussion Ever at ‘New Yorker’ Fest

Three things you would have learned at Saturday morning's "Outside the Box" TV panel at the New Yorker Festival:

1. Premium cable is better than a network, at least if you're a TV creator.
Three out of the five panelists (Weeds' Jenji Kohan, The Wire's David Simon, and Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D. Moore) all agreed, not surprisingly, that being on cable gives them greater freedom, while David Shore (creator of House, and the lone current network employee) and David Milch (NYPD Blue, Deadwood) dissented. Shore argued that although House can't show as much nudity (though, as he explained, during a successful battle over a bare bottom, an executive said to him, "When you get a nineteen share, you can show a little more ass"), the show's never been asked to avoid controversial subjects. As for Milch, well — we'll get to that.

2. This truly is a Golden Age of television.
At least, that's how you felt after watching the clips from these five excellent shows. Sure, Weeds has gone off the rails this year, and Milch's John From Cincinnati was a wipeout, but there was an exceptionally well-curated panel. And unlike at many New Yorker Fest events, the moderator here, Tad Friend, both knew his stuff and knew when to stay out of the way. Such as when David Milch started — well, we'll get to that.

3. David Milch is either the best dinner-party guest in the world or the worst. Or both.
The fun started about twenty minutes in when Milch, with his nasal midwestern accent and his stubborn back support (the dang thing kept falling off the chair), leaned forward and said, "It's about to become real uncomfortable, real fast." He then held forth on the fallacy of the dichotomy between cable and network (basically, everyone's selling something: on network, it's soap in the commercials, on HBO, it's upper-middle class values, "the same bullshit The New Yorker's selling"); the reason Jews are overrepresented in Hollywood (he asked the panel who there was Jewish; four out of five — including Milch — raised their hands, with Moore the odd man out) and how the "seeming doubleness" of Jewish life makes Jews perfect for the entertainment biz; the inadequacies of HBO in general, including a classic jerk-off hand motion — which is weird, since the channel aired (and, yes, killed) Deadwood and the indecipherable John From Cincinnati; and the David Milch mystique. "When they buy me, they know what they're buying," he said. "'Oh, David Milch, he's nuts.' And that's what I'm selling." He also slagged the clip they'd shown from Weeds, basically dismissed House, and slammed the petit bourgeois sensibilities of, yes, The New Yorker.

All of which was made more interesting by the fact that most everything he said was (a) willfully ignorant (to paraphrase Deadwood, there's an obvious difference between network and cable, cocksucker) and (b) more or less true. Still, you come to see the guy who made Battlestar Galactica, you don't expect a lecture on the seeming doubleness of Jews. So perhaps we should add a corollary:

3a. If you invite David Milch to a panel, make sure you also invite Jenji Kohan.
Sure, her name sounds like a Jedi Knight, but the good-natured, cat's-eye-glasses-wearing Kohan, with her crazed mop of hair and sitcom pedigree (she started on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) was quick to defuse each Milch bombshell with a well-timed quip. The highlight: After a long tirade about The New Yorker, Tad Friend added drily, "Thanks for helping us out, David," and Milch cracked back, "Hey, I didn't see you fly the 3,000 miles to get here. For $500." And Kohan said, "You got $500?" —Adam Sternbergh

Read more: David Milch Headlines Most Uncomfortable Panel Discussion Ever at ‘New Yorker’ Fest -- Vulture http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2007/10/three_things_you_would_have.html#ixzz0brM9qxOm

[ New Yorker profile of Milch (2005) ]

Here is a link to Mark Singer's profile of David Milch in a 2005 issue of the New Yorker. The title is "The Misift" and the subtitle: "How David Milch got from NYPD Blue to Deadwood by way of an Epistle of St. Paul."

[ new Milch HBO series ]

from the Hollywood Reporter:

Duo tries their 'Luck' with HBO
David Milch, Michael Mann team for horse racing drama

By Nellie Andreeva

Jan 5, 2010, 06:30 PM ET

David Milch is trying his luck again at HBO, teaming with filmmaker Michael Mann on a horse-racing drama.

"Luck," which has received a pilot order from the paybox, is described as a provocative look at the world of horse racing and gambling told through a diverse group of characters surrounding a racetrack.

Milch wrote the project, with Mann on board to direct the pilot.

The two are executive producing with Carolyn Strauss, who, as HBO entertainment president, fostered Milch's close ties with the network.

During his long history with HBO, Milch created and executive produced the series "Deadwood" and "John From Cincinnati" as well as the 2008 pilot "Last of the Ninth," a gritty period cop drama.

Following an early start in television, where he worked as a writer-producer on several series, including an executive producing stint on "Miami Vice," Mann has been largely focused on the feature side, most recently writing, directing and producing the Johnny Depp starrer "Public Enemies."

In a rare foray into TV, he executive produced the 2002 CBS cop drama series "Robbery Homicide Division."

"Luck" follows another HBO drama pilot with a strong pedigree, the Terence Winter-written and Martin Scorsese-directed "Boardwalk Empire," which was picked up to series in the fall.

It joins a pilot slate at the pay cabler that includes the drama "Game of Thrones," in postproduction, and the comedy "Enlightened," which starts production next week.

Milch and Mann are repped by CAA.

Monday, January 4, 2010

[ special projects ]

1) Using the library (and of course the web) as an archive, write your own Howean palimpsest collage history of your family. Before you attempt this, be sure you’ve mastered Howe’s “autobiographical”/family-centered writings, especially “Frame Structures,” “Errand,” The Midnight, “Pythagorean Silence.” Write your own family as an archive (one that extends out to larger cultural and historical territories) in the mode Howe uses. Due 3/15. Rebekah

2) Look at the sources Oates cites at the end of Wild Nights! Look closely at these and write a report that compares Oates’ quasi-fictional accounts of these writers to the sources. In the case of Hemingway, be sure to consult the Lynn biography. Due 2/1. Kristen

3) Read Blonde by Oates (her novelization of the life of Marilyn Monroe) and write a report on it. The report should be written with the intention of informing us about the book – people who know Oates but likely haven’t read this book. If apt, draw parallels to any or all of the books we are reading together in the seminar. Note: The person who does this project is exempt from being required to read Dear Husband,. Due 2/8. Molly

4) Read three of Oates’ “young adult fiction” books – Big Mouth & Ugly Girl; Freaky Green Eyes; and Sexy – and write a report on them, taken together as indicative of one of Oates’ preferred subgenres. The report should be written with the intention of informing us about the books – people who know Oates but likely haven’t read these books. If apt, draw parallels to any or all of the books we are reading together in the seminar. Due 2/8. Kelly

5) Research Oates’ presence at Princeton University and write a report about her teaching there, her overall presence and impact. Be sure to hit upon the apparent problem the Princeton environment presents for her: a privileged, ivied, suburban locale for the writer whose imaginative basis and ethic is poor, post-agricultural and post-industrial upstate New York. How involved/engaged is she in the life and community of the Creative Writing program and/or the MFA program. What connection if any does she have with other Princeton-based writers: John McPhee, Paul Muldoon, Toni Morrison, et alia. And what about her former writing students? Have some of them, or many, gone on to make an impact as writers? Do whatever it takes to research and report this. Due 2/8. Jared

6) Read about Hope Atherton and tell us about her. Then find (in the library; on the web) commentaries about Howe’s use of Hope Atherton for instance in “Articulation of Sound Forms in Time” and write a report that will help the rest of us understand Howe’s use of Atherton in that poem. Due 3/1. Cecilia

7) Read books on television (books, essays, whatever) and write a report that summarizes critical assessments of the place of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue in the history of TV programming. What were—-in each case-—their innovations? What changes did they cause, what trends did they influence? Due 3/29. Nicky

8) As fully as you can, explore David Milch’s life and work before he moved to L.A. to write for Hill Street Blues in the early 1980s. Be sure to focus on his time at Yale. Did his work with Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks at Yale shape him in some way? What possible influence/effect might they have had on him? (Look into the work and theories of Warren and Brooks, to be sure you know what critical – and social – positions they held.) What was Milch like at Yale? What kind of work did he do? Did his work there anticipate his success as a writer for television in any way? Due 3/29. Callie

9) Research and write as fully as you can about the life and work (as playwright and otherwise) of Mary Manning (Mary Manning Howe, Susan Howe’s mother). Due 3/15. Henry

10) Susan Howe and an experimental composer made two CDs in which Howe’s “Melville’s Marginalia” and “Thorow” are set to music. Acquire these CDs and listen and do the research necessary for the writing of a report that will teach us about this musical-poetic collaboration. Does this music enhance your understanding of these two Howe poems? Due 3/1. Rivka

11) Interview (at length) both Milch’s agent (Alan Berger at CAA) and his assistant (Scott Wilson) and write a report, as best you can, about how Milch works. What is his method? How does he write (and where)? How does he relate to the director, the producer, the actors? How did Deadwood develop? When and why did he become disconnected or disaffected from NYPD Blue? Is it true that even when he is not listed as primary writer of an episode, he is really finally the writer? Be sure, also, to find out as much as you can about Milch's new HBO project, Luck (link). Due 4/12. Colette

12) Watch all the videos and listen to all the audio recordings of Milch’s talks, seminars, and speeches. Make a detailed bibliography of these (with links, of course) and annotate it fully, so that the rest of us can keep track of these. Summarize what Milch says at each such event. (Al has a DVD of one of these, so be sure to borrow that. Others might need to be purchased from audible.com or Amazon Video.) Due 4/19. Emily

13) Read all the major critics who write about Emily Dickinson’s “My Life Had Stood – A Loaded Gun,” and summarize each of these analyses. Be sure to consult Gilbert & Gubar and the general feminist “madwoman in the attic” thesis. On Susan Howe's PennSound author page you'll find a brief discussion of feminism in a recorded session with Rachel Blau DuPlessis' class; listen to that. In an introduction Howe gave at the Writers House, she mentions her first negative response to Gilbert & Gubar in passing; listen to that. In general: characterize the 1970s-era feminist interpretation of Dickinson, and compare it with what you take to be Howe’s view of Dickinson as presented in My Emily Dickinson. What are the differences? Due 2/22. Lily

14) Interview the following people about their connection to (and opinions on) the life (and personage) and work of Susan Howe: Charles Bernstein, Jena Osman, Kristen Gallagher, Marjorie Perloff. Write summaries of what these people tell you about Howe. (Find out from Bernstein, Osman and Gallagher about Howe’s role in the “poetics program” at Buffalo during her years there. What did she teach? What kind of teacher was she? Etc.) Note: This project is for two students. Due 3/1. Jess Yu & Sarah

15) Read Oates’ The Gravedigger’s Daughter and write a narrative and critical summary of the book – with the main intention of teaching those of us who haven’t read the book about it. If apt, draw parallels to any or all of the books we are reading together in the seminar. Due 2/8. Alex

16) Read Oates’ Little Bird of Heaven and write a narrative and critical summary of the book – with the main intention of teaching those of us who haven’t read the book about it. If apt, draw parallels to any or all of the books we are reading together in the seminar. Due 2/1. Nikki

17) Read Oates’ I’ll Take You There, and write a narrative and critical summary of the book – with the main intention of teaching those of us who haven’t read the book about it. If apt, draw parallels to any or all of the books we are reading together in the seminar. Due 2/8. Vicky

18) Read Howe’s book of historical criticism, The Birth-mark (subtitled “Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History”) and write a summary of the book – with the main intention of teaching those of us who haven’t read the book about it. If apt, draw parallels to any or all of Howe’s other works we are reading together in the seminar. Due 3/8. Liza

19) Buy the Critical Edition of the famous Oates story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” and read it entirely. This includes critical essay and guides for teachers teaching the story. Then look around the web at all the references to this story, especially as it pertains to teaching it. Summarize the critical assumptions and conventions about this story. Compare these to our approach to the story but also to our approach, as it is emerging, to Oates’ work generally. Ascertain and summarize how high-school and intro-level college teachers teach this story. Why do you think they teach it the way they do? Due 2/8. Jessica R.

20) Read Pete Dexter's Deadwood and Watson Parker's Deadwood--the Golden Years and write a report on how these two historical accounts help us understand Milch's partly imagined Deadwood in Deadwood. What do you learn from these two books that will help us understand the series? Due 4/12. Alan

21) This is a two-part project. First, read John Ames' The Real Deadwood and write a report on how this historical account helps us understand Milch's partly imagined Deadwood in Deadwood. What do you learn from this book that will help us understand the series? Second, read Reading Deadwood: A Western to Swear By, edited by David Lavery, a collection of critical/interpretive essays about Milch's series. Write a report/summary of these essays. What are their main concerns, themes and approaches? What are some of the remarkable points made in these essays that we need to know in order to understand Deadwood fully? Due 4/12. Sanae


23) Read Oates' A Fair Maiden and write a summary of the book. If apt, draw parallels to any or all of the books we are reading together in the seminar. Due 2/8. Jenna