My first reading for the semester is Marx/Engels’s excerpt from Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. M/E outline how the worker is turned into a commodity, and how political economy (political science) has failed to acknowledge nor account for this; rather, political economy ignores this aspect of capitalism.

The worker becomes alienated from what he is producing because the worker no longer has any relation to his product. The worker does not sell any material object; he sells his labor and the rich sells the worker’s product: “With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion the devaluation of the world of men. Labour produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as commodity” (653). As the worker becomes alienated from the things he produces, he also becomes alienated from himself. The worker, himself, becomes a commodity (a “thing”) because he is used as thing– something that is meant to produce labour. Furthermore, the worker has no contact with his finished product (and if he does the product is alien to him–it is something that the worker does not recognize as something he has made). He is alienated from the end product. And the object is alienated from the worker.

Furthermore, the more the worker works, the more the world is made alien to him and the more the inner-world of the worker is made alien. M/E give a compelling argument that anyone who has come home from a long day of work can relate to: “He is at home when he is not at working, and when he is working he is not at home. His labour is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labour” (655).

The implication here is that the industrialized world of capitalism has alienated the labour of the worker from his end product. If a farmer tills the land, he sees his end product, can eat it, can sell it, himself. With industrialization and capitalism, a worker works in a factory making objects he never sees and that he does not sell. If the worker makes a part of a pen in a factory, he is completely alienated from that product when he sees it in the world. Furthermore, without this connection to his labour, the worker no longer works at what he loves but rather works in order to feed and house himself.

The beginnings of what is about to be written can be seen here. The concern of the working class and the exploitation of the working class by the rich are beginning to be analyzed here. This reading will continue in German Ideology, which I have to read next.

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I read about the seven principles to follow as a good teacher (you can look them up here), which are all great principles, but with one problem that one of my classmates brought up a couple of weeks ago, which is that as a graduate student taking three classes and tyring to find call for papers and write for those cfp, sometimes it is very difficult to have that (1st principle) face time with students, and it is sometimes hard to give feedback in a “timely” manner. Also, getting paid what I get paid to do what I do– well, it is hard to fulfill all of those principles all of the time. Of course, I try, but it seem overwhelming to teach the way I would like to teach and still keep up with all my grad classes and responsibilities.

Also, I’m all for learning as a team effort (it is in a community, discussing ideas with friends and professors that I was able to write my thesis), but at the undergraduate level, at times, one person is doing all the work and the rest of the group just sits back.

This folds into the quiet students question, I believe, along with issues I am working on as a fairly new instructor. I am trying to find the time to truly engage students and to have students engage with each other. Sometimes, I find this hard when students don’t talk in the classroom (which, thanks to the article, now I see isn’t as bad a situation as I thought it was), but still makes me wonder sometimes if students aren’t talking because I am a bad teacher. I did find this, and I hope to use some if it when I can.

The last piece (‚ÄčTeaching Composition: Elbow, Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting out Three Forms of Judgment pg. 387-406) was my favorite, and I really like the way one of my classmates explains it: “One interesting idea I gained from Berthoff is the uselesslness of asking students “What does this mean?” Instead of asking questions that merely ask what something is, we should be asking them to think about the forms a certain writer uses and how he or she achieves meaning through his or her use of language‚Äč”

I told my students the first day that I was going to make them all little philosophers in the true sense of the word: lovers of wisdom. Now as I start the ad analysis essay, this is perfectly stated. The question is not what does something mean, but how does it mean. To illustrate how composition and philosophy and their own majors intertwine, I plan on maybe showing them this:

I hope this will get them thinking of “how” something means, not what it means. And after the readings for the bibliography, hopefully they are already thinking about how “facts” change.

Today has been an awful day. It is one of those days that I wonder what it is I am doing here, why I am here, and will I make it much longer. The day started off in bleak, non-stop rain. The rain was coming down so bad on the highway that I had a hard time seeing more than about ten feet in front of me, which made for a slow drive.

The traffic wasn’t awful, but there was no way to go more than 40mph because of the heavy rain. Once I got to campus, it was easy enough to find parking (now that I found a spot that it seems most people don’t want to walk from), but the rain rain rain… I reached my office with the bottom of pants wet and my feet soaking. I was able to print up most everything that I wanted to print up, and I made it to my classes with plenty of time.

After class, my feet were so cold and wet that I decided to go to the mall down the street and buy some new socks and shoes, so that my feet could be warm and dry. Afterwards, I went to a little deli right by campus and had a nice, hearty baked potato and a salad. It was nice to relax for a minute. But I digress…

The students are like all freshmen students: quiet, shy, elusive of talking, young, and mostly disinterested in a class forced upon them. And I always feel like I am doing a really bad impersonation of a teacher, I feel like I haven’t found my rhythm yet, and I feel it is going to be hard to find that rhythm when I have so much to do myself as a student. I think I have some good ideas for the next two classes, but I even feel (a little) like I am not really sure what the point of the projects are. The way I see it, these projects are supposed to prepare them for college, to be thinkers, to be better citizens, so that is what I plan on teaching the class. I just got to stay focused and keep in mind the project objectives, which is sometimes hard when juggling so many things.

I have been slacking on the blog, on reading, on classes, all around, really. I have to get my shit in gear. I blame the adjusting, the money situation, and my recent cold. Now that school is starting, I’ll be able to settle into a routine and get things together. Hopefully, later, I can write a little about the poems I read for Thursday’s class.

Today, I talked to my mentor at USF. Schools assign mentors to people like me coming into a program to show us the rope. We talked for a bit and he seems like a nice enough guy. We are going to meet tomorrow for lunch, and then he is going to show me around campus, and on Tuesday I am sitting in on a class. I don’t care all too much to sit in on a class, but I got nothing to do. Then on Wednesday, I plan on going to Marco Island for a couple of days to hang with the family. Again, I don’t really want to drive three hours, but I am not doing much around here.

I went to a new cafe today in the trendy Hyde Park Village. It had too much of a snobby vibe for me. Although, it does seem to have some nice eateries and is only 5 minutes away. We’ll see how things go.

At the cafe I read Chuck Palahniuk’s Tell All. This book is, at best, mildly entertaining. There are no characters to care for, the plot is moving along really slowly, there are flashbacks that seem to tell nothing. I understand Palahniuk wanting to veer from the formula he followed from Invisible Monsters, Fight Club, Diary, Choke, Survivor et. al.. He had that fast paced style, all action, constantly moving the story, with twist endings, but lately, he is challenging narrative forms, which while commendable, I feel, isn’t working.

Half way through the novel, the plot is trite and boring (very not like Chuck). The story is told from the personal assistant of Miss Kathie Kenton. The assistant seems to have a weird, obsessive thing about her boss. But that is all I got so far. No real action, no real suspense, no real emotion– not even Palahniuk’s trademark analysis or critique of some type or other of societal norms. I guess, in the background, it can be said that the novel is critiquing societies obsession with celebrities and celebrities’ lives, as well as making society look at its fascination with “reality t.v.”, this drive and desire to see it all. But, that is stretching it…

I am mildly entertained– this is more of a beach read than the Palahniuk of old. Hopefully, all this experimenting with narrative form will eventually lead to something substantial. Palahniuk came close to it in Pygmy and there are moments of it in Snuff, but I miss reading a Palahniuk book and not being able to put it down.