20 May 2010

your final exam, scholars. (crawford hardly changed it from last year)

AP English Lang/Comp mcrawford
Final Exam: The Dream
“We live in a city of dreams.”


• Film: True Stories (core text)
• Consumer or Citizen?
• Parable of the Democracy of Goods
• The Gospel of Consumption
• Our Phony Economy
• The Story of Stuff
• Gatto, Barcan, Baudrillard
• What is a Corporation?
• The Ten Chairs (demonstration)
• In Persuasion Nation (Saunders story)
• We Are What We Buy
• The Next Thing (Milhauser story)
• Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

In an essay that synthesizes evidence from the film and at least three of the above sources, compose an answer to the following complex question or “tangle” of questions. (Can you untangle all of this?)

Americans are often described as overly materialistic. But careful analysts might argue that we are more fundamentally addicted to the consumption of, or participation in, a dream or a system of images we use to tell a story about ourselves. (The material consumed then, is secondary; the meaning of the consumption is primary.) The film True Stories uses Virgil, Texas as a caricature of American culture to demonstrate that “we live in a city of dreams.” How did we make this city? What is the dream? Whose dream is it? How does it operate? And what does all this have to do with the American economy? Does “the economy” still serve American human beings well? Or do we find ourselves serving it? (Will we be able to find ourselves at all? What do I have to buy to find myself? Where can I buy it? If I can buy it will I have a life or a lifestyle?)

You might conclude your essay with suggestions for living a life more aware—rather than a lifestyle defined for you by those concerned with how much you might consume. Are there ways to slow down our efforts to build a dream by consumption? Are there better ways to live? What’s a human life for, anyway?

(And now, some lines from the songs or dialogue in our movie)
• I was born in a house with the television always on. Guess I grew up too fast, and forgot my name.
• Every dream has a name. And names tell your story. Do you know who you are? You’re the dream operator.
• People here are inventing their own systems of belief . . . making it up as they go along.
• I can love you like a color TV.
• It’s an imaginary landscape. A place to raise your kids.
• We don’t want freedom. We don’t want justice. We just want someone to love. (emphasis added)

(Someone to love? The love thing again. Is this like O’Brien’s conclusion? “It wasn’t a war story. It was a love story” So, these aren’t true stories, they’re love stories? Listen to Brick Pollitt: “You’ve got a million dollars worth of junk. Look at it. Does it love you?” Is Gatsby in here somewhere? Daisy? I’ve never felt like this before. If this is crazy, I don’t ever want to be sane.) All you need is . . .

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