Skip to comments.The Freakishness of Sociology
Posted on 11/24/2010 1:46:30 PM PST by Kaslin
If you want to avoid seeing your 18-year-old turn into a freak within the first year of college, its best to make sure he, she, or it avoids taking a course in sociology. That is especially the case if your kid plans to attend Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.
Professor Laurie Essig teaches a course at Middlebury called The Sociology of Freakishness. She justifies the course by saying that American popular culture began with the freak show and that P.T. Barnum taught us that freaks are always made- not born. Better not tell that to GLEAM (Gay & Lesbian Employees at Middlebury). They might argue that theres such a thing as a freak gene. Next thing you know, the freaks will be entitled to their own Freak Resource Center.
According to Essig, a freak is a performance or display of otherness for fun and profit. She claims that she has designed her course in order to explore the history of the freak in American culture as well as how our culture is still structured around the trope of the freak show. She wants students to become sociologists of freakishness whose job it is to ask what configurations of power are at play in the performance. How do gender, race, nationality, sexuality and class come into play and how are those forms of power translated into a performance of otherness that forces us to watch it over and over again?
After I read that job description I began to worry that I might be one of those freaks theyre studying. After all, a lot of sociologists read my columns over and over again, seemingly forced to do so. Maybe, theres a freak-watcher gene, even though freaks are made not born. Maybe theres even an intellectually consistent sociologist somewhere. Maybe the moon landing was faked. Maybe professional wrestling is real.
I want to take The Sociology of Freakishness if no other reason than to take in the excellent assigned readings. Among those are Catherine Dunns Geek Love and Rosemarie Thomsons Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body.
There are also numerous lectures I found on the course syllabus for The Sociology of Freakishness, which make me want to enroll right now. For example, one lecture, scheduled for early October, requires students to read Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus. Next, students ponder these profound intellectual questions: Can the freak be reclaimed as an active subject in her own enfreakment? Is that what Parks was trying to do? And why?
By mid-October, students are asked to read Lori Merishs Cuteness and Commodity Aesthetics, and then watch Shirley Temple films in class. Finally, they are urged to bring to class some contemporary examples of Children as Freaks.
Shortly thereafter, students read Cecile Lindsays, Bodybuilding: A Postmodern Freak Show, and Cyril Siorats, Beyond Modern Primitivism, from the book Tattoo. They are then asked to Come to class with examples of bodily freaks in our own culture- for example, tattooing, piercing, ear stretching. They are then asked to Think about the relationship between bodily freaks and notions of the primitive. Thats some deep thinking to require of sociology students.
By the end of October, students read the professors own writing, specifically Plasticity: On the Unexpected Uses of Plastic Surgery. They are then asked to discuss this profound question: When is surgery necessary and when is it freakish?
In an early November class meeting, students are asked to Think about contemporary manifestations of blackface as a genre of the freak show. In order to provide a real balance to the class, students are then encouraged to study whiteface. In other words, they read about Michael Jackson. The reading is David D. Yuans, The Celebrity Freak: Michael Jacksons Grotesque Glory.
Students are then asked to Do some research on the most recent Jackson trials and Michael Jackson as a racial and sexual freak. It is unclear whether students are asked to visit Never-land Ranch or attend a meeting of the North American Man-Boy Love Association. But, then again, calling the NAMBLA meeting a freak show might offend GLEAM. So many victims, so little time!
Just before Thanksgiving, students are introduced to a lecture on YouTube, MySpace, and the importance of self-enfreakment. They are told to find some examples in new media of freakishness. When they return from break, students get to read the professors own essay, The Pleasure of Freaks. This all takes place within a lecture titled Does Pop Culture Need Freaks?
I dont know about pop culture but academia doesnt need any more freaks. We just need to put bars on the professors windows and charge the public to peer inside their offices. Spectators should be allowed to toss them an occasional peanut or banana.
Eventually, well need to pay someone to clean up the stuff that gathers in their cages. The freaks may call it scholarship. But it smells like crap to me.
If you would consider Middlebury College for your child, they are already doomed because they have been raised by you.
the downside was, I started believing the crap and it took me years to listen to learn and find my way back to reality.
I dated a Serbian sociology professor. She was surprisingly sane and rather disgusted with the arrogance of her American colleagues.
She said that everything they had learned, they learned in classrooms and controlled studies. Normal and abnormal were all a matter of perspective in their eyes.
She on the other hand had gotten an up close look at reality in Belgrade and during interviews with people from all sides of Balkan wars.
And people wonder why colleges cost so much. Its all this crap they are paying for.
Funny...I just talked about sociology on another thread this morning...
It related to taking sociology in college, and how I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, read “Walden II” and thought that was the way the world should run...
Talk about a skull full of mush. I bit hard on that, only after a couple of years of retrospection did I understand that it was all statist BS.
How embarrassing is that? I had already been around the world and spent four years in the navy before I went to college, and still got sucked in, and...I was a very, very conservative guy. (Being in the USN under Carter will do that to you...:)
To me, it was an object lesson in giving young folks a little leeway...and hope they will grow out of it.
LOL...see my post at #10...I went to Worcester State, and the sociology professor was this young guy who got completely despondent because nobody in the class wanted to participate (as in your example, they all wanted to reguritate and increase their GPA...:)
Occasionally, he would spend five minutes at the beginning of the class staring back at us, waiting for someone to speak...nobody ever would. Then he would sigh, and make some comment about perhaps he should dress up in skintight leather and bring tigers on leashes to class.
I went up to him one day and suggested he should find another line of work...(I wasn’t kidding!) He sighed and said “Yeah...”
Frikking sociology. Evil.
My classes were quite interesting (and thus enjoyable), particularly because we studied so many different subjects and topics. The experience most definitely enhanced my ability to read, write and think.
But it is decidedly a field of study favoring the mindset of the left, as unfortunately, are other Liberal Arts Majors, and thus produces graduates who become leftists, and is hardly surprising.
Man I hated sociology, lowered my grade. I was watching Rush on T.V. at night and I was lightning rod in class. Got a 2 point just enough to pass. Funny I get 4 points in calc. Still don’t believe society made them do it. Seems to me the whole class was about not taking credit for your failures. I bet O’dumbaz was a straight a honor student in this class.
LOL...it is a great, interesting and inspiring class...only if you suspend reality! That is why all the utopians (liberals) love it...:)
Safe bet, because we'll never know what classes he took. If any.
“She on the other hand had gotten an up close look at reality in Belgrade and during interviews with people from all sides of Balkan wars.”
I think the smug American academicians are going to get a close up view soon, the way things are going.
Won't that make you go blind?