Prompt 1 (Recommended if you didn’t finish Portal)
Clearly quoting or citing a location in Marcuse’s text (just citing the chapter number, or prologue, is fine for Marcuse if you’re using the electronic text), identify an idea or concept, used by Marcuse, which you believe can and should be used to better understand some aspect of Neuromancer, Zork or Modern Times. Then, do exactly that: show how and why that concept from Marcuse can be used to understand the novel/film/game, beyond what we discussed in class. Be sure to show and understanding of, and cite material from, both texts.
Hint: chapter four in Marcuse is a good starting point, if you’re having trouble, because many of the concepts there directly concern art and/or the conjunction of art and technology.
Prompt 2 (most flexible)
Use Marcuse, including specifics, to analyze Portal. Alternatively, you may analyze Portal in relationship with one other work of “popular culture” (I am using the term loosely, not precisely). You should, as usual, have a specific argument, in this case at least inspired by Marcuse (if you disagree in some fundamental way with Marcuse, this essay might help explain why). The most obvious question you might begin with is: “does my chosen work engage in, or try to engage in, the Great Refusal”? Another example: you might argue that Portal helps us challenge Marcuse’s argument that we [cannot] “really distinguish between the mass media as instruments of information and entertainment, and as agents of manipulation and indoctrination?”
In other words, the most obvious approach (although by no means the only one) is to use Portal as an example or possibly counterexample of what Marcuse sees as the problems of the modern mass media, either alone or in comparison with another work of mass culture.
Hint: Not to sound like a broken record, but there is abundant material on chapter four concerning art in the modern age which is highly useable here.
Prompt 3 (Recommended if you did finish Portal)
Really, this could be taken as a specific example of something that you could do with Prompt 2.
Please do not do this prompt without having played through all of Portal - be able to speak articulately about the game as a whole, as well as specific segments of it. Include precise references to Portal as well as Marcuse - a screen shot, a clip of video, whatever. Figure it out.
The premise of this prompt is that, following Marcuse’s reading of Brecht in chapter four, “the total character of the established society confronts the playwright with the question of whether it is still possible to ‘represent the contemporary world in the theater’ - that is, represent it in such a manner that the spectator recognizes the truth which the play is to convey.” In other words, Portal is not just pure entertainment (read on in Marcuse for some context), but a struggle to represent aspects of our world which resist easy representation.
If you accept this premise - that is, if you at least partially agree with it - show us what truth(s) of our world Portal is trying to represent.
Pay attention to what Marcuse writes and sites about the estrangement-effect, the things which are absent, etc. Do not rely too much on the script of the game (that is, the words) - use visuals and/or gameplay!
This isn’t a finished prompt, so you’ll need to create an argument and send it to me for approval before writing it. If you have a great idea for making an argument about Portal using Zork, please send me the idea several days before class.