Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization
Edited By Joe Bower and Paul L. Thomas
Chapter Twelve: The Grading Mousetrap: Narcissism, Abjection, and the Politics of Self-Harm
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The Grading Mousetrap
Narcissism, Abjection, and the Politics of Self-Harm
JOHN L. HOBEN
LESSONS FROM HAMLET
As we all know, there is an old adage about the futility of searching for a better mousetrap, an invention so simple, cheap and efficient that it is quite difficult to improve upon. There is another well-known mousetrap, one that also reveals much about what grading misses and how its inner logic forces us into subject roles that allow very little choice within social institutions. I am referring to the well-known scene in Act II, Scene ii of Hamlet in which the beleaguered prince stages a play, The Murder of Gonzago, to examine the conscience of his uncle, Claudius. Here, the audience is presented with a garden setting where a villain pours poison into the ear of the sleeping king in order to steal the crown and the affections of the dead king’s wife. Hamlet hopes that this re-creation of his father’s murder will cause some guilt to register on his uncle’s face and, he suspects, that of his own mother. Of course, Hamlet’s fictional ruse works as Claudius is so disturbed by what he sees that he immediately calls for an end to the scene. Convinced of Claudius’s guilt Hamlet moves to kill him but relents once he sees him in the act of prayer since killing his uncle at that time, he claims, would serve...
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