Course

LIT 3013   In Praise of Idleness: Literature and the Art of Conversation

Professor

Marina van Zuylen

CRN

16157

 

Schedule

Th               4:00  -6:20 pm     OLIN 101

Distribution

OLD: B

NEW: Literature in English

The Useful, Schiller wrote in The Aesthetic Education of Man, is the great idol of our age.  It divorces leisure from labor and turns life into a series of utilitarian dead ends.  Conversely, the impulse to play,  to engage in gratuitous moments of being, in seemingly evanescent conversations, might be our only chance to convert specialized knowledge into self-knowledge. Since Socrates, conversation has been admired for its seemless ability to perform thinking, to integrate knowledge into society, and to supplement  savoir (knowledge) with savoir-vivre (the art of living).  But conversation, precisely because it clashes with the useful, has often been condemned as merely artful, dangerous for its proximity to the decadent and the idle.   But what is so threatening about idleness?  According to Nietzsche, because idleness leads to self-reflection, we avoid it by mindlessly embracing work.  The work ethic has become an excuse for not thinking about the desperate human condition.. Paradoxically, work has become an escapist diversion and the time to rest and to converse has  being usurped by the false plenitude of mechanical labor.  Proust’s In Search of Lost Time adds a new twist to this dichotomy: for the social-climber, conversation becomes work, a laborious exercise in appearing rather than being.   This course examines how these tensions are played both on a rhetorical  (we will read diverse narratological studies on conversation, studying the use of silences, repetition, dialogue, etc.) and on a thematic level.  After reading a selection of critiques of “pure” work (Aristotle, Schiller, Marx, and Nietzsche), we will examine texts  that expose the vanity of conversation (Pascal’s Pensées, Molière’s Misanthrope),  novels that thematize the tensions between work and conversation as social and cultural phenomena  (Henry James, The Europeans, Updike Rabbit Run), and works that offer up possible aesthetic theories of conversation (Proust, Swann’s Way and Against Sainte Beuve).  We will also scrutinize instances where conversation becomes a mere filler (Beckett’s Waiting for Godot).  Students will also read Paul Lafargue’s In Praise of Idleness and Corinne Maier’s Laziness, the recent French bestseller attacking the dangers of work.

Open for On-line registration.

 

Course

LIT 3023   Poetry and Society

Professor

Joan Retallack

CRN

16139

 

Schedule

Tu               4:00  -6:20 pm     OLIN 101

Distribution

OLD: B

NEW: Literature in English

Cross-listed:  Human Rights

Poems are enactments of linguistic forms of life with identifiable values intimately connected to specific cultural contexts. In undeniably troubled times like our own, poets tend to explore (even worry about) the political implications of their forms. Historically, such preoccupations have resulted in poetic movements of various sorts. Many poets today think of themselves as responsible to an enlarged vision of the human community and to the natural environment via documentary and collaborative forms as well as the idea of ecopoetics. There are also poetries whose engagement with their contemporary moment is less obvious in terms of socio-political stance, more about developing meaning via formal and material principles seen as antidote to, e.g., consumerism, patriarchy, empire, war, and/or just plain moral obliviousness. In this course we will look at examples of poetry and related writing with socio-political implications (some controversial) from around the world and from several historical contexts, to include work of Whitman, Garcia Lorca, Akhmatova, Wittgenstein, Abba Kovner, Pound, Tom Raworth, Juliana Spahr and others. This is a practice-based seminar. You will have the opportunity to experiment with poetic forms, write numerous short essays and research an area of contemporary social concern of interest to you. The final assignment will be a poetic project accompanied by a detailed statement of the principles that went into composing it. Admission by permission of professor.

 

Course

LIT 3033   Toward (A) Moral Fiction

Professor

Mary Caponegro

CRN

16144

 

Schedule

Mon            1:30  -3:50 pm     OLIN 308

Distribution

OLD: B

NEW: Literature in English

Cross-listed: Human Rights

The texts in this course each grapple with ethical issues through fictive means. In navigating them, we will try to assess the way in which literature can create, complicate, or resolve ethical dilemmas—or eschew morality altogether. We will also attend to craft, investigating how these authors’ concerns are furthered by formal considerations. Students will read one novel per week, and write several short papers. The option of a final creative project will allow students to find their own fictive path to a social, ethical, or political issue. Readings will be chosen from among the following mostly contemporary novels, with a few read in translation: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas, Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter, J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, Edie Medav’s Crawl Space, Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow, J.G. Ballard’s Crash, Elfriede Jelinek’s Wonderful Wonderful Times or Lust, Russel Banks’s Continental Drift, Norman Rush’s Mating, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child, Tournier’s The Ogre, A.M. Holmes’s The End of Alice, Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles, DeLillo’s Ratner’s Star, Will Heinrich’s The King’s Evil, Sebald’s The Emigrants, Nicolson Baker’s Checkpoint. (Permission of instructor required).  On-line

 

Course

LIT / THTR 310F   Survey of Drama

 Theater of the  Dissent

Professor

Thomas Keenan / Chiori Miyagawa

CRN

16415

 

Schedule

Wed            9:30 - 11:50 am   Fisher P. Arts

Distribution

OLD: A/B

NEW: Analysis of Arts

Cross-listed:  Human Rights, Literature, & Theater

What is dissent and how does it manifest itself? What counts as disagreement? Are there boundaries to legitimate dissent? How do we recognize, and engage in, fundamental debates?  We will explore the possibilities, strategies, and limits of dissent in a wide range of plays, ethical and political statements, and theoretical texts. We will spend most of the semester on four topics: ancient Greece, recent tyrannies and repressive societies, war and the opposition to it, and contemporary terrorism and counter-terrorism.  After reading selections from Greek drama -- one of the oldest known forms of dissent -- we will focus on politics and theater from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will discuss freedom of expression (from samizdat to hate speech to jihadi internet sites), antiwar protests in 20th century America, and the distinction between speaking and acting, drawing from extreme forms of expressions as well as texts in contemporary human rights theory. In addition to analyzing dissent, the course examines the relationship between oppositional belief and its manifestation in the form of performances. We will be especially interested in what difference performance makes, in order to understand the relation between content and form in dissent. Among the authors considered are Euripides, Sophocles, Langston Hughes, Tony Kushner, Ariel Dorfman, Vaclev Havel, Emily Mann, Arthur Miller, Naomi Wallace, Suzan-Lori Parks, Athol Fugard, August Wilson, Susan Sontag, Arundhati Roy, Emma Goldman, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Ranciejjre.

This course is open to upper college students and some sophomores with a permission of the instructors. On-line

 

Course

LIT 3205   Dante

Professor

Joseph Luzzi

CRN

16162

 

Schedule

Tu     4:00 – 6:20 pm  OLIN 205

Distribution

OLD: B/D

NEW: Literature in English

Cross-listed: Italian Studies

This course will introduce students to the world and work of the so-called “founder of all modern poetry,” Dante Alighieri. Our close reading of the entire Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso) will consider such issues as the phenomenology of poetic inspiration, medieval theories of gender, Dante’s relationship with the literary ghosts Virgil and Cavalcanti, the sources and shapes of the human soul, and how the weight of love (pondus amoris) can save this same soul. We will also read selections from Dante’s other works, including the story of his poetic apprenticeship (The New Life) and his linguistic treatise (On Eloquence in the Vernacular). Conducted in English, readings in English translation; option of work in Italian if student wishes.

 

Course

LIT 328   Ideology and Politics in  Modern Literature

Professor

Justus Rosenberg

CRN

16146

 

Schedule

Tu               1:30  -3:50 pm     OLIN 301

Distribution

OLD: B/C

NEW: Literature in English

Cross-listed:  Human Rights

We examine how political issues and beliefs, be they of the left, right, or center, are dramatically realized in literature.  Works by Dostoyevsky, Ibsen, T.S. Eliot, Kafka, Thomas Mann, Brecht, Sartre, Malraux, Gordimer, Kundera, Neruda, and others are analyzed for their ideological content, depth of conviction, method of presentation, and the artistry with which these writers synthesize politics and literature into a permanent aesthetic experience.  We also try to determine what constitutes the borderline between art and propaganda and address the question of whether it is possible to genuinely enjoy a work of literature whose political thrust and orientation is at odds with our own convictions.  The discussions are supplemented by examples drawn from other art forms such as music, painting, and film.

 

Course

LIT 331   Translation Workshop

Professor

Peter Filkins

CRN

16468

 

Schedule

Mon            1:30  -3:50 pm     PRE 101

Distribution

OLD: B

NEW: Literature in English

The workshop is intended for students interested in exploring both the process of translation and ways in which meaning is created and shaped through words. It will explore the art of literary translation by focusing on style, craft, tone, and the array of options available to the literary translator in using translation as a tool for both interpreting textual origins and the performative shape of the translation itself. Class time will be divided between a consideration of different translators, and the students' own translations into English of poetry and prose from any language or text of their own choosing. Prerequisite: One year of language study or permission of the instructor.

 

Course

LIT 3362   The Essay

Professor

Luc Sante

CRN

16319

 

Schedule

Th               1:30  -3:50 pm     OLIN 303

Distribution

OLD: B

NEW: Literature in English

This course will consider the essay form as well as its style, with a particular focus on voice, viewpoint, and rhetorical technique. Intensive study will be devoted to word choice, cadence, and even punctuation, in the belief that even the most minute aspects of writing affect the impact of the whole. The goal is to equip students with a strong but supple command of their instrument, a prerequisite for personal expression. There will be writing and reading (from Macauley to Didion) assignments each week, and exercises and discussion in class.

 

Course

LIT 349   Victorian Bodies

Professor

Deirdre d'Albertis

CRN

16120

 

Schedule

Tu               1:30  -3:50 pm     OLIN 307

Distribution

OLD: B

NEW: Literature in English

Cross-listed:  Gender Studies; Science, Technology & Society; Victorian Studies

The very term “Victorian” is synonymous with an outmoded sense of decorum, prudishness, and inhibition.  Yet as Foucault memorably asserted, we “other Victorians” remain profoundly influenced by notions of the body and sexual difference established in the nineteenth century.   We will study a series of Victorian texts—literary and non-literary—in conjunctions with theories of the construction of sexuality from Freud to Foucault, tracing the most recent origins of such “natural” categories of subjectivity as male/female, heterosexual/homosexual, child/adult, and normal/perverse with special attention to the registers of race and class. How do different forms of narrative articulate or confuse these categories?  We will also consider Victorian bodies in the aggregate.  Why did the body come to be used by the Victorians as a figure for the state? How did British imperial discourse purport to classify and study subject bodies?  We will consider these and other questions through our readings of Charlotte Bronte, Thomas Hughes, Richard Burton, Robert Baden-Powell, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, John Ruskin, Rudyard Kipling, and Lewis Carroll, among others.  Upper College standing assumed; enrollment limited to fifteen.  On-line

 

Course

LIT 3743   Poetics of the Experimental Attitude: Gertrude Stein and John Cage

Professor

Joan Retallack

CRN

16140

 

Schedule

Th               4:00  -6:20 pm     OLIN 205

Distribution

OLD: F

NEW: Practicing Arts

Cross-listed:  Integrated Arts

This course will look at work by the Mom and Pop of modernist and postmodern experimental arts with an emphasis on their respective interarts contexts as well as their relation to investigative methods in the sciences. Both Stein and Cage have remained controversial and in a remarkable way continuously contemporary as they have projected enormous influence on all the arts. We will begin by experiencing pleasures and puzzles of their work, starting with the writing but also exploring relations to other arts in their own practices as well as in their collaborations and conversations with other artists. Scientific exemplars with particular relevance to the work of Stein and Cage come from relativity theory, quantum mechanics, chaos theory and some recent developments in information theory and neuroscience. This is a practice-based seminar. You will have the opportunity to experiment with forms, write numerous short essays and research an area of contemporary experimental practice that is of particular interest to you. We will do some of our study of texts and music through performance. The final assignment for the course is an interdisciplinary arts project that carries out an approved proposal for use of media and genres of your choice, accompanied by a detailed statement of the principles that went into composing it. Admission by permission of professor.

 

Course

LIT 3801   Indian Fiction

Professor

Benjamin La Farge

CRN

16071

 

Schedule

Tu Th          10:30  - 11:50 am OLIN 309

Distribution

OLD: B

NEW: Literature in English

Cross-listed: Asian Studies & SRE

In the days of British colonial rule, the collision of East and West inspired a number of English authors to write some of their best fiction, and since Independence several Indian writers have re-imagined that collision from a post-colonial perspective. The contradiction of writing about Indian life in the language of the departed Britsh Raj has created a cultural hybridity which some of these novelists turn to advantage. Indian fiction of the modern period may be divided into three kinds: those written by English authors during the last hundred years of Empire; those written by Indian authors during the first sixty years of Independence; and those written by Indians in the diaspora. From the first we will read Rudyard Kipling's Plain Tales from the Hills and/or his novel Kim, followed by E.M. Forster's novel A Passage to India , plus a memoir by Leonard Woolf. From the second we will read R. K. Narayan's novel The Guide,  Salman Rushdie's early novel Midnight's Children,  Arundhati Roy's  only novel The God of Small Things , and Pankaj Mishra's first novel The Romantics,  plus a selection of stories. From the third, we will read Jhumpa Lahiri's story collection The Interpreter of Maladies. To contextualize these fictions, we will read chapters from a brief study of Indian history, religion, and culture. On-line   Students must speak to the instructor before registering On-line. 

 

Course

LIT 390   Contemporary Critical Theory

Professor

Nancy Leonard

CRN

16134

 

Schedule

Wed            1:30  -3:50 pm     OLIN 308

Distribution

OLD: B

NEW: HUM

Cross-listed:  Integrated Arts During the last century major changes in the ways works of art and culture were conceived took place under the influence of modernism and poststructuralism. This course engages key texts in this transformation of our knowledge of language and representation, either classic texts in vigorous dialogue with the current moment or contemporary ones. Reading full texts by major theorists and emphasizing student writing and exchange, the seminar will introduce students to the aethetics and ethics of modernist and postmodern debates about representation, and about the links between ethics, politics and language. Perspectives to be introduced include semiotics, deconstruction, Lacanian analysis, neo-Marxist and Foucauldian history, debates on difference and universalism, and rhetorical critique. Students will learn key terms and concerns, analyze arguments, and create convincing responses. Theorists to be read include Benjamin, Adorno, Foucault, Lacan, early and late Derrida, Levinas, Agamben, Badiou, Zizek, Butler,and Foster.  Admission by interview prior to registration; Upper College standing is assumed.  On-line