LIT 3013

Beyond the Work Ethic: The Uses and Misuses of Idleness

Marina van Zuylen

  W       1:30pm-3:50pm

OLIN 101



Cross-listed:  French Studies   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 seamless 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 been 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 study 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 the resistance to work (Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener), the philosophical ramifications of laziness (Goncharov, Oblomov), the prejudice against conversation (Pascal’s Pensées, Molière’s Misanthrope), the tension between work and conversation as social and cultural phenomena  (Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham) and instances where conversation becomes a mere filler (Woolf, To the Lighthouse, Chekhov, The Seagull).  Students must email Prof. van Zuylen a one-page rationale explaining their interest in the topic.  Class size: 15



LIT 375

 Cultural Cold War  AND THE Third World

Elizabeth Holt

   Th     1:30pm-3:50pm

OLIN 306





Cross-listed: Africana Studies; Human Rights; Latin American & Iberian Studies; Middle Eastern Studies  This seminar considers how culture in the third world became a theater for Cold War, focusing on the 1950s-1970s.  The course begins with the 1955 Bandung Conference and its call for Afro-Asian solidarity and non-alignment in the face of the either/or logic of Cold War.  Aiming to curate a global “non-Communist Left” in its fight against Soviet cultural initiatives, the covertly CIA-founded and –funded Congress for Cultural Freedom extended its efforts well beyond Europe after Bandung, beginning highly influential literary magazines, including Quest in India, Black Orpheus in Nigeria, Transition in Uganda, Hiwar in Lebanon, and several Latin American magazines, including the seminal Mundo Nuevo.  The Soviets in turn built support for the Afro-Asian Writers Association, publishing their tri-lingual review of “Afro-Asian writings” – Lotus – from Cairo.  In this course we will study the history of the Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Afro-Asian Writers Association after Bandung, reading selections from their Indian, Arab, African, and Latin American magazines, alongside theories of political commitment, decolonization, empire, liberalism, and Communism.  Finally, the course will consider the context of cultural Cold War in the Caribbean, and the resurgent relevance of the Cold War to our own times, through a reading of Marlon James’s recent novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.  This course is part of the World Literature offering.  Class size: 15



LIT 376

 Sex, in Theory: Queer / Crip STUDIES TODAY

Natalie Prizel

M         1:30pm-3:50pm

OLIN 303





Cross-listed: Gender and Sexuality Studies  The noted queer theorist Michael Warner has written that “the appeal of ‘queer theory’ has outstripped anyone’s sense of what exactly it means.” Through readings of foundational texts of the past thirty years, this class will allow us to come to an understanding of the many things that “queer theory” could possibly mean and how it might be useful in the study of cultural—and particularly, literary—artifacts. Rather than study queer theory in a vacuum, this course will trace its antecedents in feminist methodologies and its continued life, particularly in the realms of disability theory and studies of embodiment more generally as well as within some of the most contested sites of literary theory. The course will focus on seminal texts in the field—including but not limited to works by Michel Foucault, Georges Canguilhem, Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Jack Halberstam, Lee Edelman, Michael Warner, Kobena Mercer, and José Esteban Muñoz—in conversation with a series of literary texts from the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Anglo-American tradition. This is a Junior Seminar, and as such we will devote substantial time to methods of research, writing, and revision. Your primary project will be an in-depth research project on a work(s) of literature using the theoretical terms explored over the course of the semester. Class size: 15



LIT 378

 Ralph Waldo Ellison

Peter L'Official

  W       10:10am-12:30pm

OLIN 305





Cross-listed: American Studies  There are many Ellisons contained within the author of Invisible Man, Ralph Waldo—novelist, essayist, musician, critic, mechanical tinkerer, Bard professor—but despite a wealth of other writing, he completed and published only one novel within his lifetime. It remains one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. This course uses the work and career of Ralph Ellison to explore critical issues in the fields of American and African American literature. The course also uses Ellison’s Invisible Man as a structural roadmap in considering the literary, philosophical, and vernacular traditions that influenced its composition as well as Ellison’s other writings. We will read Ellison’s fiction and non-fiction (and that of his contemporaries, predecessors, critics, and scholars) in order to examine issues of race and ethnicity, gender, language, identity, and technique, and we will also consider questions regarding canon formation and archive-building. This is a Junior Seminar, and as such we will devote substantial time to methods of research, writing, and revision. Class size: 15