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Current / Recent Courses

spring 2012

HUM 103 - Humanities III - The aim of this course is to develop an understanding of modernity through the rather specialized lens of melancholy, a disposition of the psyche akin to depression and indolence. Associated with genius and artistic temperaments, melancholy is more generally a feature of the modern self, that is, a self that has become its own object. Two writings by Sigmund Freud will provide the course with a conceptual as well as historical fulcrum: the first is an attempt to understand melancholy theoretically, the second a “case-study” of demonic possession in the seventeenth century. The pairing of these two works is indicative of the broad historical cast of HUM 103, which takes its cue from the modern (post-Enlightenment) engagement with the early modern (post-medieval) figure of Johann Faust, reputed to have made a pact with Satan. Goethe’s Faust (1808) and Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus (1947)—our two major readings—both marshal the historical Faust as the embodiment of a decidedly modern selfhood, with all the self-absorption and –destruction that implies. The entire second half of HUM 103 will be devoted to reading and discussing Mann’s 500-page novel, which will also furnish an outline for considering modern developments in the arts, music and film. One essay, two in-class exams and a final. Attendance and preparation mandatory.

COLT 440/540 - Studies Genre: Film - This course will examine a selection of films with respect to literary genre. We will focus on tragedy and comedy, considering how the socio-poetical divergence in these two principal forms often provides the tension that drives the on-screen drama. Of particular interest will be the translation of the respective realms of tragedy and comedy into the dynamics of cinematic space. While the films under examination will furnish a new perspective on certain literary-critical mainstays, including Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis and Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, the cinema will be treated as a unique, at times transformative intervention in the history of these key genres. Films: The Last Laugh (F. W. Murnau, 1924); Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles, 1965); Double Suicide (Masahiro Shinoda, 1969); Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985); Rehearsals for War (Mario Martone, 1998); Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, 1999); Miss Julie (Mike Figgis, 1999); Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001); The Consequences of Love (Paolo Sorrentino, 2004); Molière (Laurent Tirard, 2007); Tetro (Francis Coppola, 2009). Readings (selections from the following titles): Giorgio Agamben, The End of the Poem; Aristotle, The Poetics; Erich Auerbach, Mimesis; Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World; Walter Benjamin, Illuminations; Bertolt Brecht, Brecht on Theatre; Northrop Frye, The Anatomy of Criticism; Siegfried Kracauer, The Mass Ornament; Molière, The Bourgeois Gentleman; William Shakespeare, Henry IV (pt. 1); Antony Tatlow, Shakespeare, Brecht, and the Intercultural Sign; Robert Weimann, Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition of the Theater.