J. Ramey and M. Bhaumik
What do all the fiendish dictators, cruel colonialists and mad murderers you’ve ever heard of have in common with all the great writers and filmmakers you’ve ever heard of? To begin with, you’ve heard of them. You also remember something about them. In fact, without people like you remembering them, they would not exist in the way they do. The frightening examples of tyrants and slaughterers would be lost to time, and the inspiring examples of poets, novelists, and filmmakers would be equally extinguished. The thing that keeps all these individuals alive is sometimes called “cultural memory.” But if we’re to believe these figments of time past truly possess some kind of “life,” then what category of life is it? The American Heritage Dictionary defines “parasite” as “An organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host.” Since the dead depend on us to remember them in order to stay alive in the cultural memory, this course will explore the notion that the snarling devils of history, as well as the writers and filmmakers who capture them in artistic representation, are, in effect, nothing more than parasites inhabiting our brains. As the course progresses, you may expect to discover a growing corpus of parasitic company in your head, a swarming, palpitating mass that is highly unlikely to contribute to your survival. On the other hand, you will have obtained some excellent object lessons in how to become a bloodthirsty oppressor or a successful writer or filmmaker (de gustibus non est disputandum). And you will learn a few things about how the memory of yourself might one day become its own fledgling parasitic plague determined to keep your fame pupating in other minds for centuries to come. Immortality, by any other name, is the humble offering of this semester
Students must attend classes, participate in class discussions, meet outside of class to work on group activies, and demonstrate thoughtful readings of the assigned texts. A total of about 32 pages of prose will be turned in throughout the semester; papers will be subject to extensive revision. Students will be asked to give an oral presentation. Experienced despots, poets and other immortal beings welcome.
Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo
Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
Frederick Crews, The Random House Handbook
Werner Herzog Aguirre: Wrath of God
Luis Buñuel, Los olvidados
Will include selected poetry, short fiction (e.g. Poe, Melville and Borges), readings in history (e.g. Bartolomé de las Casas), cultural theory and discourse analysis, and critical approaches to the texts.
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