This is a course about changing one’s mind: about revolutions, conversions, voltas, and plot twists, and about what happens when we sit and stare.
Afraid she was no longer there, and eager to see her,
the lover turned his eyes.
Pish! Noses, ears, and lips? Is’t possible?
This is a course about changing one’s mind: about revolutions, conversions, voltas, and plot twists, and about what happens when we sit and stare. Beginning with the classical myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and moving forward historically to texts and films by (among others) Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Nella Larsen, Clarice Lispector, and Alfred Hitchcock we’ll ask: When and why do we turn around? Does it have something to do with the mystery of the face, with what it reveals and conceals? What histories are contained there? What lost or hidden identities are obscured? What is the relationship between a personal experience and the public face we present to the world? Why do we sometimes put on a new face? How do our ideas of gender and race determine how we “read” the faces of others? What are the ethics of looking back or looking away?
As we move between literature, film, and visual artworks, these questions will give us an opportunity to think critically about form. We’ll learn how to close read across various media—photographs and paintings as well plays and poems. Attending to the way in which changes of direction structure both texts and images, we’ll discuss how these “about-faces” also produce moments of ambiguity.
All along our investigation will be shaped by practice: the course’s emphasis is on reading and rereading, writing and re-writing. Thus assignments will be aimed at developing students’ powers of description, persuasion, and argumentation. They will include two short close-reading papers, two longer essays, a presentation, and a number of short writing assignments.
A course reader will contain Ovid’s and Virgil’s versions of “Orpheus & Eurydice”; “Love” by Clarice Lispector; poetry by Shakespeare and Baudelaire; selections from Ruth Ozeki’s The Face and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing; plus selected chapters of Writing Analytically and other writing guides.
Longer Required Texts (available at the Cal Student Store*):
Nella Larsen, Passing
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (Volume 1)
William Shakespeare, Othello and Twelfth Night
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
We will watch a handful of films to be selected from the following:
Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo
Preston Sturges, The Lady Eve
Douglas Sirk, Imitation of Life
Reinhold Schünzel, Viktor / Viktoria
Blake Edwards, Victor / Victoria
Mankiewicz, All About Eve
Barbet Schroeder, Single White Female
And we will also look at a selection of paintings and photographs by:
*Wherever you choose to purchase your books, please buy the specific edition on order in the university bookstore. Please obtain hard copies (as opposed to e-books) of all required course texts.