Tu/Th 03:30-5 51 Evans Instructor: Jocelyn Saidenberg

Why do oracles deliver their truths in riddles? Why do stories often leave us with more questions than answers? What can we learn from confusion, obscurity, even psychotic derangement? This writing intensive course will proceed from the proposition that literary bewilderment can be a guide, a mentor, and even a means to arrive at different forms of knowledge. We will explore texts that are bewildering in a myriad of ways—texts that have characters in states of bewilderment and texts that bewilder their audiences and readers in order to ask what value is there in being at a loss? Do states of bewilderment suggest different kinds of understanding than those grounded in empirical findings or logical conclusions? What kinds of enjoyment does mystification offer? As we follow these enigmatic texts through obscure landscapes and altered states, we will explore these realms not to transcend them but to inhabit spaces that offer us the wilds and pleasures of literary experimentation. In addition, we will investigate how to approach texts that appear to resist our engagement and develop ways to appreciate their aesthetic effects.

While this course is devoted to reading texts that celebrate mystification and perform acts of perplexity, students will create limpid and articulate argumentative essays through close readings and textual analysis. To meet the twofold aims of the course—reading critically and writing analytically—students are required to write three essays and a series of shorter assignments. All aspects of writing and researching will be addressed through workshops and instruction. Students will be expected to read up to 100 pages of literary and scholarly texts each week and are required to participate actively in class and bCourses discussions.

Possible texts include:

Sophocles, Oedipus Rex

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Toni Morrison, Jazz

Fanny Howe, What Did I Do Wrong?

Alison Bechdel, Fun Hom

M. NourbeSe Philip, Zong!


La Cienaga, dir. Lucrecia Martel

The Spirit of the Beehive, dir. Victor Erice

A course reader will include selections from the following: short stories by Rulfo, Kafka, Can Xue, Borges, Walser; poetry by Sappho, Catullus, Ovid, Blake, Smart, de Góngora, Clare, Mallarmé, Dickinson, Howe; and essays by St. Teresa of Ávila, Benjamin, Artaud, Plath, Dorsky, Eltit, and Koestenbaum.