W 02:00-05:00 4104 Dwinelle Instructor: Victoria Kahn
The history of Western literary theory is often told in terms of the concept of mimesis. But there is another, equally powerful, anti-mimetic strand to this history, and that is the critique of mimesis as a form of idolatry. In this course, we will explore this critique from the prohibition against images in the Hebrew bible up through modern attacks on mimesis as inherently ideological. Our main literary texts in the first half of the semester will be taken from Reformation England, when there was a fierce debate about the harmful power of images and the necessity of iconoclasm. We will focus on works by Marlowe, Bacon, Shakespeare, and Milton. In the second half of the semester, we will discuss the afterlife of iconoclasm in Marx, Freud, Althusser, Zizek, Adorno, Terry Eagleton, and Isobel Armstrong. Students whose interests lie primarily in national literatures other than English are welcome, and may write their final papers on primary texts and literatures not discussed in class, though they must engage the theoretical texts assigned for the seminar.
Required Texts: The Bible (any edition)
Saint Augustine, On Christian Doctrine [excerpts will also be available in pdf]
Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus and Other Plays (Oxford) ISBN 978-0-19-953706-8
Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale
Milton, Complete Shorter Poems, ed. John Carey (Longman) ISBN 13: 978-0582019850 (or any other edition that includes Samson Agonistes)
Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology [excerpts will also be available in pdf]