Introduction to Comparative Literature
The Good Life
The question of what it means to live a good life has been of perennial concern to thinkers and artists across historical periods and national boundaries. Sometimes competing visions of what it means to do the right thing leads to intractable conflict. Sometimes the fantasy of attaining the good life (for instance, in the form of the American dream) keeps us attached to particular behaviors or social structures, including ones that may actually be harmful to us. In this course, we will examine some notable works that engage with the question of the good life in various ways, drawn from a range of national traditions and genres (including science fiction, ancient Greek drama, realist novels, and contemporary film). Our literary texts will be supplemented by critical readings drawn from philosophy, cultural studies, psychoanalysis, and literary theory. Questions we will ask include: what sorts of things have been valued and how do values change? What attachments does the fantasy of the good life foster, and with what consequences? Who gets to live the good life? What are the obstacles to it, and what are the costs?
Texts may include:
Sophocles – Antigone; Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary; Lorraine Hansen – Raisin in the Sun; Ursula Le Guin – The Dispossessed; Jamaica Kincaid – A Small Place; Mohsin Hamid – The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Spike Lee – Do the Right Thing; Bong Joon Ho – Parasite; Jia Zhangke – The World.
Please note this course will be taught online, synchronously, rather than in person.