Reading & Composition

Reading & Composition

Phantoms of Contagion
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Max Kaisler
TWTh - Session D (07/06/21-08/13 2021)

What does life look like in “plague-time”?

What does it mean for a body, a place, a community to be “clean” or “unclean”?

What can we learn from fictional and historical sites of contamination?

This course will explore the concept of contagion and the fears, real and imagined, that surround it. We will examine the transmission and containment of “infected” or “infectious” ideas and bodies in order to compare the ways that humans respond to crisis, from the level of the individual to the global. Drawing our case studies from literature, film, and television, we will consider the shapeshifting terror of contagion from zombie films to ancient hereditary curses, from the Black Death to the AIDS epidemic, from viral videos to the Chernobyl disaster to our own precarious position in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Readings & films will include, among others:  

·       Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus

·       Julie Taymor, “Oedipus Rex”

·       Boccaccio, Decameron

·       Rosemary Horrox, The Black Death

·       Ingmar Bergman, “The Seventh Seal”

·       Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wall-Paper”

·       Virginia Woolf, “On Being Ill”

·       Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

·       Susan Sontag, AIDS and its Metaphors

·       Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year

·       Brothers Grimm, “The Boy Who Went Out to Learn What Fear Was”

·       Edgar Allan Poe, “Masque of the Red Death” & “Fall of the House of Usher”

·       Charles Dickens, Bleak House

·       Roger Spottiswoode, “And the Band Played On”

·       Octavia Butler, “The Evening and the Morning and the Night”

·       Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Apollo”

·       José Saramago, Blindness

·       Forough Farrokhzad,“The House is Black”

·       John Carpenter, “The Thing”

·       Yeon Sang-ho, “Train to Busan”

·       Netflix series, “Black Summer”