Literature Seminars: Giving Yourself Away

Do you own yourself? How much control do you have over what people know about you? If you open up to a public (large or small), are you are asserting your autonomy or leaving yourself vulnerable? Why do we tell invisible/anonymous strangers things that we would never disclose in an ordinary conversation? In this course we will consider what it means to “give yourself away.” We start by looking at tells – unconscious signals of hidden motives and desires – as they’ve been construed in genres as diverse as psychoanalysis, detective fiction, and nineteenth-century “dramatic monologues.” As the course progresses we will consider the risks people take by exposing themselves to public scrutiny; Western culture’s longstanding anxieties about chastity and its lapses (the fear that one might “give away” one’s virtue); and what it might mean to be truly “self-possessed.” We will hone our skills as critical and attentive readers of literary and cinematic texts, while consistently returning to questions of ethics, sexuality and publicity. Readings include William Shakespeare’s King Lear, Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, and poetry by William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, Claudia Rankine, and others.

Students who wish to enroll in this seminar should participate in online preregistration, which opens at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 23 and closes promptly at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, August 28, 2017.

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TTh 1:00pm-2:15pm
WR, Hu