Literature Seminars: Paranoia and Literature

Exploration of major themes in selected works of literature. Individual sections focus on topics such as war, justice, childhood, sex and gender, the supernatural, and the natural world. Emphasis on the development of writing skills and the analysis of fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction prose.

What would compel a vice president to throw a young journalist in front of a moving train? Why would a housewife leave her husband to trace the origins of a mysterious anti-governmental postal system she believes dates back to the early seventeenth century? Why would an avant-garde performance artist go to extraordinary ends to ensure that his early experimental films never end up in the Anthology Film Archives? Who are these people? And why are they so paranoid?

In this seminar, we will attempt to answer all of these questions by exploring the meaning of paranoia across cultures and time periods. We will examine novels, plays, and films which present characters who are variously bent on revenge, wracked by feelings of persecution, policed for unorthodox sexual preferences, obsessed by conspiracy, and driven by a desire to know everything. Texts and screenings include Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, William Godwin’s Caleb Williams, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, the performance art of Jack Smith, Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo, David Lynch’s film Mulholland Drive, and the recent Netflix series House of Cards.

Students who wish to enroll in a section of this seminar should participate in online preregistration, which opens at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 12, 2016 and closes promptly at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 12, 2017.

Undergraduate Course #: 
Section #: 
MW 2:30pm -3:45pm
WR, Hu