English | Junior Honors Seminar
L399 | 2236 | Comentale


L399 2236 COMENTALE
Junior Honors Seminar

9:30a-10:45a MW (15) 3 CR.

COLLEGE INTENSIVE WRITING COURSE.  REQUIRES THE PERMISSION OF THE
ENGLISH DEPARTMENT’S DIRECTOR OF HONORS.  OBTAIN AUTHORIZATION FROM
BALLANTINE 442.

TOPIC: THE CITY

“The tallest buildings throw the longest Shadows (thus Great Men
make their Mark by blocking out the Sun, and, seeking Warmth
themselves, cast Cold upon the rest).” - Emile dell’ Ova, Truismes,
1774

The city has cast a long shadow over literature as well. To some
writers, it is the scene of corruption, degradation, and inhumanity;
to others, it is aligned with a new, modern consciousness, freed
from the naiveté of the countryside; and yet to others, it offers an
irrestible phantasmagora, an intoxicating sensualism beyond good or
evil. This course will explore the multifarious experiences of the
city as they are expressed in the literature and philosophy of the
last two centuries. We will encounter cities real and imagined,
progressive and brutal; we will consider them as they reshape the
individual and his or her community, as they circulate bodies,
ideas, and wealth; we will watch them evolve out of the countryside
and fall back into the earth. We will debate theories of mass
psychology, the alienation of the urban dweller, the mechanization
of consumption and waste, the geography of vice and wealth. Most
importantly, we will pay close attention to how the growth of the
modern city is reflected in the evolution of literary style; we will
try to link the sensual experience of the city with the sensual
experience of urban literature. Throughout, our theoretical focus
will be Marxist and Freudian; we will discuss the growth of the city
as an effect of capitalist development and we will consider how it
serves to shape and transform a specifically modern ego. We will
consider texts that deal specifically with these theoretical frames,
as they grapple with the dominance of the city and attempt to
formulate alternative bases for the individual and the community.

We will read literature and philosophy from the early nineteenth-
century to the present day. The syllabus will most likely include
some of the following: poetry by William Wordsworth, A.E. Housman,
T.S. Eliot, Mina Loy, Carl Sandberg, Allen Ginsberg; fiction by
Edgar Allen Poe, “The Man in the Crowd”; Charles Dickens, Hard
Times; Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray; Edith Wharton, The
Age of Innocence; Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway; Dashiell Hammett,
Red Harvast; Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities; Jim Crace, Arcadia;
theory by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Charles Baudelaire, Gustave
LeBon, Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, Raymond Williams, Stuart
Hall, Fredric Jameson; films such as Metropolis; O Brother, Where
Art Thou?; Eyes Wide Shut; Gangs of New York.

This is a discussion-based course, so both attendance and
participation are mandatory. Students will be assigned several
informal response papers and a 10-15 pp. research paper.