Honors | Dickens, Chaplin, and the Melodrama of Democracy (HON)
H303 | 28630 | Eyal Peretz


Dickens and Chaplin are two of the most popular artists of
democratic modernity. They are both profound critics and satirists
of this modernity as well as great visionaries of a new humanity, of
a new people, that it seems to call for and which it might make
possible.

This class will attempt to articulate the significance of their art,
an art that has often been defined as melodramatic, through an
examination of its implication with the adventure of modern
democracy. We will ask what kind of "things" their works
(respectively novels and films) try to be, what kind of/ activity/
they try to perform, in the context of the current situation in
which humanity finds itself.

Topics to be examined: the significance of the modern novel; the
birth of the medium of film; popular culture and the question of a
new, democratic, people; politics and art in modernity; the rise of
melodrama.

Readings and viewing include: Besides Dickens and Chaplin; Plato,
Tocqueville, Heidegger, Freud, Adorno, Benjamin, Arendt, Cavell.

Assignments: Three short papers. Honors students taking this class
will be required to give a class presentation.