J.K. Rowling. Matt Groening. Steven Hawkind. A recent list of "living geniuses" offered these (and many other) names, citing them for their paradigm shifting, popular acclaim, intellectual power, achievement and cultural importance. But what is a genius? And how do become one? In this class, we'll think about the evil genius, the mad genius, the boy (and girl) genius, and the living genius, among others.

Who do you consider a genius? Da Vinci? Shakespeare? Einstein? We'll read a variety of works, from the Romantics (who made artistic genius a central concept), to the modernists (who shared the fascination with genius), to more recent work that might include the online comic Girl Genius, Dave Eggers' memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, the film Beautiful Mind, and a self- help book called How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day. Is genius born or made? We'll think about genius as a mark of extraordinary ability and a cultural phenomenon, and see if we can't get closer to it over the course of the semester.