English | Intro Writing & Study of Lit 1
L141 | 9512-9517 | Fleissner


TOPIC: Obsession/Compulsion
9512     1:00p-1:50p     TR     BH 109     Fleissner, Jennifer

9513     9:05a-9:55a     MW     TBA
9514     10:10a-11:00a   MW     FA 005
9515     11:15a-12:05p   MW     TBA
9516     12:20p-1:10p    MW     TBA
9517     1:25p-2:15p     MW     TBA

From TV's "Monk" or Bree on "Desperate Housewives," to the main
characters of such films as "As Good As It Gets," "Matchstick Men,"
or "The Aviator," to a host of recent novels and memoirs with titles
like "Just Checking In!" and "The Devil in the Details," obsessions
and compulsions seem suddenly to be everywhere. Why? Does modern
culture in some way encourage such behaviors and forms of thinking,
as some have argued? Where exatly do we draw the line between
admirable dedication and pathological obsession? Between mere habit
and dangerous compulsion? Should we? What is at stake in doing so?

This class will look at the different ways in which such symptoms
have been represented and explained in literature, essays, films,
and psychiatric writings since the nineteenth century. Subjects of
our discussion will include repetition, list-making, counting,
irresistible impulses, songs that get stuck in your head,
cleanliness, death, hoarding, doubting, and the "feeling of
imcompleteness." Texts will likely include novels by Jonathan Lethem
(Motherless Brooklyn)and Aimee Bender (An Invisible Sign of My Own);
short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Herman Melville,
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Henry James, and Pamela Zoline; and essays
by William Gass, David Sedaris, and Sigmund Freud. Assignments will
include two formal papers and two exams, in addition to shorter
quizzes and informal writing exercises.