Honors | English
L141 | 1956 | Linton


Why do we like the bad boy Bart Simpson and laugh with Lucille Ball? Root
for the ruses of the Arabian Scheherazade and the Classical Greek
Odysseus? Applaud the escapades of the African Eshu and the Norse Loki,
the Chinese Monkey and the Native American Coyote? How do we account for the wide and enduring appeal of
tricksters in diverse cultures, past and present, including ours? To
explore these questions, we will study a number of traditional stories and
modern adaptations of tricksters in literature and film. We will
specifically examine how tricksters make their way in the world, often by
transgressing implied rules, and what their transgressions tell us about a
culture's values and assumptions. Analysis will focus on the language
games (signifying, joking, riddles, paradoxes, congames, etc.) through
which much trickery occurs. We will also analyze the narrative forms and
the technologies that provide a medium for tricksterism in the cultural
imagination and in everyday life. These lines of inquiry will provide a
basis to understand and write about the values and assumptions informing
our own sense of agency as knowers and does in a multicultural world.
Readings may inlcude tales of tricksters mentioned above as well as works
by authors such as angela Carter, Sherman Alexie, Allice Walker, and
William Shakespeare. We will also view films such as Usual Suspects. In
addition to attending lectures and participating in discussions, students
may expect to undertake group inquiry and write several short papers (1-2
pages) that build toward a longer essay and a final essay (each about 5
pages). There will be a mid-term exam.