Honors | Fact, Fiction & Film
H304 | 0025 | E. Gubar


4:00-5:30P  TR EP 207
7:00-9:30:  R  EP 207

Honors Prerequisite: Upper class standing and permission of
instructor

For more information: 855-2827 or email gubare@indiana.edu

In Borges's story, Funes the Memorious, the disabled young Funes
possesses an absolute photographic memory. "I have more memories in
myself alone than all men have had since the world was a world," he
says. One of his projects involves creating a language to express what
his mind perceives and remembers (a word for a dog seen at one instant
from one angle; a different word for the same dog at another instant
from another angle). On one level, Funes embodies extreme and total
objectivity: "In the overly replete world of Funes there were nothing
but details, almost contiguous details." Everything he sees, he
remembers--all of his perceptions bear equal significance. On another
level, however, Funes's project is impossible, for all languages must
generalize and abstract in order to communicate, just as all so-called
memories must represss some details in order to make sense of the
past. "My memory, sir," Funes asserts "is like a garbage disposal."
Unlike Funes, Jimmy, the lost mariner in Oliver Sachs's The Man Who
Mistook His Wife for a Hat, has no short-term memory at all. His life
is embedded in novelty (which may either make him the perfect consumer
or the perfect journalist). Meet Jimmy in the garden and he's
perfectly friendly. See him later in the chapel and he has no idea who
you might be. As difficult and poignant as Jimmy's situation (he's a
real person) may be, it's hard not to see him as a perfect foil for
Funes. Who indeed would make the better journalist?
Ultimately, both stories are concerned with history, language, and the
nature of reality.
Beginning with Funes and Jimmy, whose plights serve well as metaphors
for problems of seeing and telling, this course will explore the
journalist's eye/I from ethical, practical, and contextual vantages.
As Borges's story implies, writers must select and abstract. What
principles, what motives guide their choices? How, for instance, does
a journalist mediate the potential conflict between private views or
feelings and public responsibility? How does s/he navigate the tricky
interstices between personal ambition, public responsibility, and
corporate imperatives? Similarly, how does a journalist cope with the
demand for objectivity in a world philosophically devoid of such a
stance? In practice, can a journalist do factual justice to his
material while exploring the literary possibilities spurred by his/her
imagination?
We will examine a variety of works of fiction, numerous films, and
several works of non-fiction as we address these and other questions
about the practice of journalism. We will see (mostly fictional)
journalists at work. We will read journalists' work. We will read
critiques of current journalistic contexts. Hopefully, such materials
will provoke numerous questions about the relationship between image
and reality, seeing and telling, public and private, eye and I.


Films & Texts (subject to modest changes and abridgement): Donner,
Shabono; Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed, Greene, The Quiet American;
Herr, Dispatches;  Kidder, Home Town; Krakauer, Into Thin Air; Mailer,
Armies of the Night; Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer;
McChesney and Nichols, Our Media, Not Theirs; Sontag, On Photography;
Stoppard, Night and Day; West, Miss Lonelyhearts
Films:
A World Apart, Almost Famous, Citizen Kane, Cry Freedom, The Insider,
The Killing Fields, Manufacturing Consent, Network, Rashomon, Reds,
Salvador, Under Fire, The Year of Living Dangerously
(+) some selections on the Web, or on J-School library reserve
Required Work: 7-9 short papers, final exam
Graduate and honors students must also complete a term project.