Honors | Accident, Catastrophe & Trauma in Literature and Film (HON)
H203 | 25363 | Johannes Turk


MW 4:00-5:15pm

We live amidst dangers: Accidents and catastrophes are dramatic and
always possible events that challenge individual and collective
life. They break the protective shields that ward off the threats
surrounding us. Their traumatic impact calls upon psychological and
cultural coping mechanisms and forces us to reconfigure our lives
that will never be the same. How have cultures dealt with the
unexpected breakdown of order and normality? This course imparts a
critical knowledge about the models according to which narrations
about these events are formed and asks how literature and film can
help to cope with disasters.

Art has an immunological function: The stories we tell ourselves
help integrate and make sense of what has previously mutilated us.
They also anticipate possible future accidents and enable us to cope
with them. In Modernity, accident and catastrophe  both previously
interpreted as destiny  change their meaning. They stand for
contingency and represent a risk inherent in our way of life. Urban
spaces, modern working environments, and new means of transportation
such as trains and the automobile make accidents more probable and
ubiquitous. The course will examine how filmic and narrative
representations integrate the disintegration and violence inherent
in our world. Accidents are sources for artistic productivity. We
will read short texts from Grimmelshausen and Heinrich von Kleist to
Franz Kafka and Thomas Mann, and discuss films from Buster Keaton to
Brian de Palma.