Comparative Literature | Intro to Popular Culture: The Use and Misuse of Obsession
C151 | 6101 | Ju Young Jin

TR 11:15-12:30
*class carries A&H and CS credit*

In this course we will read and reflect critically upon the use and
misuse of obsession in literature, film, and popular song lyrics in
which the issues of the lack of universal value system to center one’s
life around figure prominently. The conceptions of the self depicted
in these texts are all bordered upon a certain type of obsession: a
narcissist, a skeptic, a gambler, a drug-addict, a forever-agitated, a
delusional, a in-love-with-the-idea-of-love, a seeker for refuge in
art, a suicidal, and an escapist. Focusing frantically upon a single
obsession can make the rest of life pale in significance, you gain a
modicum of order in your life, however debilitating and futile it may
seem at first sight. But how can such extreme modes of behavior
provide defense mechanism against the dissolution of values and
meaninglessness of everyday life?  For these characters, his/her
obsession is what makes him/her cling tenaciously to life and our
critical inquiry into their obsession will show us how value is
created in the act of destruction itself and how we can dredge up
meanings among the ruins. In this sense, these characters’ attempt to
achieve authenticity can be understood as their resoluteness to forge
values of their own:  a certain obsession or self-delusion has become
a necessary condition of modern selfhood, and their strife toward
finding a meaning for their existence already suggests their
Our approach will be comparative with special attention to the
intersections between the lives of individuals across cultures. If you
have questions, please email