Honors | Literary Interpretation - (ENG)
L202 | 7571 | Judith Brown
.JK. Rowling. Matt Groening. Steven Hawking. A recent list
of “living geniuses” offered these (and many other) names, citing
them for their paradigm shifting, popular acclaim, intellectual
power, achievement and cultural importance. But what is a genius?
And how do you become one? Genius is associated with brilliance,
originality and creativity, but in earlier centuries it had a lot of
different meanings. We’ll look at the etymology and development of
the concept genius, from the Romantic period in the late 18th
century to today. Who do you consider a genius? Da Vinci?
Shakespeare? Einstein? Is genius born or made?
The semester will be divided into 2 sections: first, “How We Think
About Genius,” in which we will look at cultural representations of
genius, and second, “How to Think Like a Genius,” in which we will
explore multiple principles of genius. We’ll think about genius as a
cultural phenomenon and a way of thinking that marks extraordinary
ability, and see if we can’t get closer to it over the course of the
semester. We’ll read works like Amadeus and The Curious Incident of
the Dog in the Nighttime, and a range of writers from Coleridge to
Sherlock Holmes, to Gwendolyn Brooks and Gertrude Stein. Finally,
we’ll end the semester by deconstructing the concept of genius
itself, through Dave Eggers’ brilliant, sad, and hilarious memoir, A
Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
The class will be discussion-based and writing-focused. You will be
required to complete a number of short writing assignments
throughout the course of the semester, and to read and comment on
the work of your peers.