September 5–December 20, 2018
No classes, 11/21, 11/22
Last Day to Withdraw: 11/27/2018
LS600.401: Self and World: Fundamental Issues in Human Existence
What does it mean to be a human being in the world? Through an examination of the fundamental conditions and experiences of human existence, this course will undertake to define the human self, the world, and the manner in which the two relate. Themes to be considered may include faith, exile, solidarity, and death.
Dr. Steven Burr, Monday, 6:30–9:00 p.m. [9/10–12/17, no class 10/15, 12/17]. (Thematic)
LS733.401: Philosophy of Culture and the American Dream
This course examines the notion of culture from a philosophical standpoint, meaning that it engages with broad questions about the deep nature and meaning of culture and cultural values. What are the lines that define a culture, or that separate one from the other? Do cultural values have power over against universal values? Is there such a thing as cultural hierarchy, and in whose interest is it to draw hierarchical lines? How does cultural pride risk leaking into nationalism, and how do global economic inequities serve to erase minority cultures? What is the relationship between culture, history and ideology?
Our wide discussion of the nature and meaning of culture will, in the second half of the semester, give way to a discussion of the central trope of American cultural self-identity: the American Dream. We will ask what constitutes the dream, and how, as descriptive of American ideology, it is expressed in our language, art, and myths as well as being inscribed in our political and social structures. The dark underside of American history and culture will be at the forefront of our readings as we examine the extent to which a terrific but narrow vision of freedom has led to the oppression of many for the economic liberation of the few. Students should be prepared to encounter a hard look at American culture through the eyes of some modern and contemporary critics of cultural, social and political norms. I hope students will help me in including contemporary film-makers, hip-hop artists and comedians.
Dr. Catriona Hanley, Wednesdays 6:30–9:00 p.m. [9/5–12/19, no class 10/17, 11/21, 12/19]. (Thematic)
LS740.401: Bargains with the Devil: The Faust Legend in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture
Are you intrigued by devil worship, witchcraft, magic and sexuality? Do the devil and all things evil make you curious, or at least make you shudder in an intriguing way? Then this course is great for you. Legends of a pact with the devil have long served as a metaphor for the desire to surpass the limits of human knowledge and power at any cost. Starting with the sixteenth-century Faust Book, which recounts the story of a scholar, alchemist and necromancer who sold his soul to the devil, and extending to the most recent cinematic, musical and literary versions of the devil's pact, this course explores our enduring fascination with the forbidden: evil; devil worship; witchcraft; magic; and sexuality.
The course will examine a wide range of popular legends of the devil's pact as they appear and are variously interpreted in film, music, and literature, from Goethe's Faust, one of the classics of world literature, to “Rosemary’s Baby,” to blues legend Robert Johnson, who supposedly sold his soul to the devil, “The Simpsons,” “South Park,” “Bedazzled” (the one with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook), and “Angel Heart.”
We will be discussing the meaning of evil and the history of the devil; the infernal logic of political systems and ideology (Nazism); witchcraft, magic, and sexuality; the purported link between the devil and music; the devil as cultural interloper; and the devil and self-knowledge
We'll linger over the issues that intrigue us and spend time with the films, music, and literary works which we encounter. The goal will be to blend intellectual and cultural titillation and a substantial acquaintance with the wide-ranging popular legends of the devil's pact to explore some of the burning questions of our time.
The primary printed text will be Goethe’s Faust, but we will also look at Marlowe’s version of the Faust legend and at least one modern adaptation. The course will culminate in an individual project which presents a contemporary rendering of a bargain with the devil.
The following texts are required: Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus, edited by David Wootton. Hackett Publishing, 2005. ISBN: 0872207293; 9780872207295; David Mamet, Faustus. Vintage, 2004. ISBN: 140007648X; 978-1400076482 (USA edition); Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust by, translated by Walter Kaufmann. Anchor: December 4, 1962. ISBN: 0385031149; 978-0385031141 (specific edition required); Klaus Mann, Mephisto. Penguin Classics, September 1, 1995. ISBN: 0140189181; 978-0140189186; and Sherman Alexie, Reservation Blues. Grand Central Publishing, September 1, 1996. ISBN: 0446672351; 978-0446672351.
In addition we will be viewing and discussing the following films: “Faust,” F. W. Murnau, dir. (1926); “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” William Dieterle, dir. (1941); “Rosemary’s Baby,” Roman Polanski, dir. (1968); “Mephisto,” Istvan Szabo, dir. (1981); “Crossroads,” Walter Hill, dir. (1986);“Angel Heart,” Alan Parker, dir. (1987); “The Devil’s Advocate,” Taylor Hackford, dir. (1998)
There will be four graded assignments during the semester: a midterm examination; two short papers; and a final project. Each assignment will constitute 25%, 30% (15% each), and 20% of the final grade respectively, with the remaining 25% determined by class work.
Dr. Randall Donaldson, Tuesdays, 6:30–9:00 p.m. [9/11–12/18, no class 10/16, 12/18]. (Thematic)
LS741.601: The Stories of the South
In recent years, communities have decided to remove statues commemorating Confederate figures, but these decisions have met organized resistance from Southern and white supremacist organizations. After Dylann Roof tried to start a race war by murdering nine church-goers in June 2017, a new chapter began to be written, as public officials got behind movements to remove statues from public grounds. Yet, Texas and nine other states continue to celebrate some version of Confederate War Heroes’ Day on the same weekend as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And there have been many organized protests against the removal of statues, by both Southern and Alt-Right organizations. In fact, many monuments came down in the dark of night. So it would appear that the issue hasn’t yet been resolved.
We’ll study some of the roots of this conflict in the works of Southern writers and film-makers who during the past two centuries exhibited a profound stylistic, philosophical, social, and regional individuality; and some of them are just plain quirky. In either case their world-view was defiantly southern. Their writings look at the future from the perspective of a past ideal (the “myth of the lost cause”) and they often present themselves as the last spokespersons for an order that is needed in the modern experience. At the same time, many saw that order as itself decadent and based on ideals that were hardly ever realized in actual experience. Finally, many of these writers felt a need to impose a theological perspective they found lacking in mainstream American literature.
We’ll study the evolution of the modern myth of the south as revealed by slave narratives by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs and Solomon Northrup; fiction writers William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Robert Penn Warren, Tennessee Williams, Bobbie Ann Mason, and others. Poems by John Crowe Ransom, Warren, Donald Davidson, and Allen Tate. The 3/5 compromise in the in the 1787 Constitutional Convention and the Supreme Court decision that let the genie out of the bottle (Dred Scott, written by Marylander Roger Tawney, whose statue no longer stands on the grounds of the State House). Analysis of film treatments of that myth in such features as Birth of a Nation, Gone with the Wind, In the Heat of the Night, To Kill a Mockingbird, Mississippi Burning, and Driving Miss Daisy.
Dr. David Dougherty, Thursdays hybrid, 6:30–9:00 p.m. [9/6–12/20, face-to-face meetings 9/6, 10/4, 11/1, 12/13]. (Thematic)