Beyond Binary Thinking
The aim of this course is to enable you to read carefully, think intensely, write professionally, and above all, find pleasure in what you do.
The agenda is to read four major texts in various generic combinations: poetical-philosophical, lyrical-legendary-dramatic, romantic-historical-fictional, and epic-autobiographical-fictional. Originally written in four different languages and of four different national origins, the major texts: Zhuangzi, Goethe‘s Faust (Part 1), Scarlet Letter and Anna Karenina, are major in every imaginable way. They are foundational, engaging, intellectually stimulating, and oftentimes amusing. Each text raises its own set of questions, questions concerning, among others, knowledge, morality, desire, evil, mortality, family, nature, and society, all so fundamental to human experience that you may find yourself changed, unwittingly at times, as you engage with the readings.
Literature, in this view—which is also the implied argument in the design of this class—is, at both poles of its existential axis, creation and reception, a form of emotive cognition, a union of profound thought with intense feeling. It is, therefore, neither an abstract enterprise, nor a hysterical outpouring, but teaches, moves, and pleases in and through the exact details of complex narratives, characters, their internal struggles and outward behavior, in a verbally imagined yet historically grounded space.
Everything we will read is in English, and the pace will be such that no one will sink. You will be encouraged to participate actively in all sorts of individual as well as group activities. Additional help is available via meeting with me one-on-one outside the classroom.