CLIT 240 C Sp 19
Recognition and catastrophe
Moments of recognition are central in narrative works, often followed by “twists” of plot taking the form of a reversed fortune of the protagonist. The motif of recognition is certainly all over the place in literary history, from Oedipus’ tragic self-recognition to Hamlet’s discovery of the truth of his father’s death. In today’s world, this theme is still very much alive in our cultural imagination. Take, for instance, Skywalker’s discovery of Darth Vader’s true identity. Some people said that recognition is a scandal, in its most literal sense: in literary works, it is often accompanied by violence, adultery, and weird familial relations. It’s a kind of recovery of knowledge, but very likely of disturbing knowledge. Such events take place in daily life too. Although the everyday scenes of recognition might seem trivial compared to those experienced by great heroes in books and films, they can be equally difficult, and even traumatic.
How do we deal with disturbing knowledge in life? How does recognition take place? Can we locate the exact moment of recognition? How does the burden of knowledge impact different people differently? Who has to bear the outcome of recognition? To try to answer these intertwined questions, we’ll investigate and experiment with texts from various historical and social contexts. In their own ways, they all present dramas of recognition that lead to perplexing, if not catastrophic, endings. We’ll look at works of different genres, including epic, tragedy, comedy, and prose narrative. Since this is also a class on writing, we’ll approach these questions by practicing close reading, comparative analysis, and writing analytical papers. You’re required to write three essays throughout the quarter, each about 1200 words in length. Apart from these, you’ll also be asked to post on-line discussions every week when there is no paper due.
- excerpts from the Odyssey (translation by Emily Wilson);
- Frankenstein (the1818 text);
- King Oidipous (translation by Ruby Blondell);
- Other readings will be available on canvas, including Kleist’s Amphitryon
- Three essays (20%*3): 1000-1500 words
- Reading quizzes (10%)
- Participation (30%)