Reflections of the Self: A Thought Without an Image?
While the Apollonian "Know thyself" has haunted Western civilization, more often than not, the second maxim, inscribed over the portal of the temple of Delphi, tends to be forgotten: "Nothing in excess," it warns us. Modernity is emphatically characterized by excess, and Descartes‘ "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am") seems so shallow, since being no longer just is: it appears as a proliferation of mere moments of being. In this class, we will focus on subjectivity and its fragmentation in Modern Literature, that incessant fight between our Apollonian and Dionysian impulses. Our investigation will take us through plays, poems and novels, in search of the many reflections of the self.
Center stage is man in all his self-assigned glory, looking more like a parasite than a god. His pathos is derisive, while he reaches for an unattainable grandeur. All efforts are in vain: they are impelled by man‘s hubris and they eventually prove futile. How does the self then define itself in the face of society, be it a society plagued by theist determinism, scientific and technological progress, and the ensuing sense of alienation, or the atheist disposition of an anthropomorphic world? Is the reflection of the self through the modernist glass a mere fragment of our subjectivity? There are the questions that we will try to answer.
Primary readings will be complemented by theoretical and critical readings, as well as some art history. All readings are in English.
Please make sure you buy the specific editions mentioned. The poems will be provided in electronic format.
Baudelaire, Charles. The Flowers of Evil (Selected Poems).
Beckett, Samuel. Endgame. (ISBN: 9780802150240, Grove Press)
Eliot, T. S. Selected Poems.
Hesse, Hermann. Steppenwolf. (ISBN: 9780312278670, Picador USA)
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. (ISBN: 9780805210576, Schocken)
Ionesco, Eugène. The Bald Soprano. (ISBN: 9780802143181, Grove Press)
Melville, Herman. Bartleby The Scrivener. (ISBN: 9780974607801, Melville House)
Pirandello, Luigi. Six Characters In Search of An Author. (ISBN: 9780140189223, Penguin Classics)
Wallace, Stevens. Selected poems.
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. (ISBN: 9780151009985, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)