“Carnival of Unreason”
The goal of C Lit 240 is to hone your individual writing skills while also giving you the opportunity to grow as a critical reader. To this end, the course will examine an international selection of texts compiled around the theme of “Carnival of Unreason” as a starting point for critical thinking and composition. The theme of this course focuses on a selection of fictional and theoretical works that outline the historical development of the carnival from a communal festival to its influence in the modern travelling circus. We will mostly focus on the terrifying and alienating aspects of the carnival that emerge in the nineteenth century and gain dangerous political implications in the twentieth century. For example, we will look at Thomas Mann’s Mario and the Magician and Michel Tournier’s The Ogre that mirror and discuss the rise of Fascism in Europe and the circumstances of World War II by utilizing the vocabulary of the carnival. We will also look at works such as Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love and Tod Browning’s Freaks that demonstrate the political structure of carnivals separate from the outside world or “normal society”; these works create isolated societies whose survival depends upon systems of conduct that often fall outside of reason.