You are here

C LIT 251 A: Introduction To Comparative Literature: Themes

Gift and Sacrifice

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
Location: 
LOW 102
SLN: 
11944
Joint Sections: 
ENGL 200 F
Instructor:
Raimonda Modiano

Syllabus Description:

Gift and Sacrifice

This course will introduce students to concepts of gift and sacrifice, two foundational structures of exchange that have ruled economic, social and religious life since the inception of culture.  Both raise fundamental questions about the constitution of communities by means of the binding power of gratitude, or, more ominously, about sacrificial scapegoats.  As Mark Osteen wrote, the study of the gift touches on some of the most fundamental concerns that define our humanity: "freedom and autonomy, calculation and spontaneity, gratitude and generosity, risk and power."  The study of sacrifice in turn generates a series of unsettling questions: whether conceptions of the sacred are inextricably linked with violence; whether sacrificial rituals escalate rather than contain violence; whether recuperative economies that seek gain out of loss inevitably fuel sacrificial behavior; whether capital punishment is not in effect a contemporary version of ancient sacrificial rites; and whether communities can ever escape the predicament of uniting against a designated scapegoat and resorting to sacrificial ideologies.  These and related questions will form the subject of this course which will focus on foundational texts in literature, anthropology, psychoanalysis and sociology and the representation of gift and sacrifice in the Bible, folklore, literature and film. Texts include Marcel Mauss, The Gift; Sigmund Freud, Totem and TabooRené Girard, Violence and the Sacred; Aeschylus, Agamemnon; William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice and Shirley Jackson, The Lottery.

Additional Details:

This course will introduce students to concepts of gift and sacrifice, two foundational structures of exchange that have ruled economic, social and
religious life since the inception of culture.  Both raise fundamental questions about the constitution of communities by means of the binding
power of gratitude, or, more ominously, about sacrificial scapegoats.  As Mark Osteen wrote, the study of the gift touches on some of the most fundamental concerns that define our humanity: "freedom and autonomy, calculation and spontaneity, gratitude and generosity, risk and power."  The study of sacrifice in turn generates a series of unsettling questions: whether conceptions of the sacred are inextricably linked with violence; whether sacrificial rituals escalate rather than contain violence; whether recuperative economies that seek gain out of loss inevitably fuel sacrificial behavior; whether capital punishment is not in effect a contemporary version of ancient sacrificial rites; and whether communities
can ever escape the predicament of uniting against a designated scapegoat and resorting to sacrificial ideologies.  These and related questions will form the subject of this course which will focus on foundational texts in literature, anthropology, psychoanalysis and sociology and the
representation of gift and sacrifice in the Bible, folklore, literature and film. Texts include Marcel Mauss, The Gift; Sigmund Freud, Totem and TabooRené Girard, Violence and the Sacred; Aeschylus, Agamemnon; William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice and Shirley Jackson, The Lottery.

Catalog Description: 
Reading and analyzing literature based upon rotating themes such as love, sex, and murder, haunted houses, and dreams and memory. Selections drawn from European, English, and American literature, not limited to period and genre.
Department Requirements Met: 
Pre-req to Declare Literature Major
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Credits: 
5.0
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
August 4, 2017 - 9:03pm
Share