Narrating the Mind in Modern Fiction

Posted on

Literature Course
MW 4:30-5:45

Course Description
Anyone who has ever engaged with a great work of literature knows that it opens up new avenues of thinking. But how does one think about thinking? Better yet, how does one write about thinking? We will ponder these questions as we take a careful look at works from perhaps the most recognizable figures of modernism: Marcel Proust, Dorothy Richardson, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. As we investigate these authors’ preoccupation with thought processes, we will think about the texts in relation to various psychoanalytic attempts, beginning with Sigmund Freud’s, to conceptualize consciousness and unconsciousness (How do we distinguish the self from the other? Do our conscious and unconscious selves involve our intellect, emotions, sensations, perceptions, and/or dreams?). We will invade characters’ minds to ask: How does one transfer an intangible thought to paper? How does one write a male’s consciousness compared to a female’s? What about an adult’s compared to a child’s? Can sentence structure, punctuation, and word choice articulate these differences? Finally, we will expand our inquiry to another media form to question: How does one film consciousness?

Class Participation (20%) Students are required to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned texts. There will ample time for discussion, and it is important for me to hear you speak on a daily basis.
Comprehension Quizzes (5%) You will receive pop quizzes throughout the semester that are concerned purely with reading comprehension: Are you doing the read? Do you understand the reading? If you miss a quiz due to absence, you will receive a zero and there will be no make-up quizzes. I will drop your lowest quiz grade.
Reading Responses (10%) Students will submit informal reading responses on their reading assignments on a rotating bi-weekly basis. These can consist of analyses of particular issues, explorations of textual ambiguities, and/or comments on interrelationships between the day’s assigned reading and other works in the course. Each entry should be around 150-250 words and include 1-2 questions at the end of the entry that will stimulate conversations in and out of class. These will be due, respectively, Sunday/Tuesday at noon and will be graded on completion.
Short Papers (20%) Students will write two shorts papers (750 – 1000 words) over the course of the semester. These will focus on one or two works assigned in the course and will preferably build and elaborate on a comparison between close-readings of different sections and/or chapters of one work or selections from two different texts. These papers should stem from the student’s own engagement with the texts rather than from outside sources. No outside research is required.
Final Paper (30%) Students will write one final paper (2000 – 2500 words) that will be due at the end of the semester and will expand on one of the two short papers they have previously written. After both short papers have been graded, students will select one to expand into their final paper and will get a chance to workshop it in class. Students can write an entirely new paper if they wish.
Final Exam (15%) The exam for this course will test students’ knowledge of the assigned texts and their ability to discuss these texts in relation to the general ideas of the course. There will be no make-up.
Extra Credit If a student would like to receive extra credit, they should be a regular contributor to the reading responses. What this means is that a student regularly, on days when they don’t have a response due, are responding to other classmates’ posted entries. They can ask further questions, supply their own interpretation of the issue raised, or use their classmate’s response as a spring board for their own discussion. If a student is a frequent—and thoughtful—contributor to our online discussion, they will raise their final grade by 1/3 of a letter (B becomes a B+, B+ becomes an A-; and so on).

Week 1:     Course Introductions

Week 2:     Freud, Selections from The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) and “The Ego and the Id” (1923)

“Properly speaking, the unconscious is the real psychic; its inner nature is just as unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is just as imperfectly reported to us through the data of consciousness as is the external world through the indications of our sensory organs.”Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams

Week 3:     Freud, “Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes” (1925) and “On the Sexual Theories of Children” (1908); O’Connor, “My Oedipus Complex” (1963)

Week 4:    Proust, In Search of Lost Time (1877-1922),”Combray”

Week 5:    Richardson, Pointed Roofs (1915)

“An interesting point for the critic who finds common qualities in the work of Proust, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and D[orothy] R[ichardon] is the fact that they were all using the ‘new method’ though very differently, simultaneously.”Dorothy Richardson, Letter to Sylvia Beach

Week 6:    Lacan, “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud” (1957)

Week 7:    Joyce, Ulysses (1922), “Proteus”

Week 8:    Joyce, “Calypso” and “Nausicaa”

Week 9:    Joyce, Selections from “Circe” and “Penelope”

.                                  jjfacepalm

Week 10:   Riviere, “Womanliness as Masquerade” (1929) and Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa” (1975)

Week 11:   Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Week 12:   Woolf, To the Lighthouse (1927)

“But now, he felt, it didn’t matter a damn who reached Z (if thought ran like an alphabet from A to Z). Somebody would reach it–if not he, then another.”Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Week 13:   Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975) and Mrs. Dalloway (film version; 1997)

Week 14:   Workshop Paper and Ulysses (film version; 1967)

Week 15:   Conclusions

Final Papers Due: December 14, 2009 by Midnight
Emailed and saved in MSWord as a .doc or .docx file.





Other Courses:

WORD              ZELDA