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The Politics of the Gift

ENGL 263.401
crosslisted as: COML 262
instructor(s):
W 2-5:00
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

Lewis Hyde once wrote that a work of art exists in two economies - a gift and a market economy.  This course will survey the complex relationship between giving and reciprocity as well as the representation of altruism and charity in art, literature, and public culture. We will begin with "Counterfeit Money," a prose poem from 1869 by Charles Baudelaire in which the narrator scrutinizes his friend's charitable inclinations in giving a counterfeit coin to a poor man on the street. We will also build upon the work of Marcel Mauss, Émile Benveniste, David Graeber, bell hooks and other scholars, artists and filmmakers as we imagine alternative conceptions of generosity, including the exchange of time, knowledge, friendship, and even love. We will consider questions such as: Is there an ethics to giving and receiving?  When is philanthropy not a gift?  Can we reimagine giving as a political act?