This course will focus on narratives of paranoia as a crucial symptom of modern life. We will consider a number of novels, plays, stories, films, and theoretical and historical texts in order to examine how paranoia cannot be separated from issues of gender, sexuality, race, nationality, and power. A central premise of this course is that any given paranoid belief is culturally specific, which means that people see different conspiracies at different times and in different places. Readings may include:
History, philosophy, theology, and cultural theory: the Bible; Leo Strauss, "Persecution and the Art of Writing"; Sigmund Freud on Dr. Schreber; excerpts from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire; Richard Hofstadter, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics."
Drama: William Shakespeare, Othello.
Fiction: Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey: James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner; Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown"; Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Final Problem"; Franz Kafka, The Trial; Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49.
Films: Don Siegel, dir., The Invasion of the Body-Snatchers; John Frankenheimer, dir., The Manchurian Candidate.