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New Materialisms and New Mythologies: Barthes, Benjamin, Bataille, Blanchot

ENGL 294.401
instructor(s):
TR 9-10:30

This course will focus on the work of four authors who have shaped literary theory in the 20th century. We will start from two connected issues, the questions of materialism in a post-Marxist key and that of mythology at the convergence of semiotics and anthropology. We will start with Barthess approach to popular culture in his mythologies, and explore the concept of writing he launched. We will move on to Barthess later work, including his book on photography. We will then link this approach with Walter Benjamins theses on photography, technological reproduction and to that effect, will read his most important essays, Illuminations, Reflections and the unfinished Arcades Project. Finally, we will see how the investigations of contemporaries like Georges Bataille and Maurice Blanchot renew and deepen the critical debate by pushing it beyond formalism. With Barthes, Bataille, Blanchot and Benjamin, Theory begins with letter B.

Bibliography: The Roland Barthes Reader; Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, Reflections; The Arcades Project. The Bataille Reader, Visions of Excess and the Blanchot Reader.

Requirements: One oral presentation, two papers of ten pages each and a final research paper of 15 pages; no final exam.