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Invention in Literature, Art, and Science

ENGL 475.640
instructor(s):
T 6-8:40

We live daily in a world of objects that came into being through processes of invention. Although there is an increasing academic and curatorial interest in understanding and displaying these processes, we only rarely observe how literary, artistic, and scientific objects are made. While the topic of invention is expansive, our study will center on three representative objects: Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, a work of contemporary sculpture, and the Watson and Crick model of DNA. We will try to understand the process of making each primarily by observing the material remains of the making-up process. These sources will include drafts, notes, sketches, models, proposals, and grant applications; memoirs, biographies, and cultural studies such as The Double Helix, The Dark Lady of DNA, and Emulation and Invention; and information about patents, copyrights, and liability. Topics will include emulation, collaboration, and competition; the pursuit of beauty; signatures; the work of the maker's body; the making of mental images; distinctions and similarities in invention across the arts and sciences; distinctions made between the studio and the gallery, and recent attempts to complicate those distinctions. Guest speakers and one or more site visit, for instance to a local gallery, are planned.