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The Politics of Memory

ENGL 261.301
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

The modern world is a kind of perpetual war between memory and forgetfulness.  This course will explore the central role that literature plays in this ongoing conflict.  We'll pay particular attention to the politics of memory and the remembrance of historical events in an age of globalization--in relation to the rise of new media and networked culture, the obligation to witness global conflicts, the imperative to record and recover marginal voices, and other current themes.  The course builds upon tremendous scholarly interest in memory studies in recent decades and its impact on literary studies.  We will address modern perceptions of the role of memory in classical antiquity, the Renaissance, and early America, where the construction of a common national heritage was vital to the American experiment with democracy.  Throughout, we will also explore contributions by the best contemporary scientific writers, filmmakers, and artists.

Course readings will include major works by seminal writers and theorists including  George Orwell's 1984; Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, How One Becomes What One Is; Sigmund Freud's The Future of an Illusion; Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities; Don DeLillo's White Noise; Jose Saramago's Blindness; Leslie Marmon Silko's The Ceremony; Lydia Davis's Almost No Memory; Jorge Louis Borges' The Labyrinth; Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Philip Gourevitch's, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: stories from Rwanda; Ai Weiwei's Blog; Jane Jacobs, the Death and Life of Great American Cities.  Films will include Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour; Errol Morris's The Fog of War; and Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line, among others.