COMPLIT 241 - Topics in Comparative Literature
Section: 002 Writing Violence: 20th Century Texts of Resistance
Term: WN 2012
Subject: Comparative Literature (COMPLIT)
Department: LSA Comparative Literature
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German theorist Theodor Adorno famously stated that “writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” In this class we will explore the relationship between violence and writing, and how literature (attempts) to represent violent and traumatic events, including but not limited to the Holocaust. If, as Elaine Scarry argues, pain actively destroys language, how can literature capture and represent pain and violence, which constitute a large part of human experience? What are the stakes in writing fictionally about real life violence? Perhaps more crucially, what are the stakes in aestheticizing violence, rendering it “readable,” or “artistic”? We will particularly focus on political violence and how it is presented in literature, with an eye towards the interactions between literature and mechanisms of political repression, such as censorship. And a little touch of optimism in all this suffering: can literature, or better yet, can art transcend and/or overcome pain? Can literature subvert or resist violence? What happens when authors and readers utilize literature to resist oppression?

In an effort to think through these questions, we might look at Milan Kundera’s The Joke (1967), Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange (1962), Jorge Semprun’s Literature or Life (1994) and Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus. We will also utilize theorists like Michel Foucault, Elaine Scarry, and Shoshana Felman to guide our analyses. Finally, we will direct our attention towards movies like Fight Club and Pan’s Labyrinth.

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COMPLIT 241 - Topics in Comparative Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
2LSA Hnrs
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
002 (SEM)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
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