English 250

Research Seminar: Occultism, Postcoloniality, and Modernism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Spring 2006 Viswanathan, Gauri
Thurs. 3:30-6:30 108 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Readings include Freud, Adorno, Weber, Blavatsky, Besant, Kipling, Doyle, Rushdie, among others.


"This course probes the shaping of the modern subject through such ""occult"" devises as mesmerism, ventriloquism, hypnotism, telepathy, disembodiment, telekinesis, and clairvoyance. We will examine the ways that occultism constituted a crucial enactment of modernity's contradictions and provided postcoloniality with the tools for critical definitions of selfhood and society. Several questions raised by the course are: How does one account for occultism's persistence in modernity? Is occultism a form of residual irrationalism, a mode of thought superseded by Enlightment rationality? Or is it a constitutive element of modernity itself, reflecting its contradictions and ambiguities? How does occultism become a tool for both relating to the past and imagining future worlds, especiallyfor the decolonizing imagination? In what ways, if at all, does occultism signal the emergence of a postcolonial movement in literature? "

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