English R1B

Reading & Composition: Profane Illuminations

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2014 Ahmed, Adam
MWF 10-11 222 Wheeler

Book List

Blake, William : Selected Poetry; Borges, Jorge Luis: Labyrinths; Breton, Andre: Nadja; Knight, Michael Muhammad: Tripping with Allah: Islam, Drugs, and Writing; Reines, Ariana: Mercury; Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein; Ward, Dana: The Crisis of Infinite Worlds

Other Readings and Media

A course reader/bSpace readings including: literary works by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Mina Loy, and Adunis; and critical works by Walter Benjamin, Edward Said, Charles Taylor, M.H. Abrams, Giorgio Agamben, Slavoj Zizek, Simone Weil, Ian Balfour, and Talal Asad

Films: Dead Man (1995), Melancholia (2011)


Though Walter Benjamin coined the phrase to describe a specifically “materialistic, anthropological inspiration” that signifies “the true creative overcoming of religious illumination,” the profane illuminations this class will examine represent a broader site of contact between secular and religious experiences. Beyond evoking the supernatural as an acknowledgement of archaic traditions or dead superstitions, the texts we will look at in this class show the scope and limits of our secular values. In doing so, these works suggest a new kind of space. From the “natural supernaturalism” of the Romantics to recent revelations about our present offered by Ariana Reines and Dana Ward, the works in this class will give us an opportunity to engage with the living vestiges of magical thinking within our secular age. We will address the ramifications of this in-between space for topics as diverse as the belief in poetry, bio-politics, the Western/nonsecular binary, and late capitalist experience.

While we look at some of these wildly imaginative and speculative texts, the goal of this class will be to develop your own interpretative leaps without sacrificing coherence. As an R1B, this course will develop students’ organizational and rhetorical strategies for an argumentative essay (5-6 pages), while introducing them to some of the scholarly and analytical techniques for a longer (8-10 page) research paper. Through themed groupings of critical material, small writing exercises, and analytical papers, students will learn how to engage with outside source material to support their own original theses.

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