English 190

Research Seminar: Place-Love: Fiction and the Melancholy of Form


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Spring 2017 Xin, Wendy Veronica
MWF 3-4 41 Evans

Other Readings and Media

See below.

Description

Philosophy as a form has been governed by a sense of “homesickness.” Literary discourse has similarly grappled with a longing for remembered places. Thornfield Hall, Satis House, Brideshead Castle, the Isle of Skye, Manderley—from pristine estates and tattered ruins to English moors and Scottish islands, spaces memorialized in novels and films summon a deep-seated nostalgia for bygone eras, familiar characters, a certain way of life, scenes of reading recalled. This course will examine the spaces in and of fiction by interrogating exactly how our affective immersion within a narrative feels like a longing for the solidity of a physical or geographical site. When does a fictional structure take on the contours of “the real”? What do we mean when we talk about “space” in books that appear materially as nothing more than flat, solid, bounded things? How is the diegetic content of a novel or film enhanced by its formal and aesthetic representations of an entire invented cosmos with its own rules, characters, topography, texture? Why are narrative resolutions often premised on a return to a specific place, and what is it about this kind of “place-love”—always laced with a sense of repetitive yearning—that begins to resemble a kind of melancholy? While we will spend a good deal of class time puzzling over the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the selected texts, we will also read broadly across theories of narrative form, contemporary critical work on affect, nostalgia, and longing, and more recent investigations into the relationship between urban design, lived space, and human behavior.

Primary texts will include: Jane Eyre (1847) – Charlotte Brontë; Great Expectations (1861) – Charles Dickens; To the Lighthouse (1927) – Virginia Woolf; Brideshead Revisited (1945) Evelyn Waugh, as well as several films to be selected from the following list: Rebecca (1940) – dir. Alfred Hitchcock; Last Year at Marienbad (1961) – dir. Alain Resnais; Playtime (1967) dir. Jacques Tati; Summer Hours (L’Heure d’été) (2008) – dir. Olivier Assayas. Secondary readings will include: The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard; The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin; “Prefaces to the New York Edition,” Henry James; Place for Us, D. A. Miller; On Longing, Susan Stewart; “The Decoration of Houses,” Edith Wharton

Please read the paragraph about English 190 on page 2 of the instructions area of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enroling in or wait-listing for this course.

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