BODIES OF INK
CUERPOS DE LUZ
REPRESENTATIONS OF WOMEN, MEN, AND
"OTHERS" IN WORLD LITERATURE & FILM
Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30-10:45 Chem/Geol Bldg 302
Dr. William Anthony Nericcio
Assistant Professor of English & Comparative Literature
Graduate Teaching/Research Associate
The illustration above is derived from the photography of Man Ray, Érotique voilée (1934-35).
The model is the painter Meret Opperheim--she stands behind the etching press of another painter and associate, Louis Marcoussis.
Corpus/Cuerpo...Bodies. Odd words, familiar and at the same time somewhat strange. We know what our bodies are--we can see them, feel them, and smell them among other things. They give us pleasure; they give us pain.But what is a body of ink? Is it like a body of water? A body of thought? And what on earth is a body of light? a cuerpo de luz?
For those of you acquainted with the Judeo-Christian tradition, the words will strike you as familiar: Cuerpo, Corpus, Corpus Christi, the body of Christ and all that. Whether you are religious or not is not the issue--anyway, being the talented student of contemporary culture that you are (and anyone sitting in a literature class is a student of culture), you would never want to underestimate the impact of the Judeo-Christian tradition on First World Western culture.
In short, we are surrounded by bodies of all sorts: here in this classroom, and also, outside of here in libraries, in computer information networks, everywhere. Bodies of people and bodies of knowledge--a chaotic sea of resources and threats: a kind of river through which we swim whether we think of it or not. This class will provide you with suggestions how to better navigate these chaotic waters. Of course the lectures and discussion you will endure in the coming weeks will give you the basics, introducing you to the university level study of Literature--but we are also shooting for something more. World Literature is too broad a category to study in any real way, so I have come up with a theme, a focus, an obsession if you will, and that obsession is with the figure, the image, the representation (that is to say the construction) of bodies in literature and of bodies of literature.
We were talking about the title of this class, about Corpus and Cuerpos. And we have established that the term Corpus, the Latin word Corpus has something to do with bodies. In the literature business (and, just between you and me, it is quite a booming business) Corpus refers to a body of work: written, drawn, inscribed, painted. Thus, a Corpus of works is a body of works, a collection of writings specific to a particular individual, nation, sect, group or community. Hence the main task of this course (the be all and end all of our collective intellectual project) is to sniff out the connections between Corpus and Corpus, between how we think of the body and how the way we think has been impacted by bodies of literature and film which represent our bodies.
Why? Because the things we see, the things we read--the bulk of the intellectual matter we consume on a daily basis--changes the way we see and the way we read. Yes, I know that may seem obvious, but it seems important to stress it anyway. By focusing on how various world authors and directors conceive of the human body, conceive of the differences say between men and women, between different communities within and outside various nations, we, as students of the world at large, will be in a better position to assess what is important, and what is trivial--to know the differences between what is critical and what is banal.
Readings and Attendance
When you walk into class each day on time, you will have read all that has been assigned to you for that day. There are no excuses for missed preparation as the reading assignment for a given day is listed below. This may strike you as a bit harsh but the rule is quite simple: If you do not prepare the readings, you are not welcome in class. Why? Because this seminar depends upon the contributions of its participants--without your input, the class is likely to evolve into a boring 1 hour and fifteen minute waste of life. With your help, we can avoid this.
You will be asked to write one brief critical essay (3-7 pages typed) as well as a take home exam (4-7 pages typed) at the end of the semester. You will also be asked to write position essays (1 page typed) from time to time: these are brief responses to particular books or films we have worked with together in the classroom. You will never have to write about something you totally dislike. If you are ever asked to write about something which turns you off, please see me during office hours and we will brainstorm a substitute assignment.
You can expect an unannounced quiz or in-class writing assignment from time to time: the number of quizzes will depend on how many of you still get off to the idea that you are still in high school. In other words, if everyone acts like a talented university undergraduate, there will not be a quiz during the semester.
The whole point of this class is to work together as an intellectual laboratory of sorts. As such, if you miss class, your missing the whole point of the adventure. As such, you are welcome to miss any three classes (3) you want to during the course of the semester though you are responsible for any work which you miss or assignments you elect to ‘bail on.’ Let me add that when and if you elect to miss class, I am not interested in your excuses--we are all, after all, adults. That is not to say I do not appreciate the courtesy of a phone call if you will not be joining us (594-1524). Oh, one last unpleasant matter: if you miss more than three sessions, you will be dropped from the class.
Office Hours 5%
Attendance/Class Participation 20%
1 pg. Position Essays 20%
3-7 pg. Critical Essay 20%
Take Home Final Chit-Chat 25%
A = 93-100
A- = 90-93
B+ = 87-89
B = 84-86
B- = 80-83 a
nd so on...
I expect you to visit Michelle Paranto or myself in office hours at least once during the semester. In a class this it will be too easy to fall through the cracks, to feel that you are nothing but a number or some warm pile of flesh filling a seat. In order to understand that the individuals teaching you are somewhat human (even nice!), please make a point of letting us meet you personally. It is the easiest "A" you’ll ever get as all you have to do is show your face to receive it. If you are painfully shy let me know by note and we’ll devise some other way for you to get this easy credit.
First day of class. Hello stranger. We will watch a short subject film: Orson Welles’s narration of Plato’s (Yes, that Plato!) cave allegory. There will also be a discussion of our class project: the formation of an intellectual collective (Yes, I said "intellectual".). Receive first writing assignment--don’t freak, it’s a breeze...unless you bullshit, then you will feel some pain. The assignment is due Tuesday, September 7. Purchase Xerox packet: it your readings for September 7(Hernandez), 9 (Freud) and 14 (Plato...yes again, that Plato!).
Read the first chapter of Berger & Crew’s critique of the history of oil painting. What we are concerned with is the way we see, or, better put, how we have been trained to see. A short in-class assignment is likely.
Read all but the last chapter of Berger’s Ways of Seeing. Also read "How to Kill a ... by Isabel Reubens" a graphic short story by Jaime Hernandez available in your Xerox packet. Turn in writing assignment.
Read the last chapter of Berger’s Ways of Seeing. Go eat a snack. Read/Scan the first 55 pages of Appignanesi and Zarate’s Freud For Beginners. Take a nap--dreaming optional. Begin to try to integrate ideas and problems which this combination of readings seems to bring into being.
Reading Lite: Today will screen the Kurosawa classic, Rashoman; please read up to page 119 in your Freud for Beginners book. Also, read the excerpt from Plato’s Republic located in your Xerox reader.
We will finish Rashoman. Complete your reading of Freud for Beginners. How can we use aspects of Freud’s theories to "read" Kurosawa’s film.
Read Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Key. Do not read past the April 15 entry.
Finish reading The Key.
Read the first 12 chapters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus.
Read Frankenstein to the end of chapter 20.
Complete your reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Begin reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Read to the end of the "Autumn" section, p.49.--Try to imagine how to speak of Morrison and Shelley’s writings as complimentary projects.
Read the "Winter" and "Summer" sections of Morrison’s novel.
Finish reading The Bluest Eye.
Begin to read the memoir of Herculine Barbin, with the introduction by Michel Foucault
Continue the memoir.
Finish the memoir of Herculine Barbin.
Read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.
Read the introductory essay and carefully survey the paintings in the Rizzoli Art Series album on Frida Kahlo.
We will continue our discussion of Frida Kahlo
Begin reading Carlos Fuentes’s Aura. Pay particular attention to the intersection of texts and bodies--in fact, of bodies which come to life via texts.
Finish reading Aura.
Read the first five chapters of Art Spiegelman’s Maus.
Finish reading Maus.
23, November Tuesday
No class, but your essays are due at 12 noon
25, November Thursday
No class. Have a great holiday.
Screen Luis Buñuel’s classic, Viridiana.
Continue screening Viridiana.
Continue discussion on Buñuel--view select excerpts from the film.
Last class. Re-screen the Welles/Plato animated short. Review.