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COMP 304
Confusion of Tongues and Intermediate Areas: Ferenczi, Winnicott, and Literature Spring 2021
Division I Writing Skills

Class Details

In a reference to the story of Babel, Hungarian psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi (1873-1933) described in poignant detail the operation of sexual abuse in terms of a profound disjunction on the level of language, in the broadest sense–a problem of translation, so to speak. Indeed, Ferenczi dedicated his entire life to learning the language of his patients’ trauma in all its nuances, making himself vulnerable in multiple ways in the process. D. W. Winnicott (1896-1971), too, immersed himself in the lives of his patients, many of them children or adults who had grown up experiencing the death and displacement of wartime England. The theories of these two psychoanalysts, much less known in the humanities than Freud, Lacan, or Klein, dovetail in significant ways with the workings of literature. In this course, we will investigate the ways in which the spaces, configurations, and dynamics of literature from several national traditions align with Ferenczi’s explorations of the “confusion of tongues,” as well as Winnicott’s interest in the “intermediate area of experiencing, to which interior reality and external life both contribute.” Texts may include, in addition to articles by Ferenczi and Winnicott, work by Kafka, Kincaid, Baldwin, Bachmann, Bechdel, and others. Modified tutorial format, with groups of three students meeting weekly with the instructor.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 18
Expected: 15
Class#: 5627
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Requirements: Active participation, four 5-page papers, two portfolio introductions, four 1-2 page responses, one final project. Evaluation: Tutorial papers will receive extensive comments, but no grade; the portfolios and the final project will be graded. Responses will not be evaluated by the instructor, but instead will function well or less well in the context of the discussion. The final grade will be determined by the overall trajectory of the student's learning.
Prerequisites: one college literature course
Enrollment Preferences: majors or prospective majors in Comparative Literature
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
WS Notes: Modified tutorial (3 on 1). Students will write four five-page papers, grouped into two portfolios, and will prepare 1-2-page portfolio introductions. They will also produce a final project that is a synthesis of their ideas throughout the semester. Finally, they will be required to write formal responses to their partners' papers.

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