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We tend to imagine “wonder” as a naïve, wide-eyed response, something quite distinct from the cold and sophisticated act of critical analysis. In this discussion class, we will consider wonder as an eminently analyzable concept, but one that raises provocative questions about the nature and limits of our own, distinctly modern forms of critical engagement. The course examines three historical incarnations of “wonder,” each involving complex relations among the aesthetic, philosophical, and social domains: the Renaissance tradition on wonder and the marvelous (strange births, sea monsters, etc); the eighteenth-century analysis of the sublime; and twentieth-century accounts of the culture of spectacle, including cinema. We will consider writers such as Shakespeare, Sir Thomas Browne, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and W.G. Sebald (all wonderful); painters such as Vermeer and Friedrich, the photography of Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth; films including Lang’s Metropolis, Scott’s Blade Runner and Pipilotti Rist; and critical or philosophical writers, including Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Benjamin, and Irigaray.
Format: seminar; This course will be taught virtually, but we will make absolutely every effort to ensure that it takes the form of a genuine discussion class, including breaking periodically into smaller online groups. Requirements: two papers totaling 20 pages.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
two papers totaling 20 pages
a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam, or permission of instructor.
English majors using the course to fulfill requirements; Comp Lit majors
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENGL Criticism Courses
ENGL Literary Histories A
ENGL Literary Histories B