ENGL 332
Aesthetic Outrage Spring 2024
Division I
Cross-listed COMP 307

Class Details

In this course we will explore interdisciplinary ways of understanding and theorizing the outraged reception of provocative works of film, theater, and fiction. When riots, censorship, trials, and vilification greet such works in moments of political and social upheaval, the public outrage is often strangely out of proportion to either the work’s aesthetic nature or its overt commentary on the political crisis. Something powerfully symptomatic is at work, then: a set of threatened investments, unacknowledged values, and repressed ideas which surface explosively, but indirectly, in the aesthetic outrage. In an attempt to understand the strange logic of public outrage against works of art, we will explore the respective works’ historical contexts, and use theoretical models–aesthetic, political, psychological, social–as a means of illuminating the dynamics of outrage and exposing understated linkages between a work’s figurative logic and the political passions of its historical moment. We will study instances of outrage in the context of the French Revolution (Beaumarchais’ The Marriage of Figaro), the wave of anarchist terrorism in turn-of-the-century Paris (Jarry’s Ubu the King), the trials of Oscar Wilde for “gross indecency” (The Picture of Dorian Gray), the Irish Revolution (Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World and O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars), and Stalinist collectivization (Eisenstein’s suppressed film Bezhin Meadow). Non-literary reading will include historiographic work on these crises, as well as essays and excerpts by theorists from various disciplines, such as Kristeva, Foucault, Freud, Girard, Arendt, Sedgwick, Bakhtin, Douglas, and Rancière.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 22
Expected: 18
Class#: 3795
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation in class discussions, two papers 8-10 pages in length.
Prerequisites: 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
Enrollment Preferences: English majors and Comparative Literature majors, then highly qualified sophomores
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
COMP 307 Division I ENGL 332 Division I

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