Closer: Understanding Tragedy

Term: Spring 2009

Subject Code: GLIB

Course Number: 5528

Through a sustained immersion in the close �reading� of a variety of different kinds of artworks � visual as well as verbal, musical and abstract as well as philosophical and closely-reasoned -- this seminar will acquaint students with a variety of different analytic and imaginative ways to understand the meaning of tragedy. In order to provoke reflection on the continuities and differences in artistic practices across time and space, representations of the tragic in different media � including literature, art, music and film � will be juxtaposed and interpreted with the help of a series of visiting teachers, expert in understanding the medium in question. One goal is to provide advanced students with an in-depth and interdisciplinary acquaintance with contemporary methods of criticism and interpretation. Another goal is to question the meaning of tragedy � and to reflect on the peculiarities of some contemporary representations of the tragic sensibility. During the semester, the class will be joined by a variety of guest teachers, including (among others) the composer Stefania de Kennesy, the art critic Jed Perl, the literary scholar Paul Kottman, the poet and literary scholar Robert Polito, and the philosopher Simon Critchley. Works studied include the film No Country for Old Men; Oedipus Rex by Sophocles; texts by Aristotle, and Nietzsche; the Apology of Socrates as described by Plato; paintings of the passion of Christ; Bach�s St. Mathew Passion; etchings by Goya and Otto Dix; Beethoven�s Fifth Symphony; Shakespeare�s King Lear; plus additional works by Stravinsky, David, Nerval, Van Gogh, Foucault, Cormac McCarthy, Jim Thompson and Betrand Tavernier.

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