WiSe 16/17: HS-Literary and Cultural Theories: Reading Dirt
According to anthropologist Mary Douglas dirt is “matter out of place.” “As we know it,” Douglas writes, “dirt is essentially disorder. [...] Dirt offends against order.” It seems that dirt in literary texts would indeed be matter out of place, but surprisingly, many texts ‘accumulate’ dirt – among them eighteenth-century poems, nineteenth-century realist novels, colonial literature, modernist and postmodernist fiction. We will read a selection of such texts – among them Jonathan Swift’s “A Description of a City Shower” (1710), Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend (1864-65), E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India (1924), and Irvine Welsh’s Filth (2008). Discussions will focus on the ways in which the material world affects representation, narrative organization, generic traditions, and poetological considerations. Can language capture the materiality of dirt? How is discursive and metaphorical dirt related to the materiality of dirt? How is literary representation impacted by an ‘object’ like dirt that seems to be outside cultural signification?
Texts: Students should purchase Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend (Penguin), E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India (Penguin), and Irvine Welsh’s Filth(Vintage); they should have read Dickens’s novel by the beginning of the semester. Further texts will be uploaded on Blackboard.
Assessment will be on the basis of regular attendance, active participation (including e.g. short presentations and response papers), and the submission of an essay of c. 7500 words.close
16 Class schedule