English 363b
C. Zwarg
M 7:30-10:00p.m.


         Topics in American Literature:

The Awful Rehearsal:
Traumas of Freedom in U.S. Literature

The emergence of “trauma studies” has made it possible to reenlist psychoanalysis in the work of cultural critique. Viewed as the issue most valuable for showing the blindness and insight of Freud’s legacy, trauma theory has also become a vehicle for rethinking social and literary histories.

This course will expose students to recent trauma theory and the segregated traditions of literary history. Thinking about trauma theory before and after Freud, we will look again at authors attempting to bring together (and sometimes keep apart) cultural traditions irrupting into literary form from the late 18th to the early 20th century. We will pay particular attention to the place of slave revolt in those traditions, noting the resonating (and sometimes repressed) character of the Haitian revolution in later texts. The role of heightened emotional states, including fugue or hypnotic experiences, and the shifting currency of the word "terror" will be part of our focus.

Our thorough review of Freud will also include contemporary work by Walter Benjamin and W.E.B. Du Bois. We will also explore more recent work by Cathy Caruth, Ruth Leys, Ian Hacking, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Sam Weber, Toni Morrison and Peter Brooks. Literary readings will be drawn from the writings of E.A. Poe, Frederick Douglass, Melville, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Robert Lowell.

Course Requirements
 Students will be asked to write position papers or questions each week, a shorter (5-7 page) paper and a final [15 page] paper synthesizing some aspect of trauma theory with literary criticism.

Pre-requisites:  Two 200-level Courses or consent of instructor.

Course enrollment is limited to 15 Students.