HUMS 639
The Real McCoy: Constructing Identity

Priscilla Meyer

Course Schedule

Come to the first class having read Sophocles, "Oedipus Rex"

Class 1

Oedipus: ambivalence         
Read: Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin

Class 2

How are Eugene, Lensky and Tatyana characterized?         
What determines Eugene's and Tatyana's fate?         
Read: Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, through part 2, chapter 9

Class 3

The hat; the cake; entering Yonville; the "Golden Lion" scene
Read: Finish Madame Bovary         
Write: Why does the novel end with Homais?

Class 4

Madame Bovary: The agricultural fair; Homais
Read: Invisible Man, 1/2; select a motif to track

PAPER #1 (due October 22): Tatyana and Emma (4 pp)
Pick specific parallel passages from EO and Madame B as your basis for developing an argument about how each heroine constructs her life, and from that compare Pushkin's and Flaubert's methods, novels. Start from text to figure out your argument, rather than plugging in text to "support" a general idea.

Class 5

The Golden Day; White paint, blindness; your motifs   
Read: Finish Invisible Man; e-mail discussion topic proposals by Wednesday evening

Class 6

Invisible Man: The narrator's fate: self-determined vs. socially determined:
your topics         
Read: The Human Stain 1/2

Class 7

The Human Stain: What do we know so far about Coleman Silk?          
Read: Finish The Human Stain

Class 8

The Human Stain: what is the narrator's source of information? 

PAPER #2 (due November 12th): Invisible Man and Coleman Silk  (4 pp)
Pick a particular aspect shared by the characters, using a scene, or a motif; what is Roth's implicit commentary on Ellison's novel and its hero? Prepare to present your conclusions in class (3 minutes)

Class 9

The Human Stain: what is it?          
Your papers          
Read: Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Class 10

Mrs. Dalloway: Septimus and Clarissa          
Read: Vladimir Nabokov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight          
Write: How can Silberman resemble Mr. Siller and what does it imply?

Class 11

The characters' identities: Compare the brothers          
Read: Gustav Meyrinck, The Golem           
Write: make a list of Pernath's main ordeals, to hand in

Class 12

Who is Athanasius Pernath? Eternal return
Read: Tom Stoppard, "The Real Inspector Hound"          
Metaphysics: (who is?) the Real McCoy?

Class 13

A reading of the play at my house 

Term Paper due first day of exam week:
Write a story in which the protagonist's identity/fate is determined by a mix of forces s/he is aware and unaware of. Use what you've learned about the telling detail (titles of books, names of authors, motifs--color, etc.). If this kind of assignment is not your cup of tea, write an analysis of any aspect of our readings based in close reading, in consultation with me.