Thursdays 9:55-10:45 a.m. (Wadsworth 204)
: W 1:00 - 2:15p
Lima : R 11:00a - 12:00N
and by appointment
and by appointment
Welles 218 C x5242
Our course will explore how reality is represented. Aristotle's Poetics
is one of the first texts that have tried to understand the nature of
such representation. Since then, art is supposed to imitate
life. The notion of mimesis (imitation), however, raises very
important issues that
will structure the semester:
(1) The commonsense division that defines the real as the physical and
the empirical, and the unreal as the metaphysical has been
contested. Plato regarded our familiar reality as mere shadows of
perfect ideas. Modern philosophers, on the other hand, hold that
"the real" is inaccessible to us, since we can only re-present it
through many arbitrary systems, including language.
(2) What counts as real then? For most inhabitants of Edwin A.
Abbott's Flatland (1884) only what can be measured exists, and
the one who dares to think otherwise ends up in prison. For "it
is as natural for us Flatlanders to lock up a Square for preaching the
Third Dimension, as it is for you Spacelanders to lock up a Cube for
preaching the Fourth." As the editor of Flatland
concludes, "we are
all liable to the same errors, all alike the Slaves of our respective
Dimensional prejudices" (Abbott, "editor's" introduction).
(3) In all the science fiction/fantasy we read (or see), we will try to
identify whose reality gets represented and why. Contemporary
theorists have also emphasized the extent to which representations are
much more than plain "likenesses." They are always someone's version of
reality and may serve to reinforce systems of inequality and
subordination. The more interesting texts will both reproduce the
dominant ideology and challenge some of those beliefs.
Evaluation: Since the goal of this course is not to find the "right
answers" (you will not be penalized for arguing with us), this course
is non-graded until the very end of the semester. Your final grade will
depend upon active and engaged class participation, your presentation,
and progress in writing critically (your reading journal). This
is the only course at Geneseo where you will be allowed to drop until
the last day
with no penalty or record on your transcript.
Your reading journal is a place for you to make connections
between the readings, the films, the art work in Brodie, your own life
experiences (other readings, films and performances also count as
experience), class discussions and other courses. The best
learning, you will
realize, is inter-disciplinary in nature. Your entries will explore
(WHY questions) rather than offer summaries of the readings
You can choose both the format and length of each entry. It is
important, however, that the entries reflect active and critical
engagement with the material. Reading continues before class as you
work out replies to your questions and ours; in class as you exchange
and modify views; after class as your reconsider earlier readings and
write about what has been meaningful to you.
(1) Abbott, Edwin A. Flatland
(2) xerox packet
(1) The Matrix
Both movies will be shown in the dorms at various times between October
3 and the 17th. It is YOUR responsibility to see them at least
once since you have to write an entry on each.
Schedule of Readings
8/29 the idea of the course
getting to know each other
9/5 Flatland - Preface and Part I
9/12 Flatland - Part II (Sections 13-17)
9/19 Flatland - Part II (Sections 18-22)
9/26 Flatland - Introduction
10/3 Plato's "Allegory of the Cave"
10/10 The Matrix
10/17 --Students' presentations of their choice of visual art that
10/24 Hermann Hesse's "Conversation with the Stove" and A.I.
10/31 Octavia Butler, "Speech Sounds"
11/7 James Tiptree Jr., "Women Men Don't See"
11/14 Joanna Russ, "When It Changed" (1972)
11/21 Jorge Luis Borges, "The Secret Miracle" (1964)
11/28 Thanksgiving Break
12/5 Reading the university and the world as texts
Final Day: Students' presentation of favorite reading journal