Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
“I have a dream…” How do loose bits of textual material transform into literary characters of heft and substance? Before reflecting on the “rounded” characters associated with novels and more recent genres of writing, this class will survey a handful of ancient, medieval, and early modern texts to consider alternative models of the literary subject. We will have occasion to consider texts that primarily deploy characters as embodiments of concepts or ideals, and will think critically, too, of historical movements that have formed our taste for literary figures of flesh and blood.
A focus on the implied people of texts requires a reckoning with social categories and ethical distinctions more generally. We will thus read throughout with an eye toward the literary and sociopolitical structures that make it possible to perpetuate—if not to realize—the fantasy of knowing others “by the content of their character.”