Languages


A new course from FASS: LIT 452 Seminar in World Literature

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Writing Catastrophe, Reading Catastrophe

Matthew Gumpert

 

Western culture has long been in love with catastrophe. Truth itself is understood as something

transcendent, or something hidden: our very notion of interpretation is determined, in other

words, by an apocalyptic logic. The very strategies for reading in the West, or what we might call

hermeneutics, is a form of catastrophe theory.

 

It is possible, then, that all literature depends on catastrophe; that catastrophe is intrinsic to

literature itself. This course returns to some of the West’s most significant literary texts; read

in the light of contemporary works in philosophy and critical theory, these texts form a kind of

history of the catastrophic. Along the way a dialogue will emerge between literature and theory:

one that will allow us to construct a typology of catastrophe in the West.

 

Throughout the semester various contemporary disasters, both natural and unnatural, from the

2004 tsunami to 9/11, will figure as recurrent motifs and contemporary points of reference.