Repetition Compulsion: Why Do We Remake the Past?
“Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?”
Are great works stand-alone moments of original genius and inspiration, or copies, adaptations, and remixes endlessly presented as new? This question gains new importance in a world where digital technologies create a dizzying array of mash-ups, remixes, and memes, and where pastiche, sequels, adaptations, and remakes routinely out-do the “classics” from which they draw inspiration.
In the age of the remix, what is original, and, beyond the obvious issue of copyright, does it really matter? This course explores the possibility that our fascination with adaptation and borrowing is the latest manifestation of an age-old tendency to refashion what has gone before that may not only place remaking on a par with other forms of creation, but entirely undermine the notion of originality.
Repetition is never simple and takes many forms, from subconscious or deliberate imitation or homage to parody and subversion. From the traces of Plato’s allegory of the cave in the simulated reality of the Wackowski brothers film The Matrix, Rousseau’s secularized reconstruction of the story of creation and loss of Eden presented in Genesis, Atwood’s imaginative reworking of Homer’s Odyssey, Francis Ford Coppola’s relocation (and Achebe’s scathing rejection) of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Kamau Brathwaite’s transformation of Sycorax from the dead witch of Shakespeare’s Tempest to the living muse of the Caribbean literary canon, to Alan Moore’s alternative history of a Cold War America complete with costumed superheroes, we invite you to join us in exploring the ways in which invention and creation can be both submerged and inspired by a deceptively familiar past.
Texts list not fully updated yet.
- Genesis (photocopy or PDF)
- Sophocles, Antigone (Oxford; 978-0195061673)
- Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Hackett; 978-0872201774)
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality (Penguin; 978-0140444391)
- Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Beacon; 978-0807043110)
- Alejo Carpentier, The Kingdom of this World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 978-0374530112)
- William Wordsworth, “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” (1802)
- William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads (Penguin; 978-01404424621)
- Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (Oxford; 978-0199535545)
- Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead (movie)
- Frantz Fanon, Black Skins / White Masks (Grove; 978-0802143006)
- Ian Hacking, Rewriting the Soul (Princeton; 978-0691059082)
- Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (photocopy or PDF)
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Broadview; 978-1551113074)
- Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (Anchor; 978-0385474542)
- Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now (movie)
- Lectures: Mondays, 12-2pm, Pacific Time
Term One: (the rest of the schedule coming soon)
- week one (Sep 8): Genesis [guest: Robert Daum]; Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling [Jill Fellows]
- week two (Sep 15): Homer, Odyssey [guest: CW Marshall]
- week three (Sep 22): Sophocles, Antigone [Robert Crawford]
- week four (Sep 29): Plato, Republic [Christina Hendricks]
- week five (Oct. 6): Plato, Republic [Jill Fellows]
Term Two: (coming soon)