Monday, August 31, 2015

Syllabus for Humanities 218, Fall 2015

"Homo Economicus"

September 1-December 8, 2015, Seminar Room 18, Tuesdays, 1.00-3.45
Instructor: Dale Carrico;
Course Web-Site:
Rough Grade Breakdown (subject to contingencies): Attendance/Participation 12%; Notebook 12%; Precis 16%; Essay 1 30%; Essay 2 30%

Course Description

Capitalism is so funny we forgot to laugh. In this course we will be reading plays drawn from over three hundred years of mannered comedy, some of the most coarse, witty, perverse, lively, and stylish works in English literature. From Early Modern Restoration comedies modeling the libertine rebel Rochester like The Man of Mode, The Rover, The Way of the World, and the Beggar's Opera, to High Modern high camp fascinated by the figure of Oscar Wilde from Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience to The Importance of Being Earnest to Noel Coward, up to Late Modern work from Joe Orton and Jennifer Saunders resonating with the space oddities of David Bowie: we will not only be reading these hilarious and hellraising plays, but staging their key scenes in class for one another in an effort to inhabit them more viscerally. The premise of the course is that these plays stage efforts to satirize and cope with definitive contradictions of modern capitalism but also with paradoxes of corporate-militarist societies and cultures more generally, especially what I will call the plutocratic paradox (a meritocratic rationalization and enactment of aristocracy), the patriarchal paradox (a sexist, heterosexist, cissexist homosocial order that must disavow its queer possibilities), and the planetary paradox (a nationalist project impossibly comprehending ramifying multicultures in "the cultural" while embedded in a global nation-state system in which it impossibly competes via the racist war-machine of "the social"). Readings from political economy and cultural theory from Hobbes, Smith, Marx, and Mill, Pateman, Berlant, and Edelman, Williams, Sontag, and Bruce LaBruce will help us grapple with the plays and the spectacle they make of themselves. Consider the course a contribution to Urbane Studies.

Provisional Schedule of Meetings:

Week One (September)

1 Administrative and Course Introductions.

Week Two

8 Lawrence Dunmore, dir. "The Libertine"

Week Three

15 Fontenelle, Digression on the Ancients and Moderns. Hobbes on Equality, on Power, on Laughter. (Posted onto the blog above.) A selection of poems by Rochester. (Posted onto the blog above.)

Week Four

22 Etherege, The Man of Mode. Raymond Williams, Keyword on Culture (Posted onto the blog above.)

Week Five

29. Aphra Behn, The Rover. Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract

Week Six (October)

6 Wycherley, The Country Wife. Texts in the Jeremy Collier controversy. (Posted onto the blog above.)

Week Seven

13 Congreve, The Way of the World. Paul Parnell, "The Sentimental Mask"

Week Eight

20 Sheridan, The School for Scandal. Adam Smith, on the Division of Labor and on Sympathy. Kant, History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose.

Week Nine

27 Gay, The Beggars Opera. (The Threepenny Opera) Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party

Week Ten (November)

3 Gilbert and Sullivan, Patience. Oscar Wilde, Preface to Dorian Gray and Phrases and Philosophies for Instruction of the Young; Wilde on the witness stand.
Three weeks to revised precis posting deadline!

Week Eleven

10 Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest. Sontag, Notes on Camp; Bruce LaBruce Camp/Anti-Camp
Two weeks to revised precis posting deadline!

Week Twelve

17 Noel Coward (Posted onto the blog above.), Design for Living; Hands Across the Sea (screening a performance starring Joan Collins).
One week to revised precis posting deadline.

Week Thirteen

24 Joe Orton, The Good and Faithful Servant. (Posted onto the blog above.)
Entertaining Mr Sloane (Posted onto the blog above.)
PRECIS must be posted by today at the latest.

Week Fourteen (December)

2 Todd Haynes, dir. "Velvet Goldmine." From Dick Hebdige: Style: The Meaning of Subculture.

Week Fifteen

8 Bacchanal: Jennifer Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous, "Death," "Doorhandle." Videos: Sun Ra, Bowie, Glam, Disco, Jarman, New Romantics, Ga Ga, Janelle Monae, Hi Fashion, so much more…