HUMS 291, The Real and the Virtual in Literature and Film

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

Course Description:

In the age of reality TV, social media, and fake news, our relation to the world and to others is increasingly mediated by virtual images and spaces, a condition that postmodern theorists have called hyperreality. Our course asks: Is it possible to maintain a confident sense of what’s real when we are constantly inundated by powerful, highly produced versions of reality? How do various media shape our idea of what counts as real, true, or authentic?

Designed as a writing-intensive sophomore seminar, our course explores the changing relationship between the real and the virtual as it is reflected in twentieth century literature and film. We consider what consequences our being surrounded by images and media has not only for art, but also for modern subjectivity and for politics. Our travels in hyperreality will take us from postmodern theories of simulation to the labyrinthine fictions of Borges and Calvino to cyberpunk films such as The Matrix and, finally, to contemporary speculative fiction and TV.

Sophomore Seminar: Registration preference to sophomores. Not normally open to first-year students.

Led by:

Anna Alber graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern University in 2012 with a B.M. in music performance and a M.A. in comparative literature. Her honors thesis explored the double theme of music and animality in Kafka’s late animal tales. Her master’s thesis attempts to differentiate the problem of hunger from that of desire in Knut Hamsun’s Hunger and Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist.” After graduating, she received a Fulbright grant to teach English for a year in Göttingen, Germany before joining the Yale German department in 2013. Her fields of interest include modernism, critical theory, and aesthetics with an emphasis on problems of language, animality, embodiment, and time..