Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The English 1B Book Club, Spring 2010

Shifting directions for spring quarter, I've decided to focus on literary examinations of fascist violence.

It seems to me that we—the United States, I mean—persist in our desire to become what we profess to hate. (Example: Joseph Andrew Stack's 9/11-emulating airplane attack on an IRS building in Austin, Texas.) The seductions of violence are formidable. Perhaps it's a good time to think, yet again, about why.

After reading, too, about the slaughter of fifteen teenagers in Cuidad Juarez (yet recognizing that 2666 would be, for this quick class, an impossibility), I want to contemplate more closely the problem of  inconceivable violence—the allure of its various faces.

So these will be our required readings:

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick
Macbeth (the Arden Edition)
This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, by Tadeusz Borowski
Nazi Literature in the Americas, by Roberto Bolaño
All Day Permanent Red, by Christopher Logue

We'll watch Night and Fog, if we can bear it, and read some poems by Paul CelanSimone Weil's famous essay about the Iliad will provide us with a theoretical framework for our opening discussions.

I wish that I'd thought to add Dirty Snow, by Georges Simenon, a riveting study of life in German-occupied France, particularly in its depiction of the ways that civilians mimic—and therefore further disseminate—various forms of State violence.

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