Thry: Fiction as Theory

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FINAR-602

First of all, what are we talking about when we say, "Theory?" Works that succeed in challenging and reorienting thinking in fields other than those to which they apparently belong can be considered "theory." Theory in this sense is not a set of methods for the study of art or literature but an unbounded group of writings about an infinite array of subjects, which could include works ranging from technical problems of academic philosophy to the changing ways people have thought about the body. The genre of theory includes works of anthropology, art history, film studies, gender studies, linguistics, political science, psychoanalysis, social and intellectual history and sociology. Works from these categories are tied to arguments in their particular field, but they become theory because their visions or arguments have been additionally suggestive or productive for people who are not studying those disciplines. Works become theory when they offer us information we can use to examine meaning within nature and culture, the functioning of the psyche, the relations of public to private experience, historical forces and individual experience. In this class we will use works of fiction as our theory. Each week the class will read and then discuss a particular work of fiction. We will not use any existing critical analysis about the work to support our dialogues. The discussions will draw solely on the stories themselves and the collective knowledge of the group to develop a discourse around each piece. The goal in this sense is not to correctly analyze the works we read but to use them as ways to generate discourse, speculation, inquiry and thinking about our artistic practice and the ways in which we go about discovering the formal and conceptual basis of how that practice evolves. There will be several short writing assignments to encourage further reactions to the readings. Some of the titles and authors we'll be reading are, The Lime Works, by THOMAS BERNHARD, Cosmic Comics, by ITALO CALVINO, Laura: A Journey Into The Crystal, by GEORGE SAND, The Invention Of Morel, by ADOLFO BIOY CASARES, Enormous Changes At The Last Minute, by GRACE PALEY, Bartelby The Scrivener, by HERMAN MELVILLE, Bhagavad Gita: The Song Of God, Translation by SWAMI PRABHAVANANDA and CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD, Shikasta, by DORIS LESSING, A Descent Into The Maelstrom, by EDGAR ALLEN POE, Report From an Unidentified Space Station, by JG BALLARD, Pierre Menard, Author Of The Quixote, by JORGE LUIS BORGES, La Jetee: cine-roman, by CHRIS MARKER, The Red Notebook: True Stories, by PAUL AUSTER