Literature and Film

“Psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?” This course focuses on novels and films from the last twenty-five years marked by their relationship to violence and transgression. Our texts will variously focus on serial killers, torture, rape, and brutality, but they also explore the myth of the American West, terror and 9/11, and reality television—sometimes, they even delve into love or the redemptive role of art in late modernity. We will explore the politics and aesthetics of the extreme; affective questions about sensation, fear, disgust, and shock; depictions of gender, sexuality and race; and problems of torture, pain, and the unrepresentable. We will ask whether these texts help us understand violence, or whether they frame violence as something that resists comprehension or refuses critique; we will consider whether form mitigates or colludes with violence. And throughout the course, we will ask about the ethics of representation at the limit.

Short theoretical readings from Arendt, Artaud, Bataille, Benjamin, Blanchot, Deleuze, Foucault, Scarry, and Sontag will help us think about the nature of violence and the image; cruelty and the absurd; erotics and violence; the banality of evil; embodiment, flesh, and meat; trauma and catastrophe; and commodification. Novels include Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, Dennis Cooper’s Frisk, and Frédéric Beigbede’’s Windows on the World. Films include À ma soeur, American History X, Audition, Baise-moi, Dans ma peau, Funny Games, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Hostel, Man Bites Dog, Natural Born Killers, Old Boy, Reservoir Dogs, Seul Contre Tous, Se7en and Tesis.

Prerequisite: One subject in Literature or Comparative Media Studies.