Slavic R5A, Section 2: “Either you or I, but both together is out of the question!”: Doubles, Delusions, and Defamiliarization

TT 8-9:30, 283 Dwinelle. Instructor: Isobel Palmer.

Units: 4

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the first half or the “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

The double or doppelganger has long lurked on the edges of the human imagination, an ominous spectre whose existence threatens that of the ‘original’ it haunts. Perhaps most famously embodied in Dostoevsky’s The Double—from which the quote of this course’s title is taken—the doppelganger often appears in literature as at once the product of some supernatural force, a delusion, and a real figure within the fictional world. Posing a challenge to the normal parameters of man’s social existence, the double raises questions about the nature of identity, its formation, and the (often blurred) lines between fact, fiction, dreams, and madness. This course will examine the double and duality as literary devices in various works of literature and film, setting it against questions of madness, freedom, gender, and (self-)destruction to explore the many facets of doubling as literary device. If the double can be interpreted as the protagonist’s failure to resist repressed desires, might it also represent an act of resistance to society and its structures? What questions do such texts raise about artistic representation, and how are split or dual perspectives on the fictional world used to confuse, distort, or clarify our view of it and of the real one? And in what ways do these doubled and doubling texts play with and problematize the very notion of the binary?

Course Aims: This course fulfills the first half of the Reading and Composition requirement, and must be taken for a letter grade to fulfill this requirement for graduation. Its goal will be to develop and improve students’ ability to read critically and write clear, well-reasoned, and well-structured response papers.

Readings, preparation, and in-class discussion: Weekly reading will typically average between 60 and 70 pages; therefore, students will be expected to complete all assigned readings, to come to class prepared to speak about them, and to participate actively in all class discussions, which will aim to develop students’ analytic vocabulary, close-reading skills, and critical apparatus. Students will be expected to come to class prepared to pose questions, forward critical readings, and respond to one another’s ideas. Many of the readings will be available for free on the class bSpace page, and students are expected to come to class with the texts in-hand, printed out. Occasional reading quizzes, both announced and unannounced, will test students’ reading comprehension, as will in-class writing exercises and group activities.

Required Texts: The following texts will be available for sale in the student bookstore, but students should feel free to purchase them from alternative sources ensuring they purchase the indicated edition and translation. Check the ISBN to be sure.

Fedor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground and The Double.Trans. Robert Wilks. Penguin Classics, 2009. ISBN: 978-0140455120
Virginia Woolf, Orlando. Penguin, 2006. ISBN: 978-0141188294
Yuri Olesha, Envy. Trans. Marian Schwartz. NYRB Classics: New York, 2004. ISBN: 978-1590170861.
Michael Hackett, The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing. Hackett Publishing Co, 2003. ISBN: 0872205738.

The following texts are also required, but will be made available to students via bSpace or handouts:
E.T.A. Hoffmann, “The Sandman”.
Nikolai Gogol, “The Nose”; “The Portrait”.
Edgar Allen Poe, “William Wilson”.
Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny”.
Daisies (1966), dir. Vera Chytilova, to be shown in class.
(Further readings to be announced as the class progresses.)

Prerequisite: Successful completion of the UC Entry Level Writing Requirement. Students may not enroll in or attend R1A/R5A courses without completing this prerequisite.