The doppelgӓnger, or ghostly double, has long had multiple functions in literature and art: it can be a harbinger of ill tidings, a darker reflection of one’s true self, or even, with the development of photographic techniques and increasingly sophisticated media, a seductive means of breaking away from traditional space/time boundaries. Our critical conversation will interrogate the doppelgӓnger in all of these guises, beginning with Freud’s concept of the uncanny and the story that influenced him so greatly, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s hallucinatory “The Sandman,” and then moving into the explosion of the double as a figure in literature and art. We will read works by authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jorge Luis Borges, and China Mieville. We will also explore how themes of doubling have evolved and manifested in contemporary films such as David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers and Mamoru Oshii’s groundbreaking anime, Ghost in the Shell, and how electronic environments like Facebook are changing our perceptions of identity and our potential for self-transformation.
Some of the questions we will explore through our writing include: How do we understand and delimit our individual identities? What makes us unique? Is the double a threatening figure that destabilizes the borders of our selves, or is it a sign of our technological future? Why is this figure so prevalent across genres and cultures? Working with the course material, we will write short papers and a longer research paper. The paper-writing process will be revision-intensive, and you will be expected to utilize both self-assessments and peer reviews to further develop your writing and critical thinking skills.
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