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Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars

Wise Fools

01:090:292:02 Index# 12060
Professor Nicholas Rennie, SAS - Germanic, Russian, & Eastern European Languages and Literatures 
TH 09:50A - 12:50P
Academic Building, Rm 4050
College Ave Campus


Course WILL count for major and minor credit in the German department.

The “wise fool” is a paradoxical figure that has fascinated Western writers at least since the Middle Ages. The fool stands outside of social convention and society’s normal hierarchies, and as such serves to highlight problems and contradictions in society itself. His folly veils a deeper wisdom. To speak as a fool, however, is also to contend with various forms of explicit or hidden censorship, to find ways to defy and circumvent social norms. We will accordingly look both at individual figures of the fool, as depicted in work from Shakespeare and Cervantes to Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Heinrich Böll; at examples of satire that bring into relief social issues of power, politics, gender, generational conflict, morality, and the relation between the individual and the collective; and at ways in which the language of folly itself serves as a model for some of the world’s most interesting examples of literary experimentation. Required Texts 1. William Shakespeare, King Lear, ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine (New York: Washington Square Press, 1993) ISBN: 978-0743482769 2. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, tr. Burton Raffel, ed. Diana de Armas Wilson (New York: Norton, 1999 ISBN: 978-0393972818 3. William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury, ed. David Minter (New York: Norton, 1994) ISBN: 978-0393964813 4. Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007 ISBN: 978- 0374530631 5. Heinrich Böll, The Clown, tr. Leila Vennewitz (New York: Melville House, 2010 ISBN: 978-1935554172.

NICHOLAS RENNIE has taught courses on German and European intellectual history, German drama, literature of the Age of Goethe, the Frankfurt School, contemporary literary theory, and theories of the visual. He studied at Princeton, the Ruhr-University Bochum (Germany), and Yale, where he received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature. He has received numerous awards, including a School of Arts and Sciences Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education, and an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship supporting his work at the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich (2002-2003) and the Free University Berlin (2007-2008). He is the author of Speculating on the Moment: The Poetics of Time and Recurrence in Goethe, Leopardi, and Nietzsche (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2005), and has written articles on Lessing, Goethe, Leopardi, Nietzsche, and Benjamin. He recently published a piece on theater performance as a theme of Goethe’s Faust, as well as a comparative analysis of this play and Molière’s Dom Juan; and he is currently working on a book project entitled Forbidding Images: Writing and the Visual in German Theory 1766/1939. In addition to his research and teaching, Prof. Rennie has a special interest in Study Abroad and in Rutgers University’s summer, semester and year programs in Berlin.

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