Nonsense, Surrealism, and The Absurd (LIT2407.01)

Michael Dumanis

This course will consider the multifarious ways writers have sought to subvert linearity, coherence, logic, and reason. We will begin with contemporary prose poet and fabulist Sabrina Orah Mark and then move backwards into the strange and satirical 1970s fictions of Donald Barthelme, a master of the collage form; the surrealist short fictions of Argentina’s Julio Cortazar; and the afrosurrealist poetry of Jayne Cortez and Henry Dumas. We will then jump further back into the tragic farces of post-World War Two Theater of the Absurd, reading Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco — and further back to the poetry of Gertrude Stein. The second half of the course will provide a historical overview of the development of avant-garde Dada, Surrealist, and Futurist poetic movements, considering the writing of Apollinaire, Hugo Ball, Andre Breton, Aime Cesaire, Robert Desnos, 19th century nonsense writer Edward Lear, Stéphane Mallarmé, the French-Egyptian surrealist poet Joyce Mansour, F.T. Marinetti, Francis Picabia, Rimbaud, Kurt Schwitters, Tristan Tzara, and the unconventional Dadaist baroness Elsa von Freitag-Loringhoven. We will also examine analogous revolutions and experiments in visual art. Additionally, we will attempt our own absurdist and Dada experiments and surrealist writings, as well as nonsense verse. Alongside the creative assignments, students should expect to give a presentation and write two critical essays.


Learning Outcomes:
In this course students will

1) discover a diverse range of texts that subvert expectations of linearity and rationality, or otherwise resist interpretation
2) experiment with Dadaist, Surrealist, Futurist, and absurdist practices in their own creative work
3) conduct research and present their findings
4) structure and write critical essays
5) gain confidence and share insight through consistently active verbal participation
6) learn to situate the texts they are reading in a variety of historical, political, cultural, social, and critical contexts



Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 4
F 10:30AM - 12:20PM & F 2:10PM - 4:00PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Literature , Fully In-Person
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