Wisse says the course will begin by looking at theoretical works on humor, followed closely by selections from Philip Roth, Isaac Bashevis Singer and other Jewish writers. The course will conclude by looking at Kafka.
She hopes to keep the class small, but Wisse says that she is not trying to appeal to any specific types of people. "I'm always surprised by who shows up," she says.
Though Wisse says students are free to consult their own sources, Jerry Seinfeld will not be included in the required readings.
--David M. DeBartolo
Prague: "A State of Mind"
His new course, Slavic 131: "Imagining Prague: The City in Literature, Art, and Film," examines the imaginary representation of Prague by Czech, French, German, and Russian writers, artists, and filmmakers from the early nineteenth century to the present.
Thomas' course traces Prague through its early nationalist, realist, modernist, surrealist, existential, and postmodern stages. It is a place of exile, a city personified as female, he says.
In the early 1990s, after the fall of communism, Prague was a location of American fascination as well, particularly to Jewish Americans, who saw something of their own past in the city. Thomas labels the city as a "state of mind."
Thomas stresses that this interdisciplinary course is conducted entirely in English, although a third hour will be offered for those who wish to consider the texts in their original language.
The readings are varied, drawing from Apollinaire, Peter Dementz, Sylvie
Germain, Bohumil Hrabal, Franz Kafka, Milan Kundera, Jan Neruda, Gustav Meyrink, Rainer Maria Rilke, and others.
Some of the selections are even Thomas' own translations, such as poems by Vitezslav Nezval and Ingeborg Bachmann. A set of short films compliments this list.
Thomas' interest in the subject stems from personal experience. "It's a city I've known for many years. I lived there as a student," he says. What intrigued him was the way a city could be like a person undergoing a character shift.
--Melissa R. Brewster
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