Technologies of Heartbreak
This seminar will examine how emotion is attempted and transmitted in fiction, the various ways readers are captured and made to care about a story. Emotional effects—rapture, sympathy, desire, empathy, fascination, grief, repulsion—will be considered as techniques of language, enabled or muted by narrative context, acoustics, phrasing, and our own predispositions. How can a sentence, a phrase, a paragraph cause us to feel things, and is a high degree of feeling akin to “liking” a book? What is it to care about a character or the progress of a story, and how was that care installed in us? What are the various kinds and sequences of sentences that, when placed in a narrative, can produce emotional engagement in a reader, affection or distraction, or is it impossible to isolate our reaction to a book in terms of its language? The focus will be on some rhetorical strategies novelists and story writers have used to impart feeling, among them: concealment, indirection, revelation, confession, flat affect, irony, hyperbole, repetition, sentimentality, elusiveness, and sincerity. A tentative book list follows.
2/4 - Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
2/11 - Mrs. Bridge - Evan S. Connell
4/1 - Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
4/8 - The Fifth Child - Doris Lessing
4/22 - Two Serious Ladies - Jane Bowles
4/29 - The Sheltering Sky - Paul Bowles
5/6 - Correction - Thomas Bernhard
"Being young is kind of a dangerous time. People take a lot of chances. I did all kinds of stuff that I can’t believe I did. Or just that feeling where if you have a crush on someone it’s like the most intense thing ever. The longing and feeling—the connection you make with people—is so incredibly intense, and I like thinking about it."
dennis cooper, writer (x)