Course Description:

Richard Burt  LIT 4930 
Fall 2017

Faute de Lecture:  Sterne, Derrida, Shakespeare, De Man, Shelley, Shelley, Browne, and Blanchot

What does it mean to read?  Beginning with Laurence Sterne’s citation of Shakespeare’s Yorick in Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey, we will consider the often vexed relations between literature and philosophy primarily in relation to ghosts and skulls and ask how reading is haunted by certain kinds of faults and failings, not reading or misreading, especially when a writer publishes anonymously or pseudonymously.  Readings will include the ghost scenes and the graveyard scene in Hamlet; Derrida writing on two of his then dead friends and rivals, Jacques Lacan and Paul de Man; and Derrida’s posthumously published “Last Words”; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Mary Shelley’s two posthumous editions of Percy Bysse Shelley;  Lord Byron on the ghost of Old Hamlet in Don Juan, Canto XIII; Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner; Sir Thomas Browne’s Hydrotaphia; the Arden edition of Shakespeare’s Double Falsehood and reconstructions of Cardenio; the films The Trip to Italy and Journey to Italy, William Wordsworth's On Epitaphs; John Keats’ “On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Again”; Paul De Man's "Autobiography as Defacement" and “Excuses (Confessions)”; selections from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions; and Maurice Blanchot’s “On Friendship.”  We will also examine graverobbings and reburials of Sterne’s skull, Shakespeare’s missing skull, Sir Thomas Browne’s skull, skulls that have been used as props in Hamlet, and graves, epitaphs, and monuments to some of the writers we will discuss.  Requirements: TOTAL ATTENDANCE; no computers or iphones in class (the text will be available on the screen in the front of the classroom); co-lead class discussion twice, once on a Tuesday and once on a Thursday; two discussion questions; and three or more "BIG WORDS" for each class; student formulated quizzes each class; three 700 word papers; and a willingness to reflect, think, respond, by paying very, VERY, VERY close formal attention to texts and films.  All assigned work for the course must be completed, turned in on time, and be of passing quality to pass the course.  For more information, go to