You are on page 1of 4

The University of Western Ontario

Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

The Grotesque
(CLC 2103B)
Lectures: Mondays 1:30-3:30, Wednesdays 1:30-2:30 (room TBA)
Instructor: Clin Mihilescu

Teaching Assistant: Christian Ylagan
Office: AHB rm. 3R18A
Office hours: W 10:00-1:00
Phone: 519 661-2111, x85862

Office: AHB rm. 3R18

Office Hours: M 10:30-12:30
Phone: (dept.) 519 661-3196

Course Description
The course follows the embodiments of grotesque imagination in literature and the arts
from the antiquity up to now. A loosely defined category, the grotesque names fields of
expression whose limits are humor and horror, as well as the fantastic, the absurd and
the realistic. The grotesque is affective: as it leaves the reader/viewer unsettled, it lingers
for some time to offer little consolation but plenty of shudders, shocking disgust, and an
absurd aftertaste to the point of pain and laughter. Grotesque, William Carlos Williams
said, is the vulnerable, pathetic fantasy we distort in our simultaneous search for love
and property. Grotesque is the mystery we eliminate to create the revolt of simple things,
goods, that desire mystery. Grotesque is what we become when we seclude ourselves in
the suburban community closed to wonder, the mechanical mirage of technological

1 Jan.
2 Jan.
3 Jan.

4 Jan.
5 Jan.
6 Jan.
7 Jan.

8 Jan.
9 Feb.
10 Feb.
11 Feb.
12 Feb.
13 Feb.

14 Feb.
15 Mar.
16 Mar.
17 Mar.
18 Mar.
19 Mar.
20 Mar.
21 Mar.
22 Mar.
23 Mar.
24 Mar.
25 Apr.
26 Apr.

Introduction: The G. Word Leonardo, Goya, Francis Bacon

Chris Marker, La Jete
Our G.: Under the sign of Kafka: The Metamorphosis
Kafka, The Metamorphosis, The Hunger Artist
Walter Benjamin, Some Reflections on Kafka
Art: Georg Grosz and other Expressionists
American G.: Flannery OConnor, Good Country People
The Old G.: Apuleius, The Golden Ass
Wolfgang Kayser, The Grotesque in Art and Literature
Art: Antique and medieval grotesqueries
G. Renaissance: Rabelais, from Gargantua and Pantagruel
M.M. Bakhtin, from Rabelais and his World
Art: Renaissance grotesqueries (Bosch, da Vinci, on and on)
18th-century G.: Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal
19th-century G. Baudelaire, The Essence of Laughter
Art: Honor Daumier and caricature in the 19th century
Robert Browning, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came
Edward Lear, from The Complete Nonsense
19th-c. G. and the Fantastic Nikolai Gogol, The Nose
E.T.A. Hoffmann - The Sandman
E.A. Poe, The Black Cat and The Imp of the Perverse
H.P. Lovecraft, Herbert WestReanimator & The Dunwhich Horror
Kayser, The Grotesque in Art and Literature
Art: Aubrey Beardsley
August Strindberg, The Ghost Sonata
20th-Century Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles and Cockroaches
Rynosuke Akutagawa, fromTales Grotesque and Curious
Louis-Ferdinand Cline, Journey to the End of the Night
Louis-Ferdinand Cline, Journey to the End of the Night
Stalinist and Nazi G.: propaganda, kitsch & death
Communist G.: M. Bulgakov, Master and Margarita
Art & Film: Soviet Socialist Realism
M. Bulgakov, Master and Margarita
M. Bulgakov, Master and Margarita
Art: Komar, Melamid and post-communist Russian humor
American Gothic G.: William Faulkner, A Rose for Emily
Latin-American G.: J.L. Borges, Brodies Report, There are More
Things..., and Shakespeares Memory
G. & Film: Fellini, Lynch, Monty Python
G. Capitalism: The evil eye of money; David Foster Wallace snippets
Global G.: too big to fail or live

Course Requirements
A. Class Participation (20%)
As part of the grade for participation, students are expected to participate in class
discussions and complete possible on-the-spot quizzes.
Notes on attendance: Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class. If you
have a legitimate reason to miss class (sickness, family crisis, religious holiday), please
contact me beforehand so that we can arrange for you to make up any missed material.
Missed classes and/or lack of class participation can add up and adversely affect your
class participation grade.
B. Class presentation (15%)
10-15 minutes; no need to hand in a written presentation; topics to be decided by
student in consultation with the Professor or the Teaching Assistant.
C. Mid-term exam (25%)
D. Final Exam (40%)
Both exams will consist of identification- and essay questions.
Required Texts
Apuleius, The Golden Ass
Mikhail Bulgakov, Master and Margarita
Louis-Ferdinand Cline, Journey to the End of the Night
Franz Kafka, Stories
(Excerpts and shorted texts will be made available on Sakai (Owl) ahead of time)
Aims of the Course
To study major expressions and representations of the grotesque life in literature, visual arts,
and theory from the Antiquity up to today.
Learning Outcomes
The acquisition of general knowledge concerning the place of the grotesque in different
cultural systems and media.
The increased facility at distinguishing grotesque manifestations from humor, the fantastic, the
shocking, or the absurd.
The exposure to a rich collection of artefacts, which will help students acquire a superior sense
of orientation and develop critical skills to distinguish among a variety of grotesque cultural
The development of analytic and synthetic skills when dealing with literary, artistic, filmic and
theoretical aspects of the grotesque.
The enhancement of the students historical, geographical and theoretical knowledge of
various cultures.
Students will improve their ability to express themselves on these and other related topics,
both orally (through in-class presentations) and in writing (through written examinations).
Course Guidelines Students are expected to attend all lectures and to complete all required
readings before coming to class. In-class presentations (which are not to be longer than 15
minutes) should be articulate, informative and provide personal analytic touch.

Plagiarism Students must write their essays and assignments in their own words. Whenever
students take an idea or a passage of a text from another author, they must acknowledge their
debt both by using quotation marks where appropriate, and by proper referencing such as
footnotes and citations. Plagiarism is a major academic offense (see Scholastic Offense Policy in
the Western Academic Calendar). The University of Western Ontario uses plagiarism checking
software. Students may be required to submit their written work in electronic form for plagiarism
Absenteeism Students seeking academic accommodation on medical grounds for any missed
tests, exams, participation components and/or assignments must apply to the Academic
Counseling office of their home Faculty and provide documentation. Academic accommodation
cannot be granted by the instructor or department.

UWOs Policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness

Downloadable Student Medical Certificate (SMC): under
the Medical Documentation heading
Note that, as e-mail will be used extensively for communication with the students, you
should make sure your UWO account is in order.