Freshman Seminar 33x. Complexity in Works of Art: Ulysses and Hamlet

Instructor: Philip Fisher
Monday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: Barker 222

Is the complexity, the imperfection, the difficulty of interpretation, the unresolved meaning found in certain great and lasting works of literary art a result of technical experimentation?  Or is the source extreme complexity—psychological, metaphysical, or spiritual?  Does it result from limits within language, or from language’s fit to thought and perception?  Do the inherited forms found in literature permit only certain variations within experience to reach lucidity?  Is there a distinction in literature between what can be said and what can be read?  The members of the seminar will investigate the limits literature faces in giving an account of mind, everyday experience, thought, memory, full character, and situation in time.  The seminar will make use of a classic case of difficulty, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and a modern work of unusual complexity and resistance to both interpretation and to simple comfortable reading, Joyce’s Ulysses.  Reading in exhaustive depth these two works will suggest the range of meanings for terms like complexity, resistance, openness of meaning, and experimentation within form.