HC221H: Narratives of Retribution & Revenge

Professor: Ulrick Casimir

4.00 credits

  • CRN 21040: Tuesday & Thursday, 1400-1520 @ MCK 122

Focused on both narrative readings (mostly poetry, drama, and short fiction) and films, this course concerns how different cultures, over time, have examined through narrative the mechanics, potentialities, limitations, and consequences of retribution and revenge.  Over the term, we will work together to unpack “revenge” as it applies to narrative; we will also examine why (and how) the desire for revenge and retribution has surfaced—and continues to surface—so frequently in both literature and film.

Readings span the 17th century through the 21st century and range widely in terms of audience and appeal.  Primary written texts include works by Thomas Kyd (The Spanish Tragedy), Heinrich von Kleist (“Michael Kohlhaas”), Edgar Allan Poe (“William Wilson”), Robert Browning (“My Last Duchess”), and Gabriel Garcia Márquez (“Chronicle of a Death Foretold”), as well as Andre Dubus II (“Killings”), Roald Dahl (“Nunc Dimittis”), Jean Patrick Manchette (Fatale); Cornell Woolrich’s Rendezvous in Black, and Stephen King (Carrie; “Dolan’s Cadillac”).  Prospective films include Ivan Dixon’s The Spook Who Sat By the Door (1973), Todd Field’s In the Bedroom (2001), Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy (2003), Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners (2013) and Kimberly Peirce’s version of Carrie (2013).  Secondary texts include short critical essays specifically selected to help contextualize the assigned readings and films, as well as brief selections from longer pieces (book-length works by Georges Bataille and René Girard, for instance) more broadly germane to the theme and approach of the course.  Written work will mostly consist of short weekly assignments/journal entries as well as two essays, the first at 3-4 pages, and the second at 5-6 pages.