"Invisibility: A Literary History" (Proposed for a future course)
This course will explore the motif of invisibility, actual and metaphorical, in literature. We will begin with Plato and continue up to the 19th century with shorter works such as Fitz James-O'Brien's "What Was It?" and W. S. Gilbert's ballad "The Perils of Invisibility," leading to H. G. Wells's The Invisible Man (1897). We will also read a small selection of nonfiction pieces, such as W. C. Röntgen's article "On a New Kind of Rays" on the discovery of x-rays in 1896, which have important connections with the life of invisibility in the literary imagination. Our last work will be Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (1952), in which we will consider how Ellison's groundbreaking novel of race relations alludes and responds to Wells's earlier text. We will watch the 1933 James Whale's film The Invisible Man and discuss how Hollywood adapts the novel for the screen, considering the historical and cultural context of the interim years between WWI and WWII. Beyond our discussions of actual and metaphorical invisibility, this course will cover a vast array of themes and topics including alienation, race, gender, disability, and technology.