The Literature of Disgust, Rabelais to Nausea

Spring 2018-2019

26300

Zach Samalin

This course will survey a range of literary works which take the disgusting as their principle aesthetic focus, while also providing students with an introduction to core issues and concepts in the history of aesthetic theory, such as the beautiful and the sublime, disinterested judgment and purposive purposelessness, taste and distaste. At the same time, our readings will allow us to explore the ways in which the disgusting has historically been utilized as a way of producing socially critical literature, by representing that which a culture categorically attempts to marginalize, exclude and expel. Readings will engage with the variety of aesthetic functions that the disgusting has been afforded throughout modern literary history, including the carnivalesque and grotesque in Rabelais and the bawdy and satirical in Swift; Zola’s gruesome naturalism, Sartre’s existential nausea and Clarice Lispector’s narrative of spiritual abjection; as well as Thomas Bernhard’s experiments with contempt and Dennis Cooper’s pseudo‐pornographic genre explorations. We will read widely in literary and cultural theories of disgust, as well as in the psychological and biological literature of the emotion. Prerequisite: Strong stomach. (Pre-1650, 1650-1830, 1830-1940, Fiction, Theory)