Literature and Film: Ghostly Temporalities

The course examines the relation between concepts of modernity and figurations of ghostly time in film, philosophy and literature. We begin with a reading of Hamlet, laying the groundwork for a study of the influence of the play on 20th Century thought. The second part focuses on works by Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce; on philosophical texts by Nietzsche, Derrida and Deleuze (especially their readings of Hamlet), and on films by Alfred Hitchcock, Chris Marker, the Coen Brothers, Terry Gilliam. Special attention will be paid to the relation between time and technology, the figure of the ghost, the theme of falsehood (the role of the simulacrum in the twentieth century representations of time), and the conventions of genre (tragic time vs comic time). 

Course Outline

Part I: Hamlet: tragic time vs tragic action

  • Hamlet and tragic action
  • Hamlet: the figure of the ghost
  • Hamlet: the bait of falsehood
  • Hamlet and modernity

Part II: Modern tragic thought

  • Nietzsche reads Hamlet
  • Nihilism and disgust
  • Deleuze on Nietzsche and the tragic (from Nietzsche and Philosophy)
  • Deleuze on Hamlet

Part III: Modernism and historical responsibility

  • Time, money and modernity (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)
  • The madding of time (Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent)
  • Modern historicity: Nietzsche (“On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life”)
  • Modern historicity: De Man (“Literary History and Literary Modernity”)
  • Modern historicity: Derrida (Excerpt from Specters of Marx)
  • History or life (Virginia Woolf, Orlando)

Part IV: Ghosts and the moving image

  • Hitchcock and the bait of falsehood (Vertigo; North by Northwest)
  • Chris Marker and Terry Gilliam: Hitchcockian simulacra (Vertigo, La JetéeTwelve Monkeys)
  • Chris Marker and the apocalyptic imaginary (La Jetée)
  • 80's neo-noir and the time out of joint (Joel and Ethan Cohen, Blood Simple)