ENGL 218 A1: Textualities: Reading and Interpretation

C. Bracken

This course is an introduction to a style of reading that Michel Foucault once described as "assembling a field of dispersion." Generally speaking, this field is defined by the non-economic use of economic concepts and categories, such as expenditure, debt, and deficit. More specifically, we will assemble texts from literature, philosophy and anthropology to provide an overview to the theory of gift, the constitutive other of the commodity. Historically, the gift is said to mark the difference between capitalist and pre-capitalist societies and economies and between codified and uncodified legal systems. We will begin by defining certain key concepts, such as the principle of expenditure, and by reviewing classic texts, but we will gradually focus on four exemplary narratives of the gift from literature and film. Participants will be encouraged to undertake research projects on unofficial economies of discourse, particularly current debates about, for example, the size of government, the problem of debt and deficits, the restriction and expansion of public expenditures, welfare, public education, and the new information worker.

TEXTS:

Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share, Vol. 1

Jacques Derrida, Given Time

Marcel Mauss, Essay on the Gift

Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Scott Cutler Shershow, The Work and the Gift

Eden Robinson, Traplines

Edith Wharton, House of Mirth

Christmas in July (1940), dir. Preston Sturges

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), dir. Martin Scorsese