Fall 2023

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12:30pm - 2:30pm

CompLit 102Y: Literary Biography & Documentary Film

Thomas Wisniewski

What is the relation between literary biography and documentary film? What might the life of a writer tell us about the work? To explore these questions, we will study a range of writers in tandem with documentaries made about their lives. With an emphasis on travel, exile, expatriatism, multilingualism, modernism, and Paris as a literary nexus, we will read work by a selection of twentieth-century authors including James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, Isak Dinesen, Ernest Hemingway, Beryl Markham, and Julia Child. Frequently we will pair the viewing of a documentary film with selections from the sources on which it is based. As we challenge the intentional fallacy, we will analyze the cinematic technique with which the film is made and the literary evidence from which it draws. Selections of fictional and nonfictional texts featured in the documentaries will frame our seminar discussions. A centerpiece of the course will be the work of Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen, a Dane who wrote primarily in English, whose memoirs will be read alongside her short fiction and compared to the feature films and documentaries made about her life and her writing. To that end, the seminar will offer students the opportunity to collaborate on and contribute original research to a new documentary film about Blixen’s 1959 transatlantic tour, including her legendary trip to New York and Boston.

4 Credits

In Person