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Fall 2019 Comparative Literature: German GU4242 section 001
Dangerous Passions: Collecting, Hoarding
Dangerous Passions

Call Number 10310
Day & Time
Location
W 4:10pm-6:00pm
411 Kent Hall
Points 3
Grading Mode Standard
Approvals Required None
Instructor Annie Pfeifer
Type SEMINAR
Course Description The collector, warns the literary critic Walter Benjamin “is motivated by dangerous though domesticated passions.” Far from merely a playful or antiquarian practice, collecting was depicted by various authors and theorists as a pathological tendency which often borders on compulsion and kleptomania. This interdisciplinary seminar examines the psychological, economic, and aesthetic forces which motivate people to collect. From Noah’s Ark to A&E’s popular show, “Hoarders,” collecting is related to the practice of organizing, cataloguing, and understanding the world we live in. This seminar poses the question: to what extent is collecting a trans-historical phenomenon and to what extent is it a fundamentally modern process shaped by the expansion of capitalism and private property? How has technology informed the dynamics of collecting and how might we redefine it today given our virtually limitless electronic storage capabilities? Beginning with the Renaissance Wunderkammer and the emergence of the museum, we will examine what Benjamin calls the “domesticated” side of collecting. We will then turn our attention to the “dangerous” undercurrents of collecting by teasing out the differences between collecting, hoarding, and possessing. This seminar explores the dangerous political and ethical ramifications of collecting practices, such as the relationship between imperial conquest and the growth of museums, world fairs, and human zoos. Finally, to better understand the institutional dynamics of collecting, curating, and exhibiting, we will be visiting the American Museum of Natural History as well as the Trash Museum in Harlem.
Web Site Vergil
Department Germanic Languages
Enrollment 10 students (25 max) as of 8:02AM Sunday, February 23, 2020
Subject Comparative Literature: German
Number GU4242
Section 001
Division Interfaculty
Campus Morningside
Note In English
Section key 20193CLGR4242W001

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