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If This Is an Author: Primo Levi and the Politics of Authorship (FYS)
RL&L 130F
Fall 2024
Section: 01  

Imagine this: an alleged Holocaust survivor in Pennsylvania frequently makes appearances in schools and other gatherings to discuss his experiences in a concentration camp. He shows the number tattooed on the inside of his wrist. It is later discovered that this is not his number but, rather, Primo Levi's, noted Italian chemist, Holocaust survivor, and writer of many genres (testimonial and memoir, poetry, science fiction, non-fiction) that have been translated into more than 40 languages worldwide. Not only this, but the stories he told--so that a living memory of the Shoah could be carried forward to younger generations--were not his but, rather, the stories of others.

What do these appropriations of text (an Auschwitz identification number) and body tell us? The subject of our course is the holder of that identification number, Primo Levi. In this course that focuses on Levi's works, we will explore questions of authorship, reception, and appropriation of a non-Anglophone writer who confronted some of the most difficult themes of the 20th century: genocide, evil, the uses of science and technology, the importance of clear communication, the relationship between historical truth and memory, and the meaning of life.

In this First Year Seminar, students will hone their writing skills by reflecting on what an author is in theory (e.g., Foucault, Barthes) and in practice, engaging with and reacting to Levi's works through such questions as: What makes a literary work authentic and why should we trust the words of an author? How do authors affirm their authority differently in their own country and abroad, and what is the role of publishers, translators, and critics in their reception? What happens when an author becomes a character for another author, and, more generally, what are the aesthetic and ethical implications of appropriating an author's body (of work)? These are some of the questions that will animate our discussions and provide the basis for writing assignments.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA RLAN
Course Format: DiscussionGrading Mode: Student Option
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ITST)
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on JUL-21-2024
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