Skip to Gallatin Navigation Skip to Gallatin Main Content

First-Year Interdisciplinary Seminar: Beyond Language: The Surreal, the Monstrous, and the Mystical

Semester and Year FA 2015
Course Number FIRST-UG65
Section 001
Instructor Gregory Erickson
Days MW
Time 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


Texts of the surreal, the monstrous, and the mystical are portrayals of experiences that, while they may be outside traditional logic, are clearly central to the human imagination. The texts studied in this course will reveal these experiences as metaphors of anxiety, depictions of radical subjectivity, and as manifestations of our unconscious fears and desires. Students are presented with the fascinating but difficult project of researching, interpreting, and describing irrational mental states often said to be “beyond language,” yet existing within language. Through discussion, informal writing, and experiential activities, we will take various approaches to understanding depictions of these experiences as well as their surrounding discourse. We will focus on issues of order vs. chaos, logic vs. irrationality, chance and fate, immanence and transcendence, self and other, and the concepts of nothingness, the uncanny, and the posthuman. Readings will include essays from diverse fields such as psychology (Freud, Lacan), science (Hawking, Sagan, Gleick), and literary and cultural theory (Haraway, Beal, Kurzweil), as well as surrealistic poetry, literary monster narratives from the Bible to  Dracula , mystical and devotional texts, and testimonies of paranormal encounters. We will also look at visual art, installation art, film, and television.


All Syllabi

Course Type

First-Year Program: Interdisciplinary Seminars (FIRST-UG)