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First-Year Interdisciplinary Seminar: Double, Double

Semester and Year FA 2019
Course Number FIRST-UG89
Section 001
Instructor Eugene Vydrin
Days MW
Time 6:20 PM - 7:35 PM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


What happens when we look out into the world and find our own face staring back? An encounter with a double is an intimation of immortality, of the body’s survival beyond its limits, which reminds the self of its own demise. A double is the outward projection of internal division, a copy that displaces the original, continuity that tears the fabric of rationality. This class will explore the ambivalence of the double by examining its repeated appearances in literature, photography and film, psychoanalysis and critical theory. Freud’s concept of the uncanny explains the double as our confrontation with what we failed to keep hidden from ourselves, the return of the repressed. But doubling is also a form of magic, a practice of making resemblances that live a borrowed life, and a way of knowing the world: an “embodied knowing” by imitating, knowledge as mimicry rather than mastery. In Lacan's theory of the mirror stage, mimicry is how we form our ego: we imitate our own reflection, longing for an image of bodily coherence that we can never match. In photography and film, doubling defines the very nature of the medium, which simultaneously copies the world and causes it to disappear. We will consider the camera itself as a double, a mechanical eye that positions the viewer’s gaze and projects it onto the film. Students will write several analytic essays exploring these views of the double through close readings of texts on the syllabus. Readings may include essays by Rank, Freud, Kofman, Benjamin, Taussig, Lacan, Mulvey, and Silverman; fiction by Borges, Poe, Conrad, Hoffmann, Shelley, Wilde, and Woolf; photography and films by Arbus, Hitchcock, and Mulvey.


All Syllabi

Course Type

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