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Don DeLillo: Fiction, Paranoia, and Empire is unfortunately unavailable

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Erich Auerbach: Mimesis

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research @ 68 Jay St, Brooklyn, NY

Explore the profound insights of Erich Auerbach's "Mimesis" in a journey through Western literary tradition. Join us as we delve into Auerbach's groundbreaking analysis, unraveling the complexities of literary representation from Homer to modernity. 

(29) All levels 21 and older

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Don DeLillo: Fiction, Paranoia, and Empire

Uncover the intersection of literature, politics, and culture in a thought-provoking course that examines the themes of fear, power, and influence in contemporary fiction.

  • All levels
  • 21 and older
  • $335
  • Earn 3,350 reward points
  • 411 S 5th St, Brooklyn, NY
  • 12 hours over 4 sessions

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  • $335
  • 12 hours over 4 sessions
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Class Description


What you'll learn in this literature class:

Lauded as one of the most skillful practitioners of what might be called the paranoid style in American fiction, Don DeLillo captures with keen detail and hypnotic prose the casual recklessness of Americans in the world, uncertain of the levers of power that secure and undergird their self-importance. Coming “of age” artistically in the 1980s, DeLillo drew on the atmospherics of three decades of Cold War and U.S. superpower to construct characters and plots that embody and exemplify the contemporary American condition: opaque, suspicious, violent, fantasy-laden. In two novels in particular, The Names (1982) and Libra (1988), DeLillo offers character studies of American “innocents abroad,” moving through the medium of U.S. power, yet always unsure—of friends, enemies, and purpose. In The Names, the fictional James Axton, a risk analyst adrift in the turbulent Eastern Mediterranean of the late ‘70s, assesses the terroristic threats that menace his corporate clients; while, in Libra, the historical Lee Harvey Oswald, perennial enigma at the heart of the Kennedy Assasination, travels the road of political illusion, disillusion, and eventual co-optation by the CIA. Subject to large, shadowy forces, both Axton and Oswald raise questions, for themselves and the reader, about meaning, knowledge, identity, and the nature of power. Reading DeLillo, we encounter new connections between geopolitics and postmodernity: In what ways is U.S. superpower, in its overwhelming diffusion, a force for destabilization—not simply of enemy regimes, but of norms, unities, meanings and narratives?

In this course, we’ll read both novels in full against the backdrop of the second phase of the Cold War and the political and economic structures that defined that period. Starting with The Names, we’ll situate the expansion of American corporate power into the Middle East during the period of the Islamic Revolution, as risk is used to hedge resistance and upheaval while Americans abroad sort through the countercultural legacies of the Sixties. At once fascinated by science, language, and information in the ruins of ancient civilization and drily satirizing the self-absorption of expat culture, DeLillo’s narrative marks the neoliberal turn of the 1980s on the eve of American ascendency both in the region and globally. With Libra, we’ll track back to the beginning of this period, with DeLillo’s scrupulous, ambivalent retelling of Oswald’s path to historical destiny, from bitter poverty in the Bronx (growing up near the young DeLillo) to his leftist turn in the U.S. military, subsequent defection to the Soviet Union before becoming an unwitting tool in the CIA’s machinations against Kennedy. Uncovering the loam of social history that shaped Oswald, DeLillo considers the complex set of forces and unmanageable totality that lies beyond all of his characters. A practitioner of what one critic calls the “systems novel” and another the “paranoid chronotope,” DeLillo helps us to understand the world system of the Cold War—and today—as manifested through American hegemony. In addition to the two novels, we’ll read Cold War historiography by Charles Maier, Andrew Bacevich, and Odd Arne Westad, as well as theory and criticism by Immanuel Wallerstein, Tom LeClair, and Frida Beckman, plus interviews with DeLillo himself.

Please Note:

There *is* no physical Brooklyn Institute. We hold our classes all over (thus far) Brooklyn and Manhattan, in alternative spaces ranging from the back rooms of bars to bookstores to spaces in cultural centers, including the Center for Jewish History, the Goethe-Institut, and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. We can (and do) turn any space into a classroom. You will be notified of the exact location when you register for a class.

Instructors will contact students approximately one week prior to the first class with reading assignments and details about the course location.

Refund Policy

  • Upon request, we will refund less 5% cancellation fee of a course up until 6 business days before its start date.
  • Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to 75% refund or full course credit.
  • After the first class: 50% refund or 75% course credit.
  • No refunds or credits will be given after the second class.

In any event where a customer wants to cancel their enrollment and is eligible for a full refund, a 5% processing fee will be deducted from the refund amount.

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Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

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