Currently, our everyday lives are controlled by a microorganism, the 80-100nm-sized SARS-CoV-2, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. Or, rather, fears about the social, economic, and political consequences if the entire human population were exposed to the virus unchecked have introduced far-reaching restrictions to our everyday lives. We all know the projections, we all hear and read the news about national responses (and the lack thereof), we all have seen images and videos of deserted cities, and we all knowand experiencethe rapid and radical changes to our daily lives the virus has brought about.
While the media were quick to invoke recent pandemics such as the 2003 SARS outbreak in China, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the 2012 MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia, and the 2015 MERS outbreak in China, various online outlets nearly instantaneously published recommendations for "books to read" (e.g. Vulture (Links to an external site.), Time (Links to an external site.), and The Guardian (Links to an external site.)) and "movies to watch" (e.g. Film School Rejects (Links to an external site.), Tech Radar (Links to an external site.), and The Wrap (Links to an external site.)). Drawing on this cultural climate, this seminar will explore both the histories of epidemics and pandemics in the United States and their representations in literature and popular culture. We will thus follow a historical trajectory from European settlers' introduction of smallpox to the New World to the "China virus" and examine cultural artifacts stretching from Charles Brockden Brown's novel Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs of the Year 1793 (1799) to contemporary films, comics, and video games.
In so doing, students will (1) develop an understanding of the media's role in shaping panics surrounding epidemics and pandemics; (2) acquire a feel for media-specific strategies and aesthetics pertaining to plague narratives; and (3) become aware of the interplay between cultural artifacts and their surrounding socio-historical environments.
The course is part of admission "Anmeldung gesperrt (global)".
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