When we read a novel, watch a film, see a work of art, we respond by engaging both our senses and our intellect – what we feel, what we know, and what we are learning. Therefore, our processes of interpretation are constituted within the productive tension between rationality and affect. As we mediate between the two, we critically engage not only with the texts, but also with our previous knowledge, our beliefs and values system, hence with our identity.

In this course we will interrogate these dynamics by reflecting on our own reading/viewing practices. How do they interact with what we already know? How do they affect us and challenge our pre-determined knowledge? How do they frame our thinking? In particular, we ask how ‘reading’ about the past can help us to understand the present. How do literary and visual narratives shape the way we interpret ourselves and the world we inhabit? And how do they influence how we imagine the future?

Trying to answer these questions at the cusp of rationality and affect will involve a continuous awareness of the potentialities and limits of critical thinking. What is critique? How to be critical when our emotions are involved? How to be self-critical about our own affective experiences?