Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Wisdom of Crowds (LA)

This seminar will study the history and nature of fairy tales, superstitions, conspiracy theories, and urban myths, particularly in regard to the way that they reflect the concerns and fears of society. We will examine the ways in which these differ from one another, and the means by which entire communities create, preserve, disseminate and fortify them. The unconscious is often manifested in metaphor, particularly in literature and film, and the legitimate anxieties, fears (and guilt) that it reflects will be the subject of our study. We will discuss witchcraft, sorcery, alchemy and the philosopher’s stone, and prophecies of the end of the world, as well as contemporary myths and conspiracy theories, and the technological, religious and cultural shifts that cause them. Students will read The fairy tales of Han Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Madame d’Aulnoy, as well as essays by Bruno Bettelheim, Marina Warner, Alison Lurie, and Angela Carter. We will read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson), White Noise (DeLillo), and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Jackson). We will watch the films ‘Let the Right One In;’ ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (Cocteau); ‘Moonlight;’ and ‘Song of Sparrows.



FRS 169

Tuesdays + Thursdays,
3:00-4:20 PM


Susanna Moore