Spanish 280.3: Mimesis

Th 3-6, 54 Barrows | Instructor: Brizuela | CCN: 23343

Units: 4

This seminar will work its way through the critical concept of mimesis in 20th Century theory, and 20th and 21st Century aesthetic practices (literature, photography, film, art) and political life. The work of Aristotle, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Roger Caillois, Jacques Derrida, Michael Taussig and Kaja Silverman will construct the blueprint for our journey, as we make sense of this elusive concept. Miming, imitation, mimicry, reproduction, resemblance, similarities, the irreducible material element of nature itself, becoming-other, analogies: all of these, and many others, are ways in which the aesthetic and the political realms of human life have understood mimesis. As opposed to Plato, who saw in the world of mimetic imitation a threat, for Aristotle man is the most imitative of all creatures, so that mimesis and mediation are mankind’s fundamental ways of getting closer to the real by learning from and about nature. For Benjamin humans have a particular gift for the mimetic, and the mimetic faculty is above all a human product that is historically changing. For Adorno, mimicry –and therefore mimesis- was a necessary strategy for guaranteeing life. For both Benjamin and Adorno, in the post-Englightenment world, with the epistemic rupture of a certain sensuous relationship between man and the world, crystallized first around the emergence of science (and later technologies of reproduction), mimesis as a the form of truth entered into crisis. It is the height of this crisis –the 20th and 21st centuries- that we will investigate in this seminar. We will draw on cases and examples from the Luso-Hispanic world, but all seminar participants can and should use the seminar to work through their own corpus of materials from other geographical and disciplinary areas.  Seminar conducted in English.