AT 18-001_FA20: Course Alias:
In the 1999 film, The Matrix, the protagonist discovers an astounding truth: although he had believed in the reality around him, everything, including people he knew, originated in a computer-generated image fed directly to his brain. This scenario, in which others are nothing more than an illusion with no interior life, is not a modern invention. Centuries before, Rene Descartes asked whether we can know if others exist. Perhaps, Descartes mused, they are simply perfected machines or a hallucination created by a malevolent demon. In this course, we will study how, as in Descartes, French/Francophone conceptions of mind and body inform our understanding of others. We will start with how Descartes casts others as unknowable in questioning their existence before moving to how the Haitian zombie myth casts the other as a threat through images of human bodies as receptacles for monstrous minds. Finally, we will study French existentialist depictions of sex and love that cast others as an unavoidable social force working on our "free" choices of ourselves and our bodies. The course?s main focus is literature and philosophy, but films and podcasts will clarify each theme's legacy for contemporary concerns, such as the existentialists' relevance for #MeToo.