Short Course Description
?How is it that orthography exists? It?s the most stupefying thing in the world,?
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Lacan writes in the ?Geneva Lecture on the symptom? (1975), asking a question that is impossible to answer except, as Clause Levi Strauss suggest, by myth. But it is long before Lacan that thinkers have not only pondered the enigma of the emergence of language but proposed myths in response to the impossible with which this question confronts them. In this core course, we shall first study the literary-cultural foundations of myth, especially as set forth by Levi Strauss, and long before that, by Giambattista Vico. We shall then examine various myths of origin ? first, myths of the origin of painting from Pliny the Elder through psychoanalyst Francoise Dolto and George Bataille?s analysis of the Lascaux cave paintings in The Tears of Eros, and then, after we consider Freud?s myth of the birth of civilization in Totem and Taboo, read myths of the origin of language ? one articulated in Plato?s Phaedrus and then analyzed by Derrida, and the fascinating but not often analyzed myth of Simonides that reverberates in the rhetorical tradition from Cicero onwards, and consider what it can teach us about the relation between the emergence of language and that of mourning, whose most prominent poetic vehicle has been the elegy