FSEM1010-24.FSEM: You'd Be Bord Without Us.F16.Brandon,John

Faculty Name

John Brandon

Document Type






Course Subject


Course Number


Course Section


Course Title

FSEM: You'd Be Bord Without Us

Academic Term and Year

Fall 2016



Area of Study


Course Description

In any compelling narrative, something must threaten—bodily, emotionally, financially, spiritually, whatever—the main character or characters. In this First-Year Seminar, we will explore as many of the countless types of villains (femmes fatales to high-IQ sociopaths to ravenous sea creatures to perilous weather) as time allows, and the various methods, tools, and talents these villains employ to enact their sundry antagonisms. We will note the damning flaws, sinister predilections, and ruinous formative experiences that guide these evildoers down their dark paths, and the different brands of wickedness they practice, from sabotage to psychological abuse to good old physical menace. We will examine what lends some villains a sympathetic quality, while others come off purely despicable start to finish and top to bottom. We will consider the undeniable human fascination with these shadowy, damaged figures, the strange attraction we’re apt to feel to the unpredictability, unconventionality, and rebelliousness that surround them. We will ponder the way reader/viewer expectations sometimes differ in regard to villains from genre to genre (for instance, the Joker would feel awkwardly over-the-top in film noir, but works beautifully as Batman’s adversary), and ponder also the complex emotional responses often elicited by anti-heroes and noble law-breakers. Texts will include: short stories—perhaps Richard Bausch’s “Nobody in Hollywood” and “The Man Who Knew Belle Starr,” “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” Stanley Elkin’s “A Poetics for Bullies;” novels—perhaps The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, Misery by Stephen King, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury; and movies—perhaps Jaws, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Double Indemnity. (I write ‘perhaps’ because this is not a full list, and some of the texts/films listed may change.) CAUTIONARY NOTE: Because this course will focus on villains, we will without doubt encounter disturbing subject matter. The assigned texts and films will feature bad human beings committing bad deeds, seeking to traumatize and belittle and take advantage of and kill other people.

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