In Search of Belonging: Storytelling and Community

In Search of Belonging

Are we more connected than ever, or lonelier than ever? And are we lonelier precisely because of the constant availability of “connection”? The age of social media puts a camera to our every move, following us into our homes, asking us to join groups of like-minded people, tracking our likes and dislikes, and translating complex feelings and ideas into simple signs. In all of these ways, we are asked to define ourselves, sort ourselves into groups we call communities, and tell a simplified story about who we are, what we know, and where we belong. How might we tell these stories differently? How might we capture our human complexity and ambivalent desires? Are we giving sufficient thought to the relationship between the individual and the group? This FIG will offer a comparatist approach to literary, cinematic, and philosophical narratives alongside an anthropological approach to storytelling as a kind of social learning. Both of these perspectives will contribute to an examination of the utopian and dystopian dimensions of the bonds that ground communities as we attempt to answer the question of whether “belonging” is still imaginable.


Students explore the intersection of topics by taking the following course package*:

*Courses in the FIG package may be subject to change

COLT 199 College Connections - FIG Seminar, 1-credit

This College Connections seminar is scheduled as remote, but will likely have in-person components in fall.

COLT 231 Literature and Society - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits

Introduces students to comparative literature as an interdisciplinary mode of study, where traditional literary critical analysis of culture is integrated with analysis of socio-political forms, questions and problems. In general, the field of comparative literature takes a comparative approach to national traditions, exploring diverse cultural forms within a global framework. In COLT 231 that global framework also includes methods and research drawn from other academic disciplines: namely, from political science, sociology, the study of law and other related fields. Such interdisciplinary study is fundamental to comparative literature as a discipline, helps prepare students for a global and multifaceted world, and provides a viewpoint increasingly central to the humanities in general.

ANTH 163 Origins of Storytelling - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits

Why do humans tell stories? This course addresses this question by exploring the hunter-gatherer context in which storytelling emerged. Drawing on evolutionary theory and related disciplines, this course explores the origins of literature in terms of the information demands of ancestral human environments. The first part of the course outlines the social and ecological conditions under which storytelling emerged, the adaptations that make social learning and storytelling possible, and the foundations of cultural transmission. The second part examines cross-cultural themes in hunter-gatherer oral traditions—e.g., tricksters, monsters, warfare, mating—in relation to recurrent problems of forager life.