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”? Increasingly, we find ourselves in insular communities of like-minded people, consuming culture curated to please us. Not only does social media control the content we consume, it also controls the way we respond to it. By translating complex feelings and ideas into pictorial signs, social media tells a simplified story about who we are, what we know, and where we belong, glossing over the paradoxical nature of community as both a refuge from violence and alienation and a site of that very violence and alienation. How might we tell these stories differently? How might we capture our human complexity and ambivalent desires? How might we specify the relationship between the individual and the group?  

This FIG offers two courses on modes of storytelling in society. The Literature and Society course will address these questions through a comparatist approach to literary, cinematic, and philosophical narratives. Assignments ranging from academic papers to video projects and fiction writing will help us to engage with storytelling both as critics and practitioners. While the Comparative Literature course focuses on aesthetic cultural texts, (fiction, literary nonfiction, and film), the FIG’s accompanying Media Studies course focuses on nonfiction storytelling, examining both the historical and structural features of media and its representations of gender, race, and class that form the basis of so many communities. 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:

UGST 109 First-Year Experience Seminar - 1-credit

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.

J 201 Media and Society - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits 

Introduces the history, nature, and issues of the various media of mass communication and their effects on society. Why did media systems evolve as they did? Who determines the nature of media messages? Provides an overview of professional fields, including print and electronic news, magazine journalism, advertising, and public relations.