Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


English 101 Section B25. Writing About The Charismatic Self: Delight, Deceit, Deliverance

What is charisma? Max Weber suggested that “Charisma is a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he [or she] is set apart from ordinary [human beings] and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.” Does it rely solely on a human presence? How can it be/Can it be represented in fiction and film? Instead of thinking about “reality” and illusion as opposites, what about thinking of each feeding and sustaining the other? Can writing itself be described as a charismatic act? How can we be both seduced by art (action/participation/self-hypnosis) and then distance ourselves enough (reflection/analysis/interpretation) to examine it, be suspicious of how it works its effects on us? And is this seduction/suspicion perilous equilibrium part of what the liberal arts as an approach is all about? These are some of the questions we will examine in student-run weekly panels and 5-page papers throughout the semester.

We will explore various works that may include The Great Gatsby, both the film and novel, Toni Morrison’s Sula, the films Anderson’s “The Master” and Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” Joan Didion’s Democracy, Paul Auster’s Leviathan, Don DeLillo’s Mao II, John Fowles’ “The Ebony Tower” and other novels and films.