Narrative as Time Machine
This is a course about different ways to tell time. And the only way we can tell time is by telling a story about time. Note that the word “tell” figures heavily in both aspects. Stories engage us in issues of time in two ways. First, narrative happens in time, and we are always experiencing the different ways that stories shape this experience (“How long will it take me to read this novel before class?” Or “I had to read the same sentence three times before I understood it”). Second, narrative is always about time, or at least about different ways to represent time (historically, experientially, deep time, etc.) We will read a series of novels and study several films that engage these different ways of experiencing time. Among the works we’ll read will be H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, Virginia Woof’s Orlando, Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine, and Martin Amis’ Times Arrow. There will also be several films in the course, including La Jetée, The Terminator, and Back to the Future. These works will help us think about and discuss issues like the representation of history, the deep time of evolution, the expansion and contraction of time (and space) in our contemporary global society and narrative techniques like stream of consciousness and the distinction between fabula and sjuzhet.