Clarice Lispector: Modernism, Mysticism, and Morality

Instructor: Rebecca Ariel Porte
Casa Hispanica
612 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027

Coming at last to global attention, Clarice Lispector’s fiction is acclaimed for its enchanting lyricism, psychological acuity, and ethical seriousness. Interested equally in the sensuous particulars and abstract questions of morality, Lispector was a mystic in a disenchanted world, always reaching, as she wrote in her novel Água Viva, for a “word that has its own light.” In many ways, her writing chronicles the attempt to take the absent divine by surprise. However, Lispector’s mysticism is thoroughly informed by the dynamic political landscape of 20th-century Brazil and her experiences as an intellectual and a Ukrainian-born Jewish woman.

Beginning with Near to the Wild Heart (1943), the experimental first novel that led the rapturous Brazilian press to dub her “hurricane Clarice,” and concluding with The Hour of the Star (1977), published just after her death, this course traces the evolution of mysticism and morality in Lispector’s work. Readings will also feature texts significant to Lispector’s intellectual genealogy and critical reception, including Spinoza’s Ethics and Hélène Cixous’s Reading with Clarice Lispector. Questions we’ll consider include: In what way is Lispector’s writing moral, and how, if at all, does that morality change over time? What does it mean to be a mystic? How does Lispector’s mysticism fit into, advance, or subvert traditions of Jewish mysticism? How does Lispector’s work engage or produce a mode of feminism? Where in her notoriously evasive writing can we find traces of Lispector’s response to the atrocities of the twentieth century – and particularly anti-Semitic violence? Finally, how does Lispector challenge the boundaries of expression through language?

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30PM
November 13 — December 11, 2017
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet on Monday, November 27th.

$315.00

Registration Open

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