HUM 295 is an Honors Seminar

This discussion-based interdisciplinary seminar focuses on the concept of self through the exploration of transformation tales in cinematic and literary fictions from Japan, Morocco, Hungary, Italy, France and the United States. 

Our discussions include theories on the construction of self, and the social, cultural, psychological, and gender influences that play a role in the perception of Self as Other. Supporting concepts include: reading literature in translation, Japanese concepts of self and identity, the portrayal of women in contemporary Islamic literature.

Evaluation is based on active participation and a presentation (oral + written).


Samsa in Love

2013 Short story by Haruki Murakami

Translated from Japanese by Ted Goossen

Read the story in The New Yorker                                                    

      Illustration by Javier Jaén

Listen to Haruki Murakami reading a chapter from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle here (in English).


The Cloven Viscount
1952 Novella by Italo Calvino

Translated from Italian by Archibald Colquhoun

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (New York)

   Illustration by Shelton Walsmith

Filmed interview with Italo Calvino here

Italo Calvino, the Art of Fiction: Paris Review article by here

Europe of Cultures: conversation with Italo Calvino here


Neorealism in film: short video here 

An introduction to magic realism here 

Video by Maria Korporal here


Left: artwork by Italian artist Francesca Baerald

Cover for The Cloven Viscount  

The Sand Child

1985 Novel by Tahar ben Jelloun

Translated from French by Alan Sheridan
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press

Interview with Tahar ben Jelloun here 

"The Storyteller of Marrakech" here

UNESCO: Cultural space of Jemaa el-Fna Square here

Video on oral storytelling in Marrakech here


Metamorphosis: Immersive Kafka
2010 Experimental interactive short film
adaptation of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis
Digital Elite Inc. Los Angeles in partnership with researchers at the Technical University of Budapest in Hungary

Sándor Kardos, director
Screenplay by Gabor Nemeth

Online here

You can read Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis online at Project Gutenberg here.

The 360 degree immersive film is shot from the bug's perspective

2003 film (Japan)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa, director

Writers: Ken Furusawa and Kiyoshi Kurosawa


2011 film (France)

Céline Sciamma, director

Screenplay: Céline Sciamma

Consider the following comment by contemporary artist LaToya M. Hobbs:

"Visual images influence the psychological frame work upon which identity is established; particularly the images that one sees of him or herself or those that are representative of their community." 

Do you agree or disagree? Explain.

Study Transition (Double Self Portrait) by LaToya M. Hobbs. What do you see? What does the work of art express to you? 

Next study Double Portrait: Marci, also by Hobbs. What do you see? What does the work of art express to you?

Now go to the artist's website and read her "Artist Statement." Does it alter how you interact with Transition (Double Self Portrait) and Double Portrait: Marci? Explain.

How do the ideas Hobbs expresses in her Artist Statement transcend cultures? 

What do you think contributes to the construction of self identity? Think of universal influences, culture-specific influences, etc.

In this course we read literature in translation and watch foreign language films with subtitles. What difficulties might a translator encounter when translating a work from one language and culture to another? In what ways do translations and subtitles necessarily alter the original work? How do they influence our interaction with the work?

Do you see similarities between translating literature and films and expressing Self? Explain.

A portion of our seminar is focused on Nobel Prize winning philosopher Henri Bergson's theories of self, intelligence, instinct, and intuition. If you're interested in exploring further, but don't have time to read Bergson's texts right now, you may enjoy listening to an audio presentation by John David Ebert. Click here. Ebert's lecture is designed for an advanced philosophy class and so refers to numerous philosophers with whom you are perhaps not familiar. Don't let this discourage you. Focus on the main thrust of his ideas, which frequently coincide with theories exposed in our seminar sessions.

Make a free website with Yola