At a time of growing cultural clash and dissonance in the ‘real world’, culture (film and literature) often reflects anxieties and hopes concerning a ‘mythical’ encounter with the Alien Other from beyond our world. This course will examine the cultural encounter with the Alien in film and narrative, but also in the growing number of ‘conjectural’ documentaries where reliable witnesses recount their putative experiences with extraterrestrial civilizations or envoys. This realm currently is an intriguing mix of classic ‘futuristic” film (from Bladerunner to 2001 A space Odyssey) to newer explorations of the encounter with artificial intelligence as Other (Her, AI, Wall-E) to even more interesting portrayals of human culture from the perspective of the Visiting Other (Under the Skin, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Kapak, Star Man, ET). The course will also look at the growing popularity of documentary videos speculating about aliens and visitation (the History Channel, for instance, in the Ancient Alien series, which explains ancient mythologies in light of ‘new’ encounters with Others from space, or the many documentaries on the Science Channel and the Sci-Fi and Discovery Channels recounting actual sightings and encounters, often by very credible witnesses such as astronauts or military pilots). How can we distinguish between fact and fiction? Even if we do not or cannot determine what is ‘true’, what does the cultural discourse about radical Otherness tell us about the growing conflict in our encounter with radical ‘others’ on earth (jihadists, for instance, or those voices in political life who consider anyone from another culture as a threat, here in the US).
The theoretical frame will come from psychoanalysis, and in particular, from my own book at MIT Is Oedipus Online? Siting Freud after Freud, which discusses nonlinear science and millennial culture in Freudian terms, including our framing of and response to Radical Otherness as myth and as geopolitical reality.
JERRY FLIEGER has been lecturing and teaching worldwide, as part of her research on globalism and millennial theory. In 1995 and 1996 she was keynote speaker at the University of Nanjing and the University of Beijing in the People's Republic of China and at Cyberconf 96, the international conference on new media sponsored by Telefonica. In 1997 she taught seminars at the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University in South Africa and at the Janos Pannonius and Svegad Universities in Hungary, and lectured in Rio de Janiero, Brazil (Sociedad Psychanlica Internacional). In 2000, Flieger spent a semester at the University of Melbourne (Australia) as Distinguished Visitor; gave a series of public lectures at the India Institute of Technology in New Delhi; lectured in Japan at Kyoto University and the University of Yokahama as well as at the Institute for Media Arts and Sciences; and at the Harvard Center for Cultural Studies, Lacan faculty and analyst seminar. This year, Professor Flieger is participating in an ongoing seminar at Cornell Medical School, New York City, History of Psychiatry Division. Flieger just completed a term as Chair of the MLA National Division of Psychoanalytic Approaches to Literature.