University of British Columbia

Course Taught

001B Arts One, “Repetition Compulsion”, is a full-year liberal arts program for selected first-year students that includes a weekly large lecture (w/ 100 students) and is followed by two seminars (w/ 20 students) and five tutorials (w/ 4 students). This program is also team taught with faculty from various disciplines such as English, History, Political Science, Philosophy, and Sociology. The theme of “Repetition Compulsion” covered an array of texts that examined the idea of the remake or remodel. Because the Arts One program offers an unusually concentrated teaching and learning experience (cross-disciplinary and inter-textual), please see below the full-year course description that is copied directly from the Arts One website. The reading list for the year is also included at the end.


“Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?”

–Andy Warhol

Are great works stand-alone moments of original genius and inspiration, or copies, adaptations, and remixes endlessly presented as new? This question gains new importance in a world where digital technologies create a dizzying array of mash-ups, remixes, and memes, and where pastiche, sequels, adaptations, and remakes routinely out-do the “classics” from which they draw inspiration.

In the age of the remix, what is original, and, beyond the obvious issue of copyright, does it really matter? This course explores the possibility that our fascination with adaptation and borrowing is the latest manifestation of an age-old tendency to refashion what has gone before that may not only place remaking on a par with other forms of creation, but entirely undermine the notion of originality.

Repetition is never srepetion compulsionimple and takes many forms, from subconscious or deliberate imitation or homage to parody and subversion. From the traces of Plato’s allegory of the cave in the simulated reality of the Wackowski brothers film The Matrix, Rousseau’s secularized reconstruction of the story of creation and loss of Eden presented in Genesis, Atwood’s imaginative reworking of Homer’s Odyssey, Francis Ford Coppola’s relocation (and Achebe’s scathing rejection) of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Kamau Brathwaite’s transformation of Sycorax from the dead witch of Shakespeare’s Tempest to the living muse of the Caribbean literary canon, to Alan Moore’s alternative history of a Cold War America complete with costumed superheroes, following Arthur Miller’s indictment in The Crucible, we invite you to join us in exploring the ways in which invention and creation can be both submerged and inspired by a deceptively familiar past.



Full list of readings:

  • Bible, “Genesis”
  • Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
  • Homer, The Odyssey
  • Atwood, The Penelopiad
  • Plato, The Republic
  • Wackowski bros., The Matrix
  • Sophocles, Antigone
  • Appelfeld, Until the Dawn’s Light
  • Hobbes, Leviathan
  • Shakespeare, The Tempest
  • Wilcox, The Forbidden Planet
  • Brathwaite, “Selected Poems”
  • Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality
  • Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols
  • Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents
  • Hacking, Rewriting the Soul
  • Gilman, “The Yellow Wall-Paper”
  • Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads
  • Austen, Northanger Abbey
  • Wright, Shawn of the Dead
  • Trouillot, Silencing the Past
  • Carpentier, The Kingdom of this World
  • de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
  • Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
  • Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
  • Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • Coppola, Apocalypse Now
  • Achebe, Things Fall Apart
  • Moore and Gibbons, Watchmen