This course will explore the alienation and fragmentation of the modern self as it is presented in four darkly fascinating works of fiction: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Other Stories, Toni Morrison’s Sula, and Yukio Mishima’s The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The novels and short stories studied in this course depict a diverse collection of outsiders whose narratives and voices – originating from both the margins of society and the depths and divisions of the human psyche – emerge from underground: an ingenious rant against the rise of reason produced by the perverse, conflicted mind of a mad Russian narrator; a collection of harrowing but often hilarious Czech tales, including a young man’s sudden transformation into a monstrous insect, a hunger-artist whose desire for recognition drives him relentlessly towards a tragically isolated end, and an unwitting foreign visitor who is introduced to an execution apparatus by a man to whom this gruesome piece of malfunctioning equipment has become an unhealthy fixation; a powerful narrative of the struggle for freedom and identity by the various members of an African American community in Medallion, Ohio, and the tensions produced by one woman’s individualistic quest to lead an experimental life through the transgression of sexual and social norms; and, finally, the story of a young Japanese monk’s pathological, destructive, and all-consuming obsession with the beauty of a Zen Temple. These works of art represent the self as it is pushed to extreme limits and are revelatory of both the conditions of modern existence and the nature of the self more generally. The theme of alienation will be examined from a variety of perspectives, with a particular focus on the relationship of self-alienation and interior conflict to social alienation and its causes (i.e. race, class, sexuality, religion).