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Section 17 Course Description

Course Name: The Genie Out of the Jar: The Nature of Genius
Section 18
Instructor: Richard Taylor

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

-- Arthur Schopenhauer


What is it that Oscar Wilde declared as he went through Customs and said he had only his genius to declare?  Einstein disclaimed his, saying he had no special talents, just passionate curiosities.  The Romans saw genius as a guiding spirit or tutelary deity of a person, family, or even a place. Whatever its subject, the term suggests some exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in art, music, or scientific invention. Is it a genetic gift or a quality that can be developed and acquired, or both?

The focus of this course will be an exploration of genius, starting first with the accomplishments of a local genius, Guy Davenport, winner of a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship that afforded him the time to write poems, stories, and essays as well as to translate poetry from the Greek and paint in the modernist style. Through readings and individual research, each of us form a definition of genius and explore it by adopting an individual, living or dead, who fulfills our expectations of what genius means.