How is work, and refusing to work, shown in modern literature? This seminar studies the cultural meaning of work and the refusal of the work ethic in 19th, 20th, and 21st century texts. In Western modernity work has always been presented as one of the chief sources of identity for the individual: we “are” what we do at work. The class will examine what kind of subjectivity is created through work as well as its refusal in a number of texts including Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener”, Kafka’ “The Metamorphosis”, Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pecuchet, Monica Ali’s Brick Road. What is the relationship between work and life, work and happiness, work and identity today? How has it changed since the 19th century? How can life, and work, be redefined at the time of scarcity? Together with the novels we will read criticism (Paul Lafargue, Franco Berardi, Kathi Weeks), and watch films by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Ken Loach, Leila Kilani).