Past Courses – (TEST)
Taught by Eva Geulen
Hannah Arendt’s works are currently witnessing an unprecedented reception and revival. A slim volume of a previously untranslated English text, essentially an abbreviation, in lecture format, of her ideas on “Ideology and Terror”, first published in “Elements and Origins of Totalitarians Rule” in 1958, sold 50,000 copies within three months in Germany. International publishing houses are cooperating to produce a new biography of the writer and philosophers. Moreover, the first two volumes of a hybrid, multi-lingual critical edition (edited, among others, by Barbara Hahn and James MacFarland) have appeared in recent months. What makes this maverick thinker—never accepted by the political Right and much maligned by the Left—so interesting today that even the strongly divergent reception lines in the US and Europe appear to converge and open up new venues? One possible answer is that Arendt believed courage (rather than morality or honesty) was the cardinal political virtue. In a time of ‘fake news’ and rising populism, her notoriously unpopular but courageous interventions in public debates (of which her report on the Eichmann-trial is only the most prominent example) stand out. Another reason for the recent surge in (not only academic) interest may have to do with the role literature plays in her thought. To explore both questions, the seminar will focus on the one hand on Arendt’s ‘interventions’ in acute political and social conflicts, from the early essay “We Refugees” (1943) to her contested contribution to racial desegregation of schools in the south with her “Reflections on Little Rock” as well as her reflections on lying in politics, written on occasion of her publication of the Pentagon Papers on the strategies behind the Vietnam War. In addition, we will explore her (often no less contentious) portraits of US-American and European writers such as Auden, Broch, Benjamin, Brecht and others.
This course is attentive to how social contexts shape the reception of ideas that are assumed to have universal purchase. The seminar adopts a historical mode of presentation, and locates social theory in its global contexts with a specific focus on the global South.We follow the itinerary of two concepts, equality and difference. Can we write a global history of social thought? How are ideas and contexts transformed when they encounter forms of social difference (e.g., race, caste, religion) that must be thought on their own terms? What is the relationship between commitments to equality, on the one hand, and the preservation of difference on the other? Readings for the seminar will include a mix of classic texts of social theory, and monographs in history and anthropology that seek to engage and redirect the energies of social thought toward questions of translation, commensuration, and alterity.
The impetus of this course is to rethink the trajectory, conditions, and prospects of humanism, with a consideration of how such rethinking contributes to the reconfiguration of the Humanities in the present time. The impact of anti-humanist thinking in contemporary theory is taken as a point of departure, as a challenge that must be overcome. Hence, certain classic writings of Marx and Heidegger (and responses by Althusser, Derrida, and Sloterdijk) are examined in detail in the initial weeks of the course.
However, in order to field this challenge in its full epistemological range, we will also engage with various discourses that respond to the question “what is human?” including discussions of animality (Derrida, Haraway, and earlier); the exceptional challenge of cognition in non-rational modes (Bergson, Merleau-Ponty, and the biologists Maturana and Varela); Castoriadis’ monumental response to Aristotle and Freud on the psyche, as well as his response to biologists about anthropos. The last few sessions of the course will turn to certain theories of non-human materiality in addition to theories of the “post-human” in cognitive science and cybernetic self-organization.
This is a graduate course – a kind of basic background in Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud is assumed. The course addresses concerns of students throughout the humanities, but also certain theoretical tracks in the arts and humanistic tracks in the social sciences. It will also be of interest to students in the biological sciences, neuroscience, or cognitive science, who seek an opportunity to reflect on their disciplines from a philosophical standpoint.
Instructor: Ivan Sanders
This course introduces beginning graduate students to the changing conceptions in the comparative study of literatures and societies, paying special attention to the range of interdisciplinary methods in comparative scholarship. Students are expected to have preliminary familiarity with the discipline in which they wish to do their doctoral work. Our objective is to broaden the theoretical foundation of comparative studies to negotiate a conversation between literary studies and social sciences. Weekly readings are devoted to intellectual inquiries that demonstrate strategies of research, analysis, and argumentation from a multiplicity of disciplines and fields, such as anthropology, history, literary criticism, architecture, political theory, philosophy, art history, and media studies. Whenever possible, we will invite faculty from the above disciplines and fields to visit our class and share their perspectives on assigned readings. Students are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities and explore fields and disciplines outside their primary focus of study and specific discipline.
Introduction to concepts and methods of comparative literature in cross-disciplinary and global context. Topics may include: oral, print, and visual culture; epic, novel, and nation; literature of travel, exile, and diaspora; sex and gender transformation; the human/inhuman; writing trauma; urban imaginaries; world literature; medical humanities. Open only to students intending to declare a major in Comparative Literature and Society or Medicine, Literature, and Society in Spring 2017.
This class takes the creation and inhabitation of place as its focus, drawing on diverse conceptual frameworks from anthropology and beyond to think critically about landscape and the forms of life and non-life through which it is constituted. We’ll look at the history of approaches to landscape and then address a range of case studies that attempt to decenter the human and to imagine a non-anthropocentric form of inquiry to place-making. How might such modes of approach reconfigure what is understood by landscape and the coming into being of place?
ALSO ANTH GR6223
This course is taught by Arden Hegele.
Literature and medicine have always been in dialogue: Apollo was the god of physicians and poetry, while some of the greatest writers, such as John Keats and Anton Chekhov, were trained as doctors. In our time, literature and medicine have become ever more entwined in the burgeoning field of “health humanities” that bridges the practices of writer and caregiver. In this lecture course, we will consider how creative literature enriches our understanding of health and illness by exploring contemporary narratives about health and medicine in a global context. We will read literary writing by physicians in genres such as the short story, the case history, the satirical novel, and the medical memoir. As we move through shifting paradigms in healthcare, we will attend to how prose fiction can excavate and illustrate conflicts in the medical encounter—power struggles between doctors and patients, science and superstition, and cultural contexts—along with the challenges of war and trauma. We will consider, too, how medical fictions create generative space for motifs of alterity—physical disability, aging, cognitive differences, and gender fluidity—in contemporary global literature in English. As we read, we will attend to how the study of literature creates a series of critical methods that can be applied to problems across the health humanities. Writers include Atul Gawande, Oliver Sacks, Paul Kalanithi, Emma Donoghue, Michael Ondaatje, Indra Sinha, Ian McEwan, and Maggie Nelson, among others. Both literature and pre-med students are invited to enroll. This lecture will particularly suit students who are interested in literature post-1800, prose fiction, social justice, and the health humanities