Autumn 2020 Courses

The courses for the current term are listed below. Course descriptions from previous terms can be found to the left under "Course Archive." Courses will typically be posted several weeks prior to the start of the term.

20673. Plutarch’s Lives in the History of Political Philosophy. This course will examine the application of ancient Greek political philosophy to practical activity and individual cases through the study of a number of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, along with a selection of Plutarch’s sources from philosophy, oratory, and historiography. Discussions will consider Plutarch’s treatment of questions such as “what is justice?”, “do the means justify the ends?” and “what kind of knowledge is required for political virtue?” Readings will fall into three main segments: first, Plutarch’s analysis of the good and the truth with an eye to his reading of Plato and its application to practical politics; second, his account of virtue, especially in relation to Aristotle; and third, his assessment of the Athenian and Spartan regimes, with comparisons of his thought and the writings of Xenophon and Thucydides. In writing assignments, including an exercise in writing in Plutarch’s manner and an interpretive essay, students will engage in the careful interpretation of Plutarch’s text, and reflect on the possibilities and shortcomings of his methods. Interested students may attend translation sessions on selections from course reading in Greek or Latin. xFNDL 20673. K. Weeda (TR 11:20a-12:40p, F 505)

20674. Nietzsche’s Critique of Christianity. Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the greatest philosophers of all time, and one of the sharpest critics of Christianity. The task of this course is to understand how these two characteristics of Nietzsche relate to each other and what function the critique of Christianity have in his thought at large. We will look at how he develops it in two of his late writings, the Genealogy of Morality and the Antichrist, by studying these works in their entirety. We will examine how the problem of Christianity is reflected in and related to many of the major themes of his thought, such as the problem of suffering, the ascetic ideal, life-affirmation and life-denial, philosophy as a way of life, or the overcoming of the human as such. The focus on Christianity will allow us to see Nietzsche’s ideas unfold and interact with each other in specific ways and in the context of concrete historical events. Thereby we will be able to understand more originally what exactly Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity is and is not, and why it matters – both to Nietzsche himself and to us here and now. J. Majernik (TR 2:40-5:20p, F305)

31717. Plato on Love and Friendship. This course will explore Plato’s understanding of love and friendship, their relations between them and relations to philosophy and politics through an introductory reading of his Phaedrus and Lysis. xPLSC 31717/FNDL 21720. N Tarcov (MW 1:50-3:10p, F 305)

32011.  Data: History and Literature. "Data,” in the words of its most enthusiastic proponents, “will transform how we live, work, and think” (Mayer-Schonberger and Cukier 2013). Our most promising technologies, such as machine learning, mobilize vas new repositories of digital data.  Addressing the most important political and social issues of the present issues, from climate change to wealth inequality, would be unthinkable but in terms of data. And who today would dare to act or make decisions in a manner that wasn’t data-driven? This course moves beneath contemporary fascination with data to analyze its sources in the nineteenth century. Working against the word’s Latin roots – meaning “given” – we will analyze instead how data has been created, mobilized, and interpreted over this longer span of time. The nineteenth century saw an explosion of social uses of data, drawing on probabilistic knowledges dating back to the Enlightenment. Many of the knowledges and techniques associated with modernity – statistics, insurance, sociology, population sciences, political economy, and policing – reached a new level of intensity during this period. xKNOW 32011/22011. A. Campolo and A. Klimchynska (T 1:00-4:00p)      

35001. Theatricality in Modern Art, 1700 to the Present. We examine the dramatic dimension of art in the modern era broadly speaking, from the Aristotelian theory of action and motivation, and Diderot’s theory of acting, to the linguistic theory of speech acts, romantic notions of the subjective and the ineffable (as well as the union of the arts), and the historical cataclysms that call up new modes of theatre and visual art, like the French Revolution, the rediscovery of antiquity, and the advent of photography and motion pictures, to say nothing of performance art and digital imagery. Paradigms that have been influential in one or another discipline, like Michael Fried’s theory of theatricality in art history, Heinrich Kleist’s meditation on puppets and Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical view of tragedy will be examined. On the other hand, the range of artworks meriting dramatic interpretation is just what we will be trying to establish. (but figures as diverse as Watteau, Poe, Wagner, Manet and Pollock will play a role). xARTH 35009. A. Pop (TR 4:20-5:40, F 505)

35708.  Wittgenstein: Early and Late. The course is devoted to the unity and the disunity in the evolution of Wittgenstein’s philosophy. We shall question the prevalent view that the later work radically breaks with the earlier. In accord with Wittgenstein’s own advance we shall study the Philosophical Investigations in light of the Tractatus, and the Tractatus from the perspective of the Philosophical Investigations. We shall also look at some of Wittgenstein’s writing from the thirties (e.g., The Big Typescript). xPHIL 35708. Open to undergrads – register in Philosophy. I Kimhi (W 1:50-4:40p, F 505)

39133.  Benjamin Franklin: The Art of Teaching by Indirection. An examination of Franklin’s lifelong attempts to persuade people to change their behavior without appearing to do so. xFNDL 29133. R. Lerner (MW 9:10-10:00, F 305)

41604.  Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript by Johannes Climacus. This seminar will engage in a close reading of Concluding Unscientific Postscript. The aim will be to develop an understanding of topics such as: living in clichés without realizing it, subjectivity and objectivity, ethics, eternal happiness, guilt, humor, irony and different manners of being religious. We shall also consider the meaning of Kierkegaard's pseudonymous authorship. This will be a seminar that requires active participation. Please come to the first session having read up to page 43 of the Alastair Hannay translation (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy). xPHIL 50119. By consent only. J. Lear (M 1:50-4:40p, F 305)

51721.  Topics in Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics. A close reading of the Nicomachean Ethics, with particular emphasis on his theory of moral virtue, moral education. xPHIL 51721. G. Lear (TR 9:10a-12p)

Winter 2021 Courses

20671. The Voice of the Past: Aural History from the Golden Age of Radio to Today.  What happens when we use our ears to understand the past? What kinds of historical narratives are most suited for the sound waves and how should we judge these narratives? In this course, we will seek to both historicize the ongoing 'podcast revolution' and expand the critical toolbox students can draw on to evaluate history that is written to be heard. For practical reasons, the course will focus on audio-documentaries produced in and for the Anglophone world. Students will be asked to use critically analyze the rhetoric, ideology; accuracy and achival practices of popular, historically infected programs - such as Slow Burn, This American Life, and Radiolab  - as well as experimental documentaries. Our goal here is not only to judge these works of aural history but also to reflect on their social significance. To this end, we will compare such programs to documentaries and dramas from the so-called 'golden age of radio' (1920s-1960s) and to academic scholarship dealing with phenomena discussed on air. Additionally, since podcasters are often praised for helping to democratize the radio, we will pay special attention to previous waves of democratizers, especially the 'pirate radio' and 'audioblogging' movements of the 1970s and 1980s. Practical guidance will be available to students who want to produce podcasts for the class, but this will not be a requirement. xHIST 25118. D. Gutherz (F 10:30a-1:20p , F 505)

20676. Labor and Liberty in the Scottish Englightenment. When we ask children what they want to be when they grow up, we presume their participation in a division of labor. Few concepts in the history of economic thought are as central as the division of labor, or as immediately visible in our social structure. But how did this division evolve? And does specialization encourage social well-being? Theorists of the Scottish Enlightenment treated “the separation of arts and professions” and “the distinction of ranks” as an historical development – one with profound consequences, not just for the accumulation of wealth but, more centrally, for its effect on gender roles, family relations, national security, and the organization of justice. Scottish authors such as Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, and John Millar debated whether the division of labor was in fact a sign of natural “progress.” We will study how these early sociologists and political theorists treated the future of work – and its effects on education, civic participation, and national cohesion. We will ask whether the rise of specialization has led to social atomization or encouraged new forms of social interdependence. Finally, we will look at how Scottish theories of social division and domination influenced subsequent thinkers, particularly Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Friedrich Hayek. xPLSC 20676. D. Charette (WF, 3-4:10p F 305)

31718.  Machiavelli’s Prince. A reading of The Prince supplemented by relevant portions of Machiavelli's Discourses, Florentine Histories, and letters and selected secondary literature. xPLSC 31718/xFNDL 21710. N. Tarcov (MW 1:30-2:50p, F 305)

35009.  Platonic Aesthetics. The anachronism of the course title constitutes our program: to what extent can Plato’s thinking about artworks, images, poets in the polis, beauty, the visual world, the senses, subjectivity and criticism be viewed coherently as an aesthetic theory? Does his style and dramatic mode of writing interact significantly with these views? How have they been received, and to what extent are they right? xCLAS 38020/FNDL 29005. A Pop (W, 1:30-4:20, F 505)

35709.  Anxiety and Nothingness. Anxiety is discussed in modern philosophy as a mood which by contrast to fear is not directed to an object and thus reveals the “nothing” which dominates our engagement with beings. The class will be devoted to the modern philosophical discourse on “anxiety” and “nothing.” Among the texts that we shall study are: Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety, Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics, and Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. We shall also compare the philosophical concern with anxiety/nothing with the discussion of anxiety in psychoanalysis, especially in Lacan’s Seminar Anxiety, (i.e., Seminar 10). xPHIL 35709. Undergraduates should register in Philosophy. I. Kimhi (W, 10:30a-1:20p, F 505)

39134.  Abraham Lincoln: The Politics of An Old Whig. An examination of the principles and modes of argument that informed Lincoln’s practice as a politician. xFNDL 29134. R. Lerner (MW, 9:30-10:50a, F 305)

50300.  Heidegger’s Concept of Metaphysics. The two basic texts of the course will be Heidegger’s 1929-30 lecture course, “Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics,” and his 1935 course (published in 1953), “Introduction to Metaphysics.” Both texts amount to a radical critique of all Western metaphysics, and an equally radical proposal for a new beginning, another sort of “first philosophy.” He wants to claim that the finitude of all a priori reflection, when properly appreciated, can inaugurate a proper interrogation of the fundamental question in philosophy: the meaning of being. To familiarize ourselves with Heidegger’s overall project, we will begin by reading selections from his 1927 Marburg lectures, “The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. The course is designed for graduate students in philosophy and related disciplines, but some undergraduates with a sufficient background in the history of philosophy will be admitted. xPHIL 54806 Open to undergraduates with permission. R. Pippin (R, 3:30-6:20p, F 505)

67001. Colloquium: The Emergence of Capitalism. This colloquium investigates the emergence of capitalism in the world as a whole between the early sixteenth and the late eighteenth centuries. We discuss the political and cultural, as well as the economic, sources of capitalism and explore Marxist, neoclassical, and cultural approaches. This research colloquium introduces students to the burgeoning literature on empires on a global scale. The readings will include general accounts of empire as well as histories of particular empires and resistance to them. Students research and write a paper. xHIST 67001/PLSC 67001. J. Levy and B. Sewall (T, 9:30a-12:20p, F 305)

Spring 2021

20672.  Back to the Land: Agrarian Communalism in Western Europe and the U.S., 1880-1980.  As the 19th century drew to a close, many Westerners alarmed by the march of ‘industrial civilization’ began to form clubs, communes, corporations and political parties grounded in the belief that humanity could n=only be saved by a collective return to Nature. From the 1880’s-1980’s, this paradisiacal vision of the simple life attracted rebels from across the political spectrum. Although many people associate ‘back-to-the-landers’ with long-haired, sandal-wearing vegetarian pot-smokers, variants of agrarian communalism have been embraced by fascists, libertarians, socialist Zionists and radical feminists In this course, we will analyze the appeal and impact of the back-to-the-land ideology. The class will be structured around four linked studies, dealing with pastoralists in late Victorian England, Fascist ruralism, the hippy movement, and the Aryan Cowboys who burst into public view at the Ruby Ridge Massacre. Undergraduate seminar. xHIST 25024. D. Gutherz (R, 9:40a-11:00a, Haskell)        

20675.  St. Petersburg: Text and City. St. Petersburg, Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningad, Piter. Russia’s “Window to Europe” has as many faces as it has names: eastern and western; imperial and revolutionary; physical and mythical. This course explores the relationship between geographical space and cultural imaginary by examining what Vladimir Toporov has called the “Petersburg Text of Russian Literature,” a mythology of Russia’s European capital that has arisen from and through a unique constellation of literary classics. Readings include a close analysis of Andrei Bely's modernist masterpiece Petersburg, as well as works by Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Blok, Akhmatova and Kharms. Obs: All readings in English translation. Undergraduate seminar. xREES 20675/CMLT 20675. D. Molina (TR. 1:30-2:50p)

30929.  The Strange World of Francis Bacon. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was a statesman, natural philosopher, essayist, and one of the most original thinkers of a spectacularly original age. Hailed as a visionary of modern science, reviled for his politics, praised for his prose style, admired for his legal reasoning, and skewered as a native empiricist. Bacon eludes modern categories. This seminar will look at his thought in the round. Texts include The Great Instauration, the New Organon, the Essays, and New Atlantis. NOTE: This course will be taught the first five weeks of the quarter (March 29-April 30, 2021). xHIST 45003/CHSS 30929. Consent Required. L. Daston (MW, 9:30a-12:20p, F 305) 

31223.  Homer’s Odyssey: Estrangement and Homecoming. One of the two foundational epics of so-called Western Culture, the Odyssey is the great epic of cross-cultural encounter, in all its seductive and violent aspects, as well as the great poem of marriage. An adventure in nostos (homecoming), the Odyssey shows us the pleasures and dangers of voyaging among strangers. Constantly exploring the boundaries between the civilized and the savage, the poem offers as well a complex meditation on many ancient institutions, not least the family, patriarchy, hospitality customs, and the band-of-brothers so central to epic idealogy. And as a masterwork of narrative art, the Odyssey asks us to consider the relation of fiction to “truth.” We will explore these and other matters in the Odyssey, and may make some concluding forays into contemporary re-workings of Odyssean themes and characters. Although no knowledge of Greek is required for this course, there will be assignment options for those who wish to do reading in Greek. Requirements: weekly readings and posting on Chalk; brief class presentation; final paper (assignment to be discussed) due at the end of the quarter. Open to undergraduates by consent of instructor. xCLAS 33616/FNDL 21223. L Slatkin (MW, 1:30-4:20p, F)

36014.  T.S. Eliot. With the major new edition of Eliot’s poems by Jim McCue and Christopher Ricks, the new volumes of Eliot’s letters, and two separate new editions of Eliot’s complete prose, we are in a position to rethink the meanings and force of Eliot’s life work. The course will be devoted to careful reading of his poems, essays, plays, and correspondence, with attention to his literary, cultural, and political contexts. xENGL 34850 & 26614/FNDL 26614. R Warren (R, 1:30-4:20, F 305).

37323.  Leo Strauss and Lucretius On the Nature of Things. I shall discuss Leo Strauss’s “Notes on Lucretius” (1968) and Lucretius’ De rerum natura with a special focus on the relation of philosophy and poetry. NOTE: This class will be taught the first five weeks of the quarter (March 29 – April 30, 2021). xCLAS 36720/PHIL 37323/PLSC 37323. H. Meier (MW, 10:30a-1:20p, F 505)

38201.  Pascal and Simone Weil. Blaise Pascal in the seventeenth century and Simone Weil in the twentieth formulated a compelling vision of the human condition torn between greatness and misery. They showed how human imperfection coexists with the noblest callings, how attention struggles with distraction and how individuals can be rescued from their usual reliance on public opinion and customary beliefs. Both thinkers point to the religious dimension of human experience and suggest unorthodox ways of approaching it. We will also study an important text by Gabriel Marcel emphasizing human coexistence and cooperation. PQ: Taught in English. For French undergraduates and graduates, we will hold a bi-weekly one-hour meeting to study the original French texts.  Undergraduates must be in their third or fourth year. xCMLT 39101 & 29101/RLST 24910/ FREN 39100 & 29100/FNDL 21812. T Pavel. (F, 9:30a-12:20p, Wb207).

40126.  Economic Theory and the Theory of the State. Modern economics was built on the assumption that, in a perfectly competitive economy, the price system will allocate resources to their highest-valued uses. Yet, at the same moment that the neoclassical theory of competitive equilibrium took shape, it was recognized that benefits and costs of productive activity and of consumption were often not priced in the market. These ‘external economies’, as they came to be called, posed a profound challenge to the new economic theory. Economists came to ask how and why they emerged, and what could be done about them. Was the coercive power of the state necessary to force those who benefitted from external economies to include them in their production or consumption functions? Or could common-law adjudication take care of the problem? The problem of externalities has now drawn economists into the study of law, interest groups, ideology, and the theory of the state. In this course, we will track the conceptual history of externalities from the writings of Henry Sidgwick and J.S. Mill to the work of Mancur Olson and Douglass North. J. Isaac. (T, 2-4:50p, F 505).

40127.  Max Weber’s Economic Ethics. In this course we will read Max Weber’s key works on the origins of capitalism and the role of ethics in shaping economic behavior. Recent scholarship has transformed our image of Weber: he is no longer the ‘founder’ of the professional discipline of ‘sociology’, nor the prophet of rationalization and the administered society. Rather, he was a practitioner of political economy whose main project, during the last two decades of his life, was to provide a systematic account of modern capitalism under the auspices of a new field of study he called ‘social economics’. The key texts for this course are Economy and Society, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, and the General Economic History. We will also review aspects of the recent scholarship on Weber. Consent required. J. Isaac (F, 1:30-4:20p. F 505)                                                                                                                                             

40308.  Political Theologies of Slavery and Freedom in the Atlantic World. This seminar examines the interdisciplinary form of knowledge known as “political theology” in the context of Atlantic slavery. The course will trace two major developments. First, we will explore how Christian metaphysics facilitated colonialism and slavery, focusing on the emergence of race as a theological (rather than a biological) concept and on the self-fulfilling providentialism that structured fantasies of Euro-Christian world dominance. Second, we will explore how indigenous and African cosmologies and Christianities informed enslaved resistance and abolitionism. Our readings will range from works of political theology (Augustine, Calvin, Hobbes) to early American writings (Las Casas, Ligon, Jefferson) to Black Atlantic anti-slavery texts (Wheatley, Walker, Turner). We’ll consider the explorer George Best’s rewriting of the biblical Curse of Ham, Francis Bacon’s claim that Europe’s superior technology evidenced its Chosen status, and the ideology of “hereditary heathenism” that stifled early efforts to convert slaves to Christianity. Likewise, we’ll consider the role of obeah and vodou in Caribbean slave revolts, the competing attitudes toward Christian slave violence found in fiction by Douglass and Stowe, and the continued contestation of what W. E. B. Du Bois called “the new religion of whiteness.” Secondary authors may include Charles Taylor, Talal Asad, Colin Kidd, Rebecca Goetz, Jared Hickman, Katharine Gerbner, Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, and J. Kameron Carter. xKNOW 40308. A. Mazzaferro. (R, 2-4:50p)                 

47219.  The Romantic Book. In his Gespräch über den Roman, Friedrich Schlegel declared programmatically: “Ein Roman ist ein romantisches Buch.” The convoluted relationship between Roman and romantisch will give us the point of departure for the seminar – but is the third term, Buch, so obvious? We will thus also attempt to offer some definitions of what a book is in the period around 1800. To that end, we will consider works that reflect on Romantic scenarios of manuscript and book production (Schreibszenen) and collecting, as well as evolving forms of literary mixed media around 1800, such as the illustrated book and the Taschenbuch. Our readings will include works by F. Schlegel, A. W. Schlegel, Wackenroder and Tieck, Novalis, E. T.A. Hoffmann, Arnim and Brentano, the Grimms, Runge; and scholarly works by Kittler, Campe, Piper, Spoerhase, and others. The seminar will make use of the holdings of the Rare Book Collection and other area resources; and it will introduce students to working with material texts. Good reading knowledge of German required. xARTH 47219/GRMN 47219. C. Macleod (M, 3:30-6:20p)

50213.  Historical Sociology of Religion - After Max Weber and Emile Durkheim. In the writings of the European classics of sociology the universal history of religion was absolutely crucial. Strangely, and although the reputation of Max Weber and Émile Durkheim has constantly grown over time, this area of their interests later became marginal in the discipline. After briefly suggesting a possible explanation of this phenomenon, this class will deal with the exceptions, scholars who have contributed significantly to the sociological study of the history of religion (H. Richard Niebuhr, Will Herberg, Werner Stark, David Martin, Marcel Gauchet, Robert Bellah, José Casanova). Additional scholars and my own writings in this area can be included if there is an interest in tracing a tradition that should have received new attention after the end of the intellectual hegemony of the secularization thesis. NOTE: This course will be taught the first five weeks of the quarter (March 29-April 30, 2021). xSOCI 50124/AASR 50213. H. Joas (TR, 9:30a-12:20p, F 505)

50301.  Heidegger’s Critique of German Idealism. The texts we will read: Heidegger’s 1929 book, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, his 1935 course, published as the book What is a Thing, the critique of Hegel published in 1957, Identity and Difference, and the 1942/43 lectures published as Hegel’s Concept of Experience. We will conclude with a discussion of Heidegger’s 1936 lectures, Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom. The topic of the course: finitude. Students who have taken the winter quarter seminar on Heidegger will be given priority, but that is not a necessary condition of admission to the seminar. Graduate Seminar. xPHIL 51702. R. Pippin (R, 3:30-6:20, F 505).

50800.  Deleuze and the Image. The Image is a concept that returns and varies across Gilles Deleuze’s philosophical works. In this seminar, we will work through Deleuze’s characterization of the Image in its varying forms—image of thought, thought without image, movement-image, time-image, the visible and the expressible, Idea and percept, and sensation and figure, among others. Of special concern will be Deleuze’s arguments concerning the relation of philosophy to art. Readings will include selections from Proust and Signs, Difference and Repetition, Foucault, Cinema 1 and Cinema 2, Logic of Sensation, What is Philosophy?, and perhaps other texts. Reading knowledge of French is recommended but not required. xCMST 67205. D. N Rodowock (M, 10:30a-1:30p, C 311)

51415.  Envy, Gratitude, Depression and Evasions: The “Contemporary Kleinians.” In this seminar we shall consider contemporary psychoanalytic thinking on fundamental aspects of human being: envy and gratitude, the capacity to learn from experience, mourning and depression, Oedipal struggles, the structure of the I, the superego and other forms of defense. We shall also consider relevant clinical concepts such as projective identification, splitting, internal objects, the paranoid-schizoid position, the depressive position, and attacks on linking. The seminar will focus on a group of psychoanalytic thinkers who have come to be known as the Contemporary Kleinians. Their work develops the traditions of thinking that flow from the works of Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein – and we shall consider their writings as well when appropriate. Readings from Betty Joseph, Edna O’Shaughnessy, Wilfrid Bion, Hanna Segal, Elizabeth Spilius, John Steiner, Ronald Britton, Michael Feldman, Irma Brenman Pick and others. By permission of Instructor. xPHIL 51416. J. Lear and K. Long (M, 1:30-4:20p, F 505)