Spring 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.

20668.  Approaches to Hamlet.  In this course, we will consider Hamlet alongside different interpretations of and approaches to the play. We will read Hamlet slowly, carefully, patiently – allowing its “wild and whirling words” to settle in our minds and giving ourselves time to confront some of the play’s many aspects. Students will be expected to re-read Hamlet each week in addition to and in light of the week’s new reading(s). Undergrad seminar. xTAPS 26320/FNDL 20668. N. Bellinson (M 1:30-4:20p)

20669.  The Strange and the Terrible in Greek.  The Chorus in Sophocles’ Antigone remarks, “There are many things that are deina, but none is more deinon than man.” The Greek word “deinon” means many things: it refers at once to what is monstrous, terrible, out of place, even clever. The aim of this course is to arrive at an understanding of the phenomena that the Greeks captured with this single word and what it reveals about the nature of human being and the scope and limits of human knowledge. What is the difference between the experience of the deinon and an emotion like fear? In what sense does the deinon describe what is other-worldly—the supernatural, the divine, the dead, the uncanny—and in what sense does it describe what is fundamentally human? How does the deinon relate to the interplay between the supernatural and the human, the living and the dead, the real and the imaginary? In what way do the different attempts—poetic, philosophical, psychological—to make sense of the deinon work to contain, evade, or overcome it? Readings include Aeschylus, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Freud. I. Ferreira (TR 11:00a-12:20p, F 505)

20670.  Aristotle’s Generation of Animals.  Generation of Animals, Aristotle’s inquiry into sexual reproduction and embryology, has often been set aside, together with the “biological treatises,” as largely irrelevant to his broader and more pressing philosophical project. But the text represents a nexus of crucial Aristotelian questions. With his lens on the animal, Aristotle here considers coming to be, the joining of form and matter, potentiality and actuality, and the relationship between teleology and material mechanism. In this course, we will undertake a detailed study of the entire text in conjunction with excerpts from elsewhere in the corpus. We will pay close attention to Aristotle's metaphysics and the interplay between his philosophical and scientific methodologies. We will consider: how does Aristotle's hylomorphic theory of generation―the idea that form from the father and matter from the mother combine to produce a living creature―strengthen or endanger the theory espoused in MetaphysicsPhysics, and De Anima? Why and how do "monstrosities" occur in nature? What can we learn from Aristotle's views on gender: is it essential? How can it be understood as a “first principle”? What should we make of Aristotle's troubling characterization of the female? And most broadly, of what value can a "debunked" ancient scientific theory be in our contemporary conversation on science, philosophy, and culture? Readings will include secondary literature from historical, modern scientific, and feminist perspectives. No Greek required. xFNDL 20670. A. Ravilochan (T 2-4:50p, F 305)   

30926.  Wonder, Wonders, and Knowing.  “In wonder is the beginning of philosophy,” wrote Aristotle; Descartes also thought that those deficient in wonder were also deficient in knowledge. But the relationship between wonder and inquiry has always been an ambivalent one: too much wonder stupefies rather than stimulates investigation, according to Descartes; Aristotle explicitly excluded wonders as objects of inquiry from natural philosophy. Since the sixteenth century, scientists and scholars have both cultivated and repudiated the passion of wonder; On the one hand, marvels (or even just anomalies) threaten to subvert the human and natural orders; on the other, the wonder they ignite fuels inquiry into their causes. Wonder is also a passion tinged with the numinous, and miracles have long stood for the inexplicable in religious contexts. This seminar will explore the long, vexed relationship between wonder, knowledge, and belief in the history of philosophy, science, and religion. PQ: Reading knowledge of at least one language besides English, some background in intellectual history. This course will be taught the first five weeks of the quarter (March 30, 2020 thru April 30, 2020). xKNOW 30926/CHSS 30936/PHIL 30926/HIST 35318. Consent required. L. Daston (MW 9:30a-12:20p, F 305)

31210.  The Iliad.  In this course we will read the Iliad in translation, supplemented by selections from the Odyssey and other texts from the archaic period, including the Epic Cycle fragments and the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women. We will also make some turns toward recent Iliadic ventures in English: not least Christopher Logue’s War Music and Alice Oswald’s Memorial. “The poem of force” according to Simone Weil, the Iliad is also the poem of marriage, homosociality/the “Männerbund”, and exchange. Among our concerns will be: the poetics of traditionality; the political economy of epic; the Iliad’s construction of social order; the uses of reciprocity; gender in the Homeric poems. 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; response paper for each class meeting; final paper. This course will be taught the first five weeks of the quarter (March 30, 2020 thru April 30, 2020). xCLAS 44300/FNDL 21214. Open to undergrads by consent. L. Slatkin (MW 1:30-4:20p, F 305)

35007.  Manet, Mallarmé, and Modernism.  Much of the theory as well as the look and sound of modern art, as it developed in the late nineteenth century, is the result of the individual efforts as well as the friendly collaboration of the Parisian painter Edouard Manet and the Parisian poet and English teacher Stéhane Mallarmé. This course will introduce them, examine their major collaborations (Le Courbeau, L’Après-Midi d’un Faune), and place them within the developing consensus in experimental art and thought  the fin de siècle, which for reasons having to do with reception Mallarmé, came to be called symbolism. FNDL 25007. Open to undergrads. A. Pop (T 2-4:50p, CWAC 152)

37322.  Jerusalem and Athens: On the Conflict between Revelation and Philosophy.  Since Tertullian, “Jerusalem and Athens” has denoted the conflict between faith in revelation and philosophy, between a life that tries to understand itself out of the obedience of faith and a life based on radical questioning. No philosopher of the twentieth century investigated the alternatives more thoroughly than did Leo Strauss. In the seminar I shall focus on four lectures that Strauss delivered on the subject within two decades: “Jerusalem and Athens,” 1946 (unpublished, the text will be made available to the participants of the seminar); “Notes on Philosophy and Revelation,” 1946 (published in: Heinrich Meier, Leo Strauss and the Theologico-Political Problem, Cambridge UP 2006, pp. 168−180); “Reason and Revelation,” 1948 (published in: ibid., pp. 141−167); and “Jerusalem and Athens. Some Preliminary Reflections,” 1967 (reprinted in: Leo Strauss: Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, University of Chicago Press 1983, pp. 147−173). I shall discuss the subject on the basis of 4 lectures Leo Strauss gave on “Jerusalem and Athens” and “Reason and Revelation” in the period 1946-1967. This course will be taught the first five weeks of the quarter (March 30, 2020 thru April 30, 2020). xFNDL 27322/PLSC 37322/PHIL 37322. Consent required. H. Meier (MW 10:30a-1:20p, F 505)

37512. Dream of the Red Chamber: Forgetting about the Author.  The great Chinese-Manchu novel Honglou meng (ca. 1750) has been assigned one major author, Cao Xueqin, whose life has been the subject of much investigation. But before 1922 little was known about Cao, and interpreters of the novel were forced to make headway solely on the basis of textual clues. The so-called “Three Commentators” edition (_Sanjia ping shitou ji_) shows these readers at their creative, polemical, and far-fetched best. We will be reading the first 80 chapters of the novel and discussing its reception in the first 130 years of its published existence (1792-1922), with special attention to hermeneutical strategies and claims of authorial purpose. xCMLT 27512 & 37512/EALC 27512 & 37512/FNDL 27512. H. Saussy (W 1:30-2:50p, CLAS 113)

40125.  Histories of Liberalism.  What was liberalism? This question is today often posed in the past tense. A number of recent books take as their premise the claim that the liberal tradition is now in need of a eulogy, or a decent burial, or a dogged defense, or radical reconstruction. Its high tide seems, in any case, to have passed. In this course, we will read several of these contemporary retrospectives. Among the questions we shall consider are: what do we make of these competing accounts of the nature and development of liberalism?  To what extent has being a ‘liberal’ involved constructing for oneself a ‘liberal tradition’?  How new is this sense of the crisis of liberalism?  What value has the concept of liberalism for historians and political theorists? Open to upper-level undergrads by consent. Grad students do not require consent. xHIST 49407. J. Isaac (W 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 enslave 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-salvery 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 forestalled early efforts to convert slaves to Christianity. Likewise, we’ll consider the role of obeah in the Haitian Revolution, the competing attitudes toward Christian slave revolt found in fiction by Douglass and Stowe, and the continued contestation of what W.E.B. DuBois called “the new religion of whiteness.” Secondary authors may include Charles Taylor, Talal Asad, Max Weber, Colin Kidd, Rebecca Goetz, Jared Hickman, Katharine Gerbner, Jorge Canizares-Esguerra, and J. Kameron Carter. xKNOW 40308. A. Mazzaferro (TR 2-4:50p Room: 5737 University, #104)

41604.  Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postcript 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. Would all students please come to the first session having read up to page 43 of the Alastair Hannay translation (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy). Consent required. xPHIL 50119. J. Lear (M 1:30-4:20pm, F 505)

47219.  The Romanticism 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 wil 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. This 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 is required. Graduate level seminar. xGRMN 47219/ARTH 47219. C. MacCleod (W 3:30-5:50pm, Wb 206) 

58500.  The Middle Ages in Midcentury Thought.  This seminar will explore the role of the Middle Ages (its literature, art, philosophy, theology) in the intellectual culture of the years during and just after WWII. Readings will pair midcentury thinkers with their medieval interlocutors. For example, Simone Weil will be read alongside texts in the tradition of medieval mysticism; Hannah Arendt, alongside Augustine. Other intellectual figures may include: Erick Auerbach, Ernst Robert Curtius, Norbert Elias, Franz Fanon, Ernst Kantorowicz, Paul Zumthor, Erwin Panofsky, Leo Spitzer, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Johan Huizinga. (Med/Ren, 20th/21st). xENGL 47219. B. Saltzman (W 1:30-4:20p, Walker 403)

75005. CST Thesis Proposal Seminar.  This is the Committee’s thesis proposal workshop, which is a required course. In accordance with the new mentoring guidelines for Social Thought, discussed last school year (2018-19), third-year students are required to take this workshop for credit. This course is meant to guide you in writing your dissertation proposal, and the process through the proposal stage. Required for CST 3rd year students, as well as 2nd or 4th years aiming to go ABD. A. Pop (F 505)