Courses from Previous Years
SCTH 26002 Literature and Hunger
This undergraduate course pursues themes of hunger, the consumption of food, the formation of community, and relation to the sacred, through a sequence of readings in the Western tradition. By reading classic works (The Odyssey, selections from The Hebrew Bible and Christian Scriptures, selections from The Divine Comedy, the Letters of St. Catherine of Siena, sonnets of Shakespeare, Paradise Lost), and modern works by Kafka, Simone Weil, Louise Glück, Frank Bidart, we will examine how different philosophies have imagined the acceptance or rejection of love, life, and the sacred in terms of the symbolism of food. Class work will involve close analysis of literary works, even those in translation; intensive critical writing and revision; and secondary readings in literary criticism, anthropology, theology, and psychology.
SCTH 31716 Xenophon's Socrates
This course is devoted to an introductory reading of Xenophon’s Socratic works, which provide the chief alternative to the account provided by Plato’s Socratic dialogues. We will read and discuss Xenophon’s Apology of Socrates, Symposium, Memorabilia, and if time permits Oeconomicus, make some comparisons to Platonic works, and consider some secondary interpretations. Themes may include piety, teaching and corruption, virtue, justice and law, economics, family, friendship, and eros. Open to undergraduates with instructor consent.
SCTH 31993 Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War
Thucydides' History is the oldest great book in Greek written for publication—as a book trade was just beginning to develop in his time. One symptom of the change is the amount of instruction, explicit and implicit, he gives the reader on how to read it. As we read these instructions, we come to be in a position to criticize the work. For instance: what were his criteria of relevance? Why does he not tell us his sources? How is it that his conception of the Greek world excludes North Africa, France, the Black Sea? Why was his book never finished? What were his personal feelings, and how are they expressed? And so on. After some preliminary discussion I intend to focus on Books Six and Seven. Course most suitable for students with some previous experience of studying this text. Open to undergraduates with instructor consent.
SCTH 37522 Aristotle's Ethics
The seminar will combine a careful reading of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics with philosophical considerations of fundamental problems involved in being human discussed in the text: happiness, virtue, courage, friendship, decision, political and contemplative life.
SCTH 38523 (GRMN)/SCTH 38523 Goethe and Kafka.
Criticism and Literary History This seminar will focus on two novels of unquestionable importance separated by just over a century: Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaften (Elective Affinities) of 1809 and Kafka’s Der Prozess (The Trial), written in 1914-15, but not published until 1925. These works are notable not only for their mysterious depth and narrative complexity, but also for having attracted some of the intellectually most adventurous interpretations in the history of literary criticism. The seminar will consider examples of that criticism from Walter Benjamin’s famous essay on Goethe’s novel and his various pieces on Kafka to recent contributions by Friedrich Kittler, Tony Tanner, Roberto Calasso, and Pascale Casanova. Each work will be submitted to an intensive, detailed interpretation, with particular emphasis on the novelistic rendering of space and time, the relationship between knowledge and unknowingness, the treatment of sexuality, the forms of symbolization employed, and the processing of social energies. In this sense, the seminar is a case study in the poetics of the novel and major positions in the discussion of the novel (Lukács, Bakhtin, Pavel, Moretti, Mazzoni) will therefore provide important points of reference. Command of German is not required, although welcomed.
50128 (PHIL )/SCTH 50128 Logic-Mathematical vs. Logico-Philosophical Conceptions of Logic
The history of philosophy, from antiquity to the early twentieth century, is littered with classic works bearing titles such as The Principles of Logic, The Foundations of Logic, A Theory of Logic, and so on. Most of the major philosophers in this tradition – Aristotle, Avicenna, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, etc. – devote at least one whole treatise to Logic, and in most cases several. These works are, like their other writings, composed of sentences – sentences of Greek, Arabic, Latin or German prose. The object of such works is to elucidate notions such as thought, judgment, negation, inference, and inquiry. Starting in the late 19th- and early 20th century a new kind of work in the theory of logic appeared – published by authors such as Boole, Peano, Frege, Russell, Hilbert, etc. These works contained comparatively little prose and a great many quasimathematical symbols in which formulae, axioms, theorems, proofs, etc. were set forward. The latter sorts of work had an enormous influence on how the nature of the discipline of logic itself came to be understood and how its relation, on the hand, to mathematics, and, on the other, to the rest of philosophy, came to be re-conceived. This, in turn, led – through the work of authors such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, Gilbert Ryle, Peter Strawson, etc. – to a series of efforts to challenge the ascendancy of the logico-mathematical conception of logic. The seminar will explore the relation between these two different conceptions of logic. We will be interested in ways in which these conceptions, at least in the hands of some authors, were carved out in a manner that allowed them at least to appear to coincide with one another, as well as ways in which they either tacitly diverged or openly conflicted with one another. The ideas set forth in two works by Wittgenstein – his early Tractatus and his later Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics – will shape our approach to these issues. The readings for the course will include canonical texts from the classic tradition of thought about logic from Aristotle through Kant and beyond, as well as targeted selections from those of Wittgenstein’s contemporaries whom he is most concerned to criticize (especially Frege, Russell, and Hilbert). The seminar will also feature various sidelong glances at parallel developments in the Continental tradition in authors such as Husserl, Heidegger, Jakob Klein, and others.
HIST 64400/SCTH 64400 Colloquium: The Humanities, the Human, and the Nonhuman
In this course, we will read some basic classical and early modern humanist texts in European history and try to relate them to later intellectual developments, such as nineteenth-century humanism, as well as to more recent ideas about the posthuman and the nonhuman.
SCTH 50303 Heidegger’s “Being and Time”
In 1927 Heidegger published a partial version of this book in a German journal, and it quickly became a sensation, challenging the deepest assumptions of the entire Western philosophical tradition. Heidegger claimed that philosophy in this tradition had "forgotten" the most important question in philosophy, the "meaning of being," and he proposed to begin to raise this question anew by a preliminary attention to the meaning of human being. This began what came to be known as "existentialism," and it revolutionized philosophical anthropology, literary and art criticism, theology, as well as numerous areas in philosophy, especially the study of the history of philosophy. This will be a lecture/discussion course devoted to a close reading of all of Being and Time. Exposure to philosophy, especially to ancient philosophy and Kant, is recommended.
SCTH 20682 Dreaming and Interpreting What is a dream?
In this course, we will explore this ancient question through a close engagement with the founding texts of psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, published on the eve of the year 1900, offered a revoluntionary account of the human mind and imagination. We will read this challenging text in its entirety before turning to the powerful critique posed by Freud’s contemporary, Carl Jung. Charismatic disciple turned adversary, Jung diverged from Freud to develop his own influential interpretation of dreams and what they reveal about the structure of the mind. As we chart the complex rivalry between these two great thinkers (and dreamers), we will try to understand how and why their mutually opposed theories are also closely intertwined. Among other topics, we will focus on the content and the form of dreams and dreaming; the image of the dream vs. the text of analysis; the stakes of interpretation, both theoretical and therapeutic; individual vs. collective symbols; the autobiographical elements in both Freud and Jung’s theories of dreaming; and the relation between dreams and mental illness, madness, and trauma. Throughout, we will ask what possibilities these ideas hold for us today in our own efforts to imagine and interpret our world.
SCTH 35711 Genesis: Philosophical, Midrashic, and Mystical Readings
In this introductory class, we shall explore the Jewish tradition of interpreting the first chapters of genesis: We will read from the Midrash Bereshit Rabba, the mystical midrash of the Zohar, the great medieval commentators (Rashi, Nachmanides), and the philosophical commentaries of Maimonides. X PHIL 25711, PHIL 35711, SCTH 25711. Kimhi, I. (T, 12:30-3:20, Foster 305)
HIST 49304/SCTH 39304 The Global History of Money
This course explores the last five hundred years of global economic history from the perspective of the evolving institution of money. After considering theories of money, we address the histories of three global currencies: silver, gold, and the US dollar. The course studies the role that silver played in the emergence of global capitalism during the European conquest of the Americas, given Asian demand for silver; the rise of the international gold standard in the nineteenth-century era of the Industrial Revolution, as well as the role gold played in the Great Depression; the role of the US dollar in the post–World War II international monetary system, as well as in the more recent era of globalization, including challenges today to the dollar's hegemony by other state currencies, as well as cryptocurrencies. Course is parented by HIST. X CCCT 49304, SCTH 29304, SCTH 39304. Levy, J. (W 9:30-12:20, Foster 505)
SCTH 36001 Baudelaire
An in-depth study of Baudelaire’s works. We will read (in English translation) "Les Fleurs du mal," "Les Petits poèmes en prose," and selections from his art criticism, in order to develop a perspective on this great poet who was both classical and romantic, both a traditional and a revolutionary artist who helped create modernism. X FNDL 27701, FREN 27701, FREN 37701. Warren, R. (T, 12:30-3:20, Foster 505)
SCTH 40131 The Unknown Future: Uncertainty and Prediction in Modern Social Thought
This course examines the long struggle in modern social thought to cope with uncertainty. The very idea that the future is unknown or uncertain is a relatively modern one. We will consider the origins of the concept of the unknown future and then consider a range of attempts to reduce the vagaries of chance and gain knowledge of that which has yet to be. Topics covered include the emergence of probability and statistics, changing conceptions of time during the Age of Revolutions, theories of historical progress, and radical uncertainty. Theoretical readings will include the writings of Reinhart Koselleck, Michel Foucault, and John Maynard Keynes. X HIST 66902. Isaac, J. (W 1:30-4:20, Saieh Hall 242)
ANTH 50750/SCTH 50750 Dis/Enchantments
In a time of planetary crisis, anthropologists and other scholars are trying to think beyond the human, beyond the Enlightenment subject, beyond the anthropocentrism of received social theory. The premise of this seminar is that the human has gone beyond the human all along, albeit in ways that are not often recognized in today’s posthumanist debates. We will explore other, older genealogies of thinking and being that have at once desired and tried to harness the explosive potential of self-loss as a modality of self-knowledge. Examples will include ‘participant observation’ as fieldwork method, theologies of participation and consubstantiality, transference and telepathy in psychoanalysis, and more. The aim is to productively derail us from prevailing cliches, so that we may better draw on archives that are at once stranger and more intimate than they at first appear. Course is parented by ANTH. X SCTH 50750, AASR 50750, CCCT 50750. Mazzarella, W. (W 1:30-4:20, Foster 107)
PHIL 56701/SCTH 56701 Plato’s Phaedrus
A close reading of this literary and philosophical masterpiece. This dialogue addresses the nature of the soul, love, lust, political persuasion, philosophical dialectic, poetic myth, the forms, and the difference between written and spoken discourse. What emerges in its dramatic action and explicit argumentation is a picture of human beings as speaking animals and of what a good life for animals like us might be. (III) Course is parented by PHIL. X SCTH 56701. Lear, G. (M 9:30-12:20, Foster 505)
SCTH 25800 Shakespeare's Revenge.
The philosopher Simone Weil argued that the desire for revenge is “a desire for essential equilibrium.” How might we understand this claim? This course will examine the use of the revenge theme in five plays of Shakespeare – Titus Andronicus, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and The Tempest – with a view to a.) deepening our understanding of these stories through close-reading; and b.) using them as a resource for thinking about revenge as a type of philosophical problem. What does a search for “equilibrium” entail, in such a context? How does an individual passion for revenge relate to conceptions of justice? More broadly, in what sense can a life fall into or out of balance? We will read and discuss each play as a whole, but with a special eye towards the psychological, historical, and metaphysical issues that revenge evokes. The focus of the course will be on Shakespeare’s two most explicit treatments of the revenge theme in his mature work: Hamlet and The Tempest. These readings will be supplemented by a consideration of his earliest foray into revenge drama (Titus Andronicus), the relationship between vengefulness and sexual jealousy (Othello), and the notion of cosmic retribution for sin (Macbeth). In addition, we will briefly examine plays by Seneca – the chief influence from antiquity on Elizabethan playwrights of revenge – and Thomas Kyd in order to further our understanding of the conventions of revenge drama in Early Modern England. Undergraduate seminar. xFNDL 25800, B. Jeffery (TR, 4:20p-5:40p, REMOTE)
SCTH 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 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 a series of linked case studies, beginning in Victorian England and ending with contemporary American movements. Undergraduate seminar. Although this class is listed as blended, please note, it will meet remotely for much of the course/quarter; we will try to incorporate outdoor, in-person settings for Chicago based students, weather and COVID restrictions permitting. xHIST 25024, D. Gutherz (TR, 9:40a-11:00a, BLENDED)
SCTH 20675 St. Petersburg: Text and City. St. Petersburg, Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad, 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. 1:00p-2:20p, REMOTE)
SCTH 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). Consent Required. xHIST 45003/CHSS 30929, L. Daston (MW, 9:10a-12:00p, REMOTE)
SCTH 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 with instructor consent. xCLAS 33616/FNDL 21223, L Slatkin (MW, 1:50p5:00*p, please note that the course will end at 4:40 PM; REMOTE)
SCTH 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, 1:00p-4:00p, REMOTE)
SCTH 36065 (KNOW 36065): Classification as World-Making.
This course will compare a set of fields in order to understand how classificatory knowledge structures our world. It begins with two philosophers—Aristotle and Kant—who offered strikingly different accounts of the role of categories in thought. Moving between disciplines, this course will furnish students with a diverse set of concepts and methods for working with classification in their own research. Above all, it will encourage critical accounts of the construction and effects of categories—as means for ordering the world and controlling it. This course is parented by Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge. x SCTH 36065 Dr. Alexander Campolo (M/W 1:50-3:10p, BLENDED)
SCTH 37323 Leo Strauss and Lucretius On the Nature of Things.
Leo Strauss’s œuvre contains two discussions of the works of classical poets: An outstanding book on Aristophanes’ comedies (Socrates and Aristophanes, 1966), and a demanding essay on Lucretius’ poem (“Notes on Lucretius”, 1968). Socrates and Aristophanes I shall teach in the spring of 2022. In the spring of 2021, I shall present my interpretation of Strauss’s “Notes on Lucretius” and of Lucretius’ work itself − a most radical, non-teleological and non-anthropocentric view of nature. In a 1949 letter to E. Voegelin Strauss wrote about Lucretius: “His poem is the purest and most glorious expression of the attitude that elicits consolation from the absolutely hopeless truth for the only reason that it is the truth … The closest approximation in our world is the side of Nietzsche that is turned to science.” A special focus of the seminar will be on the poetic means Lucretius uses for teaching philosophy. Literature: Leo Strauss: “Notes on Lucretius,” in: Liberalism Ancient and Modern. New York 1968, pp. 76−139. Lucretius: De rerum natura / On the Nature of Things. Ed. Cyril Bailey, Oxford 1947. Note: The seminar will be taught remotely and will take place Monday/Wednesday, 10:20 a.m. – 01:30 p.m.*, during the first five weeks of the term (March 29 – April 28, 2021). xCLAS 36720/PHIL 37323/PLSC 37323, H. Meier (MW, 10:20a-1:30p, REMOTE)
SCTH 38201 (FREN 39100) 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. This course is parented by Romance Languages. 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, 9:10a-12:20p, TBD)
SCTH 40204 (HIJD 40204) A Proto-History of Race? Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in Spain and North Africa (1200-1600)
This course focuses on phenomena of mass conversion and the emergence of ideologies of lineage and purity of blood in the western Mediterranean, more specifically, the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb. The rivalry between Islam and Christianity (with Judaism a frequent go-between) in this region produced many distinctive cultural formations. Among those formations were ideas about the limits of conversion that may be compared to modern concepts of race. The word “race” was itself first applied to humans in Iberia during this period, to designate Christians descended from Muslims or Jews, and similar concepts emerged in Islamic North Africa. We will explore these ideas in the Christian Iberian kingdoms, with frequent excursions into Almoravid, Almohad, Marinid and Nasrid Islamic polities. Our goal will be to produce a Mediterranean archaeology of some of the concepts with which Christian and Muslim colonizers encountered the New World and sub-Saharan Africa in the sixteenth century. This course is parented by Jewish Studies. Open to undergraduates by petition. xCRES 40204 / HCHR 40204 /HIST 42204 /ISLM 40204, D. Nirenberg (2:40p-5:40p, REMOTE)
SCTH 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. Consent required. J. Isaac (T, 1:00p-3:50p, REMOTE) 40128 Raison d'Etat and Modern Liberalism. In this course we will examine the classical view of the contrast between raison d’etat and natural rights, as given canonical expression by Friedrich Meinecke, and then proceed to assess a series of works that have called into question this binary view of the making of modern political thought. Among the authors discussed are Leo Strauss, Reinhart Koselleck, Michel Foucault, and Albert Hirschman. Consent required. Open to undergraduates with permission of instructor. xHIST 39417, J. Isaac (F, 12:40p-3:30p, REMOTE).
SCTH 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, 9:40a - 12:40p, REMOTE).
SCTH 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, 1:50p-4:40p, REMOTE)