Spring 2022

COL 112: Cross-Cultural Explorations: Encounters with Western, East Asian, and African Cultures
Alexander Sell
Monday, Wednesday 3:30pm-4:50pm
Frnczk 454
Class# 18341

The principal objective of this course is the study of the diversity of Western, East Asian, and African cultures from the Renaissance to the Modern Age. Although we will explore cultural diversity in its various expressions in politics, religious thought, social customs, everyday beliefs, and scientific advances our primary focus will be the study of art, literature, and big ideas. One of the central concerns of this course will be different cultural and historical conceptions of the human and its relation to nature, politics, and science. In the first part of the course we will examine the different formations of humanism in the Western cultures from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment; from Romanticism to Marxism. In the second part of the course we will focus on the non-Western ideas of the human and humanity and their expression in religions, political organizations, and artworks. We will begin with Daoism and Confucianism and their impact on Chinese ethics, philosophy, politics, and culture during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties. We will also briefly discuss the Cultural Revolution and Maoism in 20th century China. We will follow the influence of Confucianism in Japanese culture and its confluence with Zen and the Shinto Revival. In the context of politics we will focus primarily on the Tokugawa Shogunate. In the context of the arts we will analyze the place of the human in nature as reflected in Japanese landscape paintings, poetry, and woodblock prints. We will conclude our course with the discussion of the devastation of colonialism and the struggle for independence in Africa. We will analyze the influence of traditional (for example, masks and music) and modern African cultures (Fanon, Achebe, and Soyinka) in the contemporary world. This course is the same as COL 112 and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements.

COL 200: "We the People": On Democracy and Justice in America
Donald Cross
Monday, Wednesday 8:00am-9:20am
Clemens 119
Class# 22765

This course explores issues central to democracy. First, it examines the relation between democracy's claim to protect and promote both universal freedom and universal equality. Second, it considers the unresolvable tension between popular sovereignty ("we") and individual rights ("I"). Third, it considers the limitation of democracy in its necessary calculus of citizenship, the dual question of both how to count and who counts. Fourth the course takes up the role of narrative (recounting and accounting, telling) in establishing citizenship and the tradition or legacy of democracy. The course focuses on detailed readings and discussions of founding and foundational documents of the United States' democratic experiment: declaration of independence, articles of confederation, constitution of the United States, debates on the constitution; writings of Jefferson, Douglass, Lincoln, Stanton and Anthony, Larsen, MLK, Morrison; and major supreme court decisions concerning citizenship, racial equality, reproductive rights, rights to privacy, same sex marriage. In sum, "We the people" asks what it means to be a citizen and why democracy is at once the worst and the best form of government. In sum, in its consideration of the language of democracy--of citizenship and rights--"We the People" asks what it means when African-American novelist Toni Morrison remarks, in Beloved, that the story of slavery and of a mother's desire to "free" her daughter is "not" one "to pass on." What does it mean not "to pass on" the haunted narrative of our cultural and legal inheritance.

COL233: Literature and Happiness
Marc Johnson
Tuesday, Thursday 3:30pm-4:50pm
Baldy 105
Class# 19423

We all want to be happy. But what is happiness? This course will investigate the answers given to this question. We will be reading, writing, and talking about a wide variety of short texts from different fields such as art and literature, journalism, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, religion, and sociology. We will study visual media as well. Through literary and philosophical analysis, some of the questions we will try to answer will be the following: What makes us happy? Do we deserve to be happy? Can we create our own happiness? What is the relation between happiness, virtues, pleasure, and friendship?

COL703: Style and Contemporary Theory
Donald Cross
Monday 4:10pm-6:00pm
Clemens 708
Class# A 21903 Class# B 21904  

What is “style”? Is it bodily or ideal? Conscious or unconscious? Individual or communal? Is style strictly poetic and literary, or does it also influence philosophical thought? Does it condition political engagement, ethical action, historical memory? To raise these and related questions, this seminar will survey the role of style in postmodernism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, feminism, and gender studies. In Postmodernism, Fredric Jameson claims that a decline in subjectivity has triggered “the end of style.” Though not unjustified, Jameson’s prognosis risks oversimplifying two trends. First, the end of style is nothing new or specific to postmodernism. Albeit on different grounds, philosophy has effectively attempted “to end” style for more than two thousand years. Second, a whole series of philosophers, theorists, and critics in the twentieth-century not only rehabilitate a “non-subjective” notion of style. This new style, in the same stroke, becomes a lever that shifts difference and alterity to the fore in contemporary theory. To follow this double treatment of style, its alleged end and rebirth, we’ll organize the semester into three parts. In the first, we’ll read Jameson to frame the question of style before turning to Plato (Republic) and Jean-Paul Sartre (What Is Literature?) as bookends in the multimillennial mistrust of style. In the second part, we’ll turn to the rehabilitation of style in contemporary thought. More specifically, we’ll retrace a growing awareness of style’s revolutionary force that begins in Friedrich Nietzsche and intensifies in Martin Heidegger (Nietzsche I: The Will to Power as Art) and Jacques Derrida (Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles). In the third and final part of the semester, we’ll track the translation of this new take on style into postcolonialism (Gayatri Spivak), feminism (Sarah Kofman), and gender studies (Judith Butler).

COL 704: Derrida and Death
Shaun Irlam
Tuesday 11:00am 1:40pm
Clemens 708
Class#A 21905 Class#B 21906

COL 705: Concept, Idea, Ideal
Rodolphe Gasche
Tuesday 2:00pm-4:40pm
Clemens 708
Class#A 21907 Class# B 21908

This seminar will be entirely devoted to Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. However, in distinction from traditional interpretative readings of this crucial work which proceed in line with Kant’s own structuring of the book into a transcendental doctrine of the elements and a transcendental dialectic (with all their numerous subdivisions), and finally a transcendental doctrine of method, I will choose a different path. As the title of the seminar: CONCEPT, IDEA, IDEAL, suggests, a title which which should have also included sensible INTUITIONS (Anschauungen),  I intend to read the treatise in relation to the different representations (Vorstellungen) of the mind distinguished by Kant in conformity with the tradition. The goal of the seminar is to produce a rigorous understanding of these notions;  what the powers of the mind are that are involved in their production; what their differences are with respect to one another; what qua representations of the mind they accomplish; and of how they relate to one another in the process of the  formation of determined knowledge. A carefully selected number of passages that will be read closely will allow us to highlight the path breaking accomplishment of Kant’s First Critique for modern philosophy.

COL 707: Toward a Critique of the Present: Myth and Enlightenment from Kant to QAnon
Noam Pines
Tuesday 4:10-6:50pm
Clemens 120
Class#A 24613 Class#B 24614

In critical thought, the concept of myth designates a representation of reality that lies outside the purview of rationality, and in which the heteronomous authority of tradition remains firmly entrenched. Consequently, the objects that draw their meaning from myth are not merely abstract ideas, but political and social realities. Recently, the mythical has resurged in public discourse with the rise of authoritarian political figures. Under their political leadership, the spread of governmental misinformation, “fake news,” and conspiracy theories has reproduced knowledge gaps necessary for the perpetuation of oppressive power relations. In this context, the seminar will focus on key historical reactions to myth by means of a critique of the present known as “Enlightenment.” Readings include Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Lukacs, Benjamin, Adorno and Horkheimer, and Foucault.


Past course offerings