COL 690: Dissertation Workshop
The Dissertation Writing Workshop facilitates the transition from course work and exam preparation to the writing of the dissertation. It provides Ph.D. students with at the dissertation stage a structured environment for completion of the first chapter of the dissertation. Students in the Dissertation Writing Workshop present a completed chapter of the dissertation to other workshop participants for critique. In addition, they develop a shorter version of the chapter for oral presentation and publication. The Dissertation Writing Workshop also serves as a forum for career related advice and preparation. Course is offered in the fall semester only and is open only to Comparative Literature Ph.D. students. Course is taught by the Director of Graduate Studies in Comparative Literature.
COL 706: Special Topics
Style & Sexual Difference
Donald J. Cross
This seminar will focus on Jacques Derrida’s Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles. As we follow the book’s nonlinear movements, our guiding thread will be Derrida’s central claim that “the subject of woman” unleashes or unchains “the question of style” in Friedrich Nietzsche’s work. As the focus of our seminar, however, Spurs will in no way limit our purview either thematically or bibliographically. On the contrary, the logic that links style and sexual difference in Spurs quickly sweeps up the apparently unrelated problems of – to name only a few – translation, the unconscious, historicity, space and time, the event, and the so-called “end” of philosophy. To ensure the stakes their full scope, accordingly, we’ll have to retrace Derrida’s often-anonymous references to works by not only Nietzsche (especially Twilight of the Idols) but also Martin Heidegger (the Nietzsche seminars, of course, but also Being and Time and “Time and Being”), Sigmund Freud (The Interpretation of Dreams, “Fetishism”) and Melanie Klein (The Psychology of Children and a few essays), Michel Foucault (The Order of Things), and others. Throughout the semester, we’ll also keep an eye on the legacy of Spurs and related texts in works by Sarah Kofman, Gayatri Spivak, Judith Butler, and/or other relevant contemporaries.
COL 713: Special Topics
What is Philosophy?
Rather than an introduction into philosophy, or a history of philosophy, this seminar seeks to explore an altogether different genre which asks “What is Philosophy?,” a question that all introductions already assume to have been answered. There are only very few examples of this genre, and most of them are of rather recent origin. Unless one considers Georg Simmel’s studies “On the essence of philosophy” from 1910 a response to the question of what philosophy is, it is Jose Ortega y Gasset who, with his lectures in 1928 at Buenos Aires, and then in Madrid a year later, seems to have inaugurated this type of inquiry. Martin Heidegger’s What is Philosophy? From 1955, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s, as well as Giorgio Agamben’s, works entitled What is Philosophy? date from 1991, and 2016 respectively. A chapter in Louis Althusser’s book On Reproduction from 2011 is also devoted to this question. By reading Ortega y Gasset, Heidegger, Deleuze/Guattari, Agamben, and perhaps Althusser’s works, I will seek to define this genre of questioning about philosophy, and the reasons that may have motivated the interest in this question. This will involve discussing the nature of questioning, and its relation to philosophy, the beginning of philosophy in Greece, and what its specific difference is compared to other theoretical formations.
COL 712: Special Topics
This course will explore the way in which thinking takes its radical shape through poetic innovation in language. How does language carry and open thinking in surprising and unexpected ways, breaking free of the idea of representational thought? What is the place of listening in thought, especially listening to what resonates in poetic language beyond words, images and their meaning? How do those issues gain significance in the age of information technology and the reduction of language to information and algorithmic processing? We will read a number of 20th & 21st century poets, likely including Wallace Stevens, Gertrude Stein, George Oppen, Susan Howe, Paul Celan, Francis Ponge, John Cage, Erin Moure, and Harryette Mullen. In parallel, we will examine Heidegger's pursuit, unique among philosophers, of the necessity of "poetic thinking": the sense of the "poetic" unfolded in his work; its critical import for conceptual and representational thought as well as for the critique of technology and its informational expansion; its significance for rethinking poetry and the work of art.
COL 711: Special Topics
Post-Truth & Biblical Law
This seminar will explore the most recent and older concepts and practices of “Post-truth” and “Alternative Facts.” The main path of inquiry will move through Modern Subjectivity to the Biblical Law today.
The guiding question of the course will be the role of the Biblical, Jewish, Christian and Muslim conceptions of truth and new truth in connection with the current reemergence of post-truth. To address this question, the course will situate the current horizon of “post-Truth“ and “alternative facts“ by a double-move (1) upstream of the unfolding history of the paradigms or horizons of thinking and practicing truth and (2) downstream to the horizon that the newest version of post-Truth is threatening to unveil. The work in the seminar will proceed from post-Cartesian horizon of truth as “certainty“ back to the medieval Arabic and Western Christian horizon of truth as “correspondence“ between intellect (divine and human) on the one hand and “things“ (res) on the other; to late medieval Rabbinic horizon of truth as “refutation;“ to the medieval Eastern Orthodox-Christian horizon of truth as divine presence and existence (hupostasys and huparxis), to the late-ancient Rabbinic and Christian horizons of the truth of a testament/testimony/witness in New Testament, in the Mishnah, and in the Palestinian Talmud; to Philo of Alexandria‘s invention of huparxis as the truth of the engagement of the Biblical G-d in the world; to the Aristotelian notion of truth before logos, to the archaic Greek and archaic Biblical horizons of truth as a position of resistance to the powers of oblivion, of the impossible, of the lie, and of the unsayable. This moving back from Descartes will allow to see what the currently unfolding sense of post-truth both opens up as a possibility and precludes moving forward.
In addition to readings in the relevant primary texts in translation, the theoretical component of the course will include a selection of Heidegger’s Being and Time, his lectures, courses and notes between 1933 and 1942, as well as Alain De Libera‘s theoretical and methodological works in what he calls “archeology of modern subjecti(vi)ty.“