Fall 2017 Graduate Course Descriptions
Dissertation Writing Workshop
Foucault and the Care of the Self
Beginning with the second volume of the History of Sexuality, The Use of Pleasure (Gallimard 1984), Foucault turned his attention away from the 17th – 19th centuries (a three-hundred year period Foucault effectively reinvented) and toward the 1000 year period of late Hellenism and early Christianity, 500 BCE to 500 CE, in order to ask about the relation of truth to the self. Foucault prepared for the publication of The Use of Pleasure over the course of several years of teaching and lecturing, beginning, perhaps, with the 1980-81 course Subjectivité et vérité (Collège de France) and the l981 course he gave at Louvain, Mal faire, dire vrai: Fonction de l’aveu en justice. In addition, in 1980, at Dartmouth College, he gave a series of lectures on the origin of the hermeneutic of self (L’origine de l’herméneutique de soi). These courses and lectures would be followed up by others devoted largely to the same problem: the necessary transformation of the self in order to speak the truth, and the politics that would follow from this self-transformation. In this seminar, we will read Foucault’s seminars, Subjectivity and Truth (1980-81) and The Hermeneutics of the Self (1982-1983) as well as the lectures The Origin of the Hermeneutic of Self (Dartmouth 1980), Discourse and Truth (Berkeley 1983), and Parrhesia (Berkeley 1983). We’ll be concerned precisely with the constitution 1) of the self, its relation to the world and the other; 2) of truth; 3) of politics.
Because these texts often circle around the same problems, it would be a good idea to read them over the summer, since during the seminar my hope is to develop a reading of Foucault that does not necessary proceed chronologically through each text.
Course requirement: 15-20 page research paper on one of the problems of the course.
Plato & the Political
In this seminar we will start out with a close reading of Plato’s late dialogue about politics, and statesmanship. Apart from drawing the consequences from the fact that in the Statesman it is a Stranger who lectures the Greeks about politics, we will pay particular attention to the problematic of interlacing and interweaving that according to this dialogue is the art of statesmanship, and how this conception shapes the political community, and the being together of its members. On the basis of this reading, we then will turn to some writings of Derrida in order to evaluate how Derrida rethinks this problematic of interlacing and interweaving, and what its consequences are with respect to the political.
The course’s objective is not only to learn how to practice close readings of philosophical texts by developing critical and analytical skills, but also to become familiar with the writings of the thinkers in question about the political, statesmanship, and the question of community, or being-with. Course requirements: Attendance is mandatory. A final research, or argumentative paper of ca. 12-15 pages is required for students, who take the course intensively (A section); a three page paper, for those who take the course extensively (B section).
Paranoid & Reparative Reading
Is metaphysics dead? Here is a course that will show not only that metaphysics is alive and well, but that it is inevitable for any serious philosopher. The seminar will be offered in the Fall of 2017. Meta-Metaphysics has recently attracted some attention, but courses on it are rare. The seminar will take up this topic and see how it is related to many other central philosophical topics. We shall begin with an analysis of the questions and issues that are involved in this pursuit and proceed to examine the main positions that have been offered in the history of philosophy, from Aristotle to Strawson, including Aquinas, Kant, Meinong, Carnap, and others.
Literature as Bible
How literature and theology relate to each other? Instead of asking a more conventional question of reading Bible as Literature, the course asks a new question of the role of Bible in the formation literature. Can literature be reduced to a work of imagination and imitation? Can theology be denied a power of a literary production? To address these questions, the course will explore the role of Biblical style and its Jewish and Christian interpretations over the centuries in the formation and understanding of the constitutive aporias, impasses, and tensions in “Western Literature” in its relationship to Christian theology, philosophy, and their counterparts in Jewish thought. Relevant works of Auerbach, Sartre, Barthes, and Foucault, as well as the competing notions of close reading, distant reading, and slow reading as modes of critical reading of a literary and theological work will be at the center of the course-work.