*Sponsored by German
Course description: The course will deal with Kafka’s work largely in the light of the author’s preoccupation with language, particularly with the way this preoccupation affected his writing, indeed provided the topic of it. The point of departure will be the experience of “language crisis” among intellectuals and writers in turn of the century Austria, which led to the radical criticism of conceptual or referential language– already foreshadowed by Nietzsche – of Fritz Mauthner and Ludwig Wittgenstein, among others. The course will then show Kafka’s response to this crisis: his insight that conceptual/referential language and oppositional/binary involves an abstraction of the “truth” or the “real,” which is only apprehensible in a space of radical undecidability between opposites, demanding a language of irreducible allusiveness, a language that is constitutive of Kafka’s texts.
Profs. Richard Halpern and Wendy Lee
ENGL-GA 3629.001, GERM-GA 3629
Special Tpcs in Theory: Spinoza, Leibniz, and Theory: Styles of Thought
*Sponsored by English
Course description: This course will introduce two seventeenth-century thinkers who exerted a profound influence on the subsequent history of philosophy and, later, critical theory. Spinoza and Leibniz offer a study in contrasting philosophical styles: the one was an unrepentant heretic, the other an attempted reconciler of faiths; the one an excommunicant whose intellectual solitude attempted to spin a system largely out of itself, the other a social-climbing courtier and magpie who borrowed (some say, stole) from every intellectual current of his day; the one was accused of atheism, the other God-riddled; the one eschewed rhetoric in the name of geometric proof, the other was aphoristic and self-consciously writerly. This is in part a course about philosophical style and the different kinds of work it does. It is also about the contemporary theoretical legacies of its two principals, especially in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Catherine Malabou. Note: this course fulfills the pre-1800 literature course requirement for Comp Lit majors.
Prof. Eva Meyer
GERM-GA 1112, CINE-GT 3011, PERF-GT 2016, FREN-GA 1191
Face Value: The Theater of Theory
*Sponsored by German
Course description: To accept a text at face value, to literally explore its gestures when it produces and refuses meaning, we need not only to reconsider that the words „theory“ and „theater“ share the same etymological root. From thea, “to see,” the two converge in an act of spectatorship that itself needs to be reconsidered as being both contemplative and active, in a free and indirect way. Starting from Heinrich von Kleist’s seminal text “On the Gradual Production of Thoughts Whilst Speaking,” this course embarks on a journey into free and indirect speech as a method of thinking, traversing literary and theoretical texts, and films. Questions addressed range from theatricality, translation and transference to heteroglossia and amalgamation waltz. We will analyze texts by Charlotte Salomon, Franz Kafka, Mikhail Bachtin, Gilles Deleuze, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Eric Rohmer, Virginia Woolf, Emily Apter and discuss films directed by Danièle Huillet/Jean-Marie Straub, Claire Denis, John Cassavetes, Jean-Luc Godard/Anne-Marie Miéville, among others.
Profs. Nicola Cipani and Rebecca Falkoff
Literature and Machines
*Sponsored by Italian
Course description: Machine metaphors and narratives play an important role in modern literature, conveying shifting beliefs and anxieties about the nature of human intention and consciousness, the creative process, the dynamics of desire and gratification, gender roles, the organization of society, the meaning of “nature,” etc. This course explores different manifestations of the machine theme in literature, broadly clustered around the following categories: imaginary machines constituting the centerpiece of narrative plots; machine aesthetic as modernist ideal (e.g. Marinetti’s “identification of man with motor”); and mechanization of the inventive process (text-generating machines). We will read and discuss a selection of works from different periods and cultural contexts (Victorian era, Belle Époque, Futurist period, and Post-war experimental literature), representing a spectrum of affective dispositions and moods, ranging from the dreamy immersion in virtual realities to enlightened machine-assisted awakening, from the obsessive fear of mechanistic dehumanization to the desire of man-machine fusion.
Prof. Maria Luisa Ardizzone
ITAL-GA 2192.001, MEDI-GA 2300, HIST-GA 2707, EURO-GA 2162, ENGL-GA 2270
Dante as Public Intellectual
*Sponsored by Italian
Course description: A reading of Dante’s Monarchia,the political treatise that Dante wrote during his exile and probably between 1311 and 1312. Assumed by some readers to be a utopian treatise that looks at the restoration of the feudal sacred Roman Empire, and thus at a re-evaluating the role of nobility and its historical meaning, the Monarchia has as its antecedent the debates on power and sovranity that have been crucial in the medieval time and powerfully active in Dante’s age.
Placed on the Index in 1559 at the time of the Counter-Reformation, Dante’s Monarchia did have a long dispute as its background. It started immediately after the death of the poet, when the Pope John 22 and Cardinal Bertrand of Pujet condemned the book, which, according to Boccaccio, was publicly burnt. The events of the 14th century, however, did not hinder the reading and interpretation of Dante’s political treatise, at that time already well-known. Around the middle of the 14th century, Cola di Rienzo, the Roman Tribune friend of Petrarch and admirer of Dante, gave his own lecture on the Latin treatise, writing a commentary on it. Later, in the 15th century, Marsilio Ficino, the translator of Plato and leader of the platonic academy of Florence, made a vernacular translation of the treatise. Because the treatise gained to Dante the accuse of being a heretic (as noted by Boccaccio and Bartolo of Sassoferrato), it was not in Italy but in the Protestant Basilea that the Monarchia’s first printed edition appeared in 1559, published by Giovanni Oporinus, a humanistic pseudonym for Johannes Herbst. That Dante’s political work, although rooted in the medieval debates, anticipated in some ways the spirit of Reform is suggested by its troubled reception but also by the work itself. The decision of the Tridentine Concilium to place the Monarchia on the Index—its reception, contents, and theses being responsible for this decision—comes as no surprise. The course rereads Dante’s Monarchia in light of the synchronous political debate and focuses on Dante’s role as philosopher and public intellectual. Great attention will be given to Dante’s source such as Aristotle’s Politics and Ethics and the medieval commentaries on them. Other readings include a selection of Dante’s works in which he discusses political issues, as well as excerpts from Plato, Cicero, Seneca, Justinian Codex, Augustine, Alfarabi ,Brunetto Latini, Thomas Aquinas, Gratian and the canonists. The course will be in English. *Note: this course fulfills the pre-1800 literature requirement for Comp Lit majors.
Prof. Sarah Kay
FREN-GA 2244, MEDI-GA 2200
Troubadour Lyric: Rethinking NatureCulture
*Sponsored by French
Course Description: The portmanteau formation natureculture (or nature-culture) is used by Latour and Haraway, among others, to dismantle what once appeared a foundational opposition that served to demarcate and shore up the category of “the human” vis-à-vis that of “nature.” In modernity, this opposition has been used to drive a wedge between the discourses of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, thereby insinuating a distinct ontology to each of the three. In premodernity in general, however, and in particular in the twelfth- and thirteenth-century culture in which the troubadours composed, all three of these modern discourses fell within a field of “clergie,” however defined, and however received by the corresponding world of the secular laity.
In this class, we will consider how the relationship of nature and culture operates in the lyric production of the troubadours. In their songs, troubadours claim to draw their inspiration from such “natural” elements as breath, air, breeze, natural sounds, bird song, “harmony,” and a love that is in line with nature. Sometimes these features of the natural order appear compatible with, indeed foundational of, such “cultural” elements as the systems of spiritual or social law or other refined and codified formal structures like grammatical, poetic and musical artes, mechanical contrivances, networks of production, or techniques of transmission. But at other times actual behaviors are understood as falling short of ideals incarnated in nature; nature itself can appears as fallen with only humans having the possibility of escaping the limitations afflicting the rest of the physical world; the non-natural mechanical can appear not as an expression of art and means to harmony but as a debasement. Note: this course fulfills the pre-1800 literature course requirement for Comp Lit majors.
Topics: Proust in the World
*Sponsored by French
Course Description: This seminar will examine the modernist, worldly side of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu. We’ll consider Proust as a theorist of everyday life: a sociologist of culture, a queer aesthete, a botanical enthusiast, a gambler and stock market speculator, an investigator of media, a translator, a fashion connoisseur, and a tourist. We’ll also be interested in Proust as phenomenologist: a thinker who experiments with the grounds and limits of sensation and perception, exploring a variety of experiences—from states of unconsciousness to heightened, multi-sensory modes of awareness.
We’ll closely read and discuss the first two volumes of the novel (Du côté de chez Swann, A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs); selections from later volumes; and innovative critical works by Genette, Sedgwick, Barthes, Merleau-Ponty, Richard, Bourdieu, Deleuze, Rancière, Simon, Ladenson, Lucey, Gallo, and others.