In English / 4 credits
Taught by Benjamin Lewis Robinson
What is the meaning of “life”? The use of the word life is ambiguous: On the one hand, it refers to biological life, the organic cycle of birth and decay, of labor and consumption, the sustenance of a living body. On the other hand, life means something more – that which transcends the biological, beginning when the necessities of life have been met. It is in this second sense that one usually speaks of the meaning of life referring to the good life, higher life, truly human life. In the face of contemporary social and ecological crises, this distinction between sheer life and meaningful life needs urgently to be reconsidered.
Literature and film have tended to reinforce this distinction by privileging the significance of singular lives (most often “great men”) over life in its anonymous, biological reality. In contrast, this course is devoted to exploring a counter-tradition that refuses the distinction between “life” and “life.” Such literary and filmic work is concerned with articulating all “signs of life” – including other than human lives. What lives count to be recounted? How is life expressed, communicated, figured, mediated?
How to attest to the life that we share with other humans, and with other living beings? And how does life provoke (and resist) our urge to make sense of it?
Readings and viewing will be supplemented by texts in philosophy, political theory (biopolitics), animal studies, and ecological thought.