The Politics, Ethics, and Poetics of Desire: Lacan/Freud, Irigaray, and Deleuze and Guattari. The aim of this course is to reexamine the architecture of the concept of desire through the work of, arguably, most significant contemporary thinkers of desire—Jacques  Lacan, Luce Irigaray, and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. The course will begin with some background readings from Plato, Kant, Marx, and, most especially, Freud.  Several literary works will be considered as well.

Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis and the Question of Language: Derrida/Lacan/Saussure/Freud. The course considers the intersection of linguistic, philosophical, and psychoanalytic thematics in Lacan's and Derrida's work. This intersection is more customarily associated with Derrida's project, but was in fact introduced by Lacan and then transformed by Derrida via his analysis of the question of writing, leading his to his own radical concept of writing, one of his most significant and innovative contributions. The course is designed to serve as a comprehensive introduction to Lacan's and, especially, Derrida's thought, and will consider the key ideas of both Freud and Saussure as necessary background authors. A number of earlier literary and philosophical figures discussed by Freud, Lacan, and Derrida will be considered as well, such as Rousseau, Edgar Allan Poe, Melville, and Mallarmé. In particular the relationships between psychoanalytical and deconstructive literary criticism and theory will be examined. Derrida and deconstruction, and the Lacan-Derrida interface will be the primary focus, however.


Capitalism and Paranoia, Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Foucault, Deleuze, and Modernist Novel. The course offers a comprehensive examination of the works of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, and of the relationships between their ideas and the culture of modernity and, then, postmodernity, as the culture of capitalism. The course also considers, through the optics of Foucault's and Deleuze's work, how this culture is reflected in modernist and postmodernist novels of the twentieth century, and in the genre of the novel itself, which has been the dominant and indeed defining literary genre of this culture, from early to late capitalism. While Foucault's and Deleuze's work may be seen as a radical philosophical critique of modernity and capitalism by the philosophical means, the novel enacts an analogous and often equally radical literary critique. The works to be discussed include selections from Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud; Foucault's The Order of Things, Discipline and Punish, History of Sexuality, vol.1, and selected essays; and substantive selections from such works by Deleuze (and Deleuze and Guattari) as Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus, and Foucault, as well as several shorter essays. Among the works of fiction to be considered are Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Kafka's The Trial; Woolf's Orlando; and Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49.


Literature/Ethics/Politics. Taking as its point of departure Propositions 5.6, “The limits of my language mean the limit of my world,” and 6.421, “It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed,” of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophical, this course examines the relationships between literature, politics, and ethics in contemporary literary and cultural theory. While a particular attention is given to the way the subject evolved during 1990s, key earlier background works, such as those of Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, are considered as well. Among the subjects to be addressed are the shift from the language/signification oriented to the culture/politics oriented approaches in literary studies during the last decades and the relationships between politics and ethics in literature, philosophy, and culture at large. Readings include theoretical texts by Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Bataille, Levinas, Blanchot, Derrida, Deleuze, and Irigaray, and literary works by Sophocles, Kafka, Thomas Mann, Joyce, and Beckett. While a relatively large number of authors are considered, the selection of works offers a manageable combination of shorter theoretical essays and longer (mostly literary) texts, so as to give the participants enough time to study and discuss them.


Contemporary Criticism and Theory. This course offers an examination of several major paradigms shaping the recent history and the current scene of the study of literature, theory, and culture—poststructuralism and postmodernism, gender studies, and new approaches to history and culture, among them. Along with background readings from such authors as Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Virginia Woolf, the course will consider some the key founding figures of contemporary theory and cultural critique, such as Benjamin, Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, and Irigaray, and significant commentaries on their work extending their ideas in new directions.  Several representative literary works will be discussed as well.


Gilles Deleuze, Modernism and Postmodernity: Philosophy, Literature, Culture. This course offers a comprehensive introduction to Gilles Deleuze's work by engaging with his key writings, including his collaborations with Felix Guattari. Positioning Deleuze in relation to Modernism and Postmodernity, on the one hand, and literature, on the other, is defined (and justified) by Deleuze's central role in the postmodern scene and in current academic discussions. The approach follows the parallelism suggested by the title and the subtitle of the course: Deleuze/Philosophy, Literature/Modernism, and Culture/Postmodernity. It considers Deleuze as a key philosophical figure for our understanding of the relationships between the cultures of modernity (extending, from the Enlightenment, broadly conceived) and of postmodernity (extending, roughly, from late 1960s to our own time). Modernism will, by contrast, be used primarily as an aesthetic (rather than more generally cultural) category. It pertains to a certain part of twentieth-century literature and art, including the key literary works, such as those by Joyce, Woolf, Kafka, and Beckett, which will be considered in this class in conjunction with Deleuze's philosophical works. Modernist literature and art have played a defining role in shaping postmodernist philosophy of the last three decades, including that of Deleuze or of such seminal figures as Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, and Paul de Man. Deleuze even speaks on the superiority of Anglo-American literature in this context, although he devotes equally major attention to European modernism, thus, not only justifying but, in some respects, necessitating the approach adopted by the course. At the same time, this approach enables the course to offer an introduction to literary modernism, beginning with Deleuze's understanding of it developed in the last chapter, “Phantasm and Modern Literature,” of his The Logic of Sense . This book opens this course by way of a joint introduction to Deleuze and modernism. The book is also a reading of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, the first literary work to be discussed in the course. Other literary authors to be considered are Kafka ( The Trial ), paired with Deleuze and Guattari's Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, and Woolf ( Orlando ), Joyce ( A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), and Beckett (the “Molloy” trilogy). These authors will be read in the context of Deleuze's late work and his collaborations with Guattari, especially Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Several theoretical works on postmodernism and on Deleuze's significance for it, specifically by Lyotard and Fredric Jameson, will be discussed as well.


Beyond Difference: Deleuze, Derrida, Irigaray. Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, and Luce Irigiray are among the thinkers whose work had the greatest impact on posmodernist critical and cultural theory, specifically as concerns the role of the concept of “difference” and its avatars, such as “otherness,” “alterity,” and “exteriority.” It is often forgotten, however, or missed, to begin with, that their work radically redefines these concepts. It is this redefinition that has the greatest philosophical and cultural-political implications, in particular for our understanding of the role of materiality, the body, textuality (“writing”) and of these latter concepts themselves in postmodern culture. This course explores these, more radical, dimensions of their work. The course considers a number of key works (or selections) by these thinkers from different stages of their careers, as well as relevant background selections from the works of such figures as Nietzsche, Freud, Cixous, and Lyotard. Among the works to be addressed are Deleuze's Difference and Repetition; Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus (selections) and What is Philosophy?; Derrida's “Différance,” Dissemination (selections), and Aporias; and Irigaray's This Sex which is not One and Sexes and Genealogies. A number of literary works by such authors as Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Marguerite Duras, and Samuel Beckett are discussed as well.


Ghosts of Modernity, Spirits of Postmodernity: Science, Technology, Literature, Philosophy, Culture. The aim of the course is to explore the relationships between modern science and technology, on the one hand, and modern and postmodern--and, by now, post-postmodern--thought, on the other. The course considers new dimensions added to these relationships in the wake of certain radical developments in art, the humanities, and the social sciences. While a representative sample of literary and theoretical works, by such authors as Thomas Mann, Borges, Stoppard, and Pynchon, on the literary side, and Nietzsche, Blanchot, Derrida, and Donna Haraway, on the theoretical side, is discussed, the main texts are three recent books (all published in the 1990s)—Bruno Latour's We Have Never Been Modern, Bruno Latour and Michel Serres's Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time, and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's What is Philosophy?—which will be contrasted to Jean-François Lyotard's earlier (1979) The Postmodern Condition. The course also considers recent (and sometimes heated) debates, including the so-called “Science Wars” and “Sokal affair,” and the general reaction of the scientific community to new approaches to understanding science and technology developed in the humanities. Using expositions accessible to nonspecialists, the course introduces its participants to scientific theories that have figured prominently in the works and debates to be considered. One of the goals of the course is to reexamine C. P. Snow's old thesis concerning the “two cultures”—scientific and humanistic. Perhaps we do not have two cultures after all. It is difficult to conclude in the wake of these debates that there is one culture, but there are certainly more than two.


The Material and the Phenomenal in Aesthetics, History, and Politics. The course will consider the role and significance of the concepts of materiality and phenomenality in contemporary critical theory, specifically for the way in which it approaches the questions of aesthetics, history, and politics. The course takes it point of departure in Kant's third Critique, The Critique of Judgment, Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, and Marx's Manuscripts of 1844, which defined modern (post-Enlightenment) understanding of aesthetics, history, and politics. There were also subjects of a critical, postmodern and, by now, post-postmodern, reconsideration of all three, and of materiality and phenomenality, to begin with, in the work of Gilles Deleuze, Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Luce Irigaray, Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard, and Bruno Latour, to whom this course will give its primary attention. However, a number of key authors whose works link postmodernist thought to that of Kant and Hegel will also be considered, specifically Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Benjamin. Literary works by, among others, Kafka, Beckett, Woolf, and Faulkner, will be addressed as well.


Derrida, Deconstruction, and Literature . The seminar offers a comprehensive investigation of Jacques Derrida's work through the question of literature, which, according to Derrida himself, plays a uniquely shaping role in his thought. The seminar also addresses, from this perspective, key epistemological, ethical, political, and, especially, linguistic aspects of Derrida's criticism and philosophy. It considers several works from different periods of Derrida's career (both extended portions of his major books and selected essays on literary authors). It will also discuss related work by such critics as Maurice Blanchot, Paul de Man, and Hélène Cixous. Among the literary works to be considered are those by Duras, Joyce, Kafka, Melville, Shakespeare, and Sophocles.




Studies in Literature and Language: Scientific, Philosophical, and Literary Paradigms of Modern Thought (Honors). The course considers the relationships between scientific (including mathematical) and literary paradigms of modern thought, the ways we see the world of nature and humanity in the 20th and by now indeed the 21st century, and specifically the way we use language in both fields. No knowledge of mathematics and science is required for this course. However, the participation of mathematics and science honors students is especially welcome. First of all, this participation enables a productive and mutually beneficial dialogue between students representing diverse facets of Purdue. Secondly, the aim of this seminar is to explore as much the contribution of the humanities, in particular, literature to mathematics and science as that of mathematics and science to the humanities. From Galileo to Einstein, literature (in their cases, specifically, Dante and Dostoevsky) has helped to shape the scientific vision of the world, just as the latter shaped the artistic vision of it. The course begins with the Copernican revolution, and a joint reading of selections from Galileo's Dialogues Concerning Two New Systems of the World and Milton's Paradise Lost, as two examples of, respectively, scientific and literary visions of the post-Copernican world of nature and humanity. It then considers some of the key developments in all three areas in the 18th and 19th centuries, which shaped the 20th-century understanding of the world, in particular non-Euclidean geometry, thermodynamics, and modern biology in science, and the idea of the novel in literature. Among the literary works to be discussed are Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and H. G. Well's The Time Machine. Finally, the course discusses such 20th-century developments as Einstein's relativity and modern cosmology, quantum theory and chaos theory, on the scientific side, and the works of such authors as Bertold Brecht, Tom Stoppard, and Thomas Pynchon, on the literary side. The course also examines the work of key philosophers and historians of science, in particular Thomas Kuhn and Michel Foucault.


Ways of Reading. Close readings of and significant writings about selected literary texts informed by a variety of critical and/or theoretical perspectives. The course will discuss the history of and major contemporary trends in literary criticism and theory. Among the theoretical authors to be considered are Plato, Aristotle, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Woolf, Foucault, Derrida, and Irigaray. The course will also discuss literary works by, among others, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Dickens, Woolf, Faulkner, Tony Morrison, Pynchon, and De Lillo.


Great Narrative Works. Reading and discussion of great narratives from Homer's Odyssey to the present, considering works from a variety of cultures and time periods in order to develop an understanding of their ideas, structures, styles, and cultural values. A special emphasis will be given to literary modernism and postmodernism, and the relationships between them.

Philosophy and Literature | Theory and Cultural Studies

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