English 203

Graduate Readings: On Life

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2011 Jones, Donna V.
Jones, Donna
TTh 12:30-2 121 Wheeler

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This course will explore the literary and cultural significance of philosophies of life. To set the course in motion, we shall begin with two provocative works: Terry Eagleton’s The Meaning of Life and Elizabeth Grosz’s The Nick of Time. In exploring the meaning of life, Eagleton takes us on a tour of the many meanings of life. In readings of Darwin, Nietzsche, Bergson and Deleuze, Grosz identifies life with temporality or a way of holding the past, present and future together.

The course will then be divided into four major sections, combining literary and philosophical works: Romanticism, Nietzscheanism, Bergsonism, and Bio-power.

In our discussion of Romanticism we shall focus on what M. H. Abrams long ago determined to be its core concept—life. We shall explore the significance of the Romantics’ interest in the scientific attempts to understand life, monstrous life forms and life’s interconnectedness.

Our study of Nietzscheanism will culminate in a reading of Mann’s Dr. Faustus whose protagonist embodies the temptations and dangers of Nietzschean Lebensphilosophie, but we shall begin with Nietzsche’s own affirmation of life against asceticism. We shall also study the interpretation of his philosophy developed by Georg Simmel whose influence on cultural studies and philosophy is still underestimated. Anticipating Martin Heidegger, and in response to The Great War, Simmel registers the cultural shift from the affirmation of life to the authentic facing of death.

We shall then move to the study of Bergsonism. We shall read Bergson’s most culturally influential work, not his more strictly philosophical works. We shall investigate the fear of mechanical inelasticity and becoming automaton, his critiques of limits of mechanistic thinking about life, and his valorization of intuition and process as the epistemology and ontology suited to life, respectively. We shall then discuss how these ideas are thematized in works by D.H. Lawrence, Aimé Césaire and Leopold Senghor. But we will also attend to the visual arts to explore how vitalist themes were played out. On the one hand, Bergsonism provided a language with which to appreciate African art; on the other hand, the vitalist themes of Bergson and Georges Sorel were appropriated by the European fascist avant-garde.

The course will conclude with the recent discussion of the nature of life in the theorization of biopower, biopolitics and the homo sacer.

Required readings (the reading will be composed of both selections and whole texts from the following books):

Terry Eagleton The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction
Elizabeth Grosz The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution and the Untimely

The Romantics
Mary Shelley Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus
M. H. Abrams “The World’s Song of Life and Joy”
Denise Gigante Life: Organic Form and Romanticism
Timothy Morton Ecology Without Nature

Friedrich Nietzsche On The Genealogy of Morals
Georg Simmel The View of Life: Four Metaphysical Essays with Journal Applications
Thomas Mann Dr. Faustus: The Life of the Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend

Henri Bergson Creative Evolution
Henri Bergson Comedy
D.H. Lawrence Women in Love
Aimé Césaire Cahier d’un Retour Au Pays Natal (English and French edition), ed. Abiola Irele
Souleymane Bachir Diagne African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson and the Idea of Négritude
Mark Antliff Avant-garde Fascism: The Mobilization of Myth, Art and Culture in France, 1909-1939

Biopower and Biopolitics
Michel Foucault Society Must Be Defended
Thomas Lemke Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction
Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go

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