English 150

Senior Seminar: Is It Useless to Revolt?

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
12 Fall 2006 Goldsmith, Steven
Goldsmith, Steven
TTh 2-3:30 305 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

A partial list of texts includes Delillo, D.: Mau II; Melville, H.: Billy Budd and Other Stories; Milton, J.: The Major Works; Oe, K.: Somersault; Shelley, P.: Shelley�s Poetry and Prose.


�Is it useless to revolt?� Our seminar borrows its lead question from the title of an essay by Foucault on the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Foucault urges us to listen to the voices of revolt, even as they seem entangled in a history of inescapable, recurrent violence. Attracted and repulsed by the decisive violence of revolt, the authors in this course test Foucault�s proposition that, �While revolts take place in history, they also escape it in a certain manner.� The conjunction of religion, literature, and politics will also loom large in our discussions. Starting with Milton �s Samson Agonistes, we will consider how religious convictions inform both political aspiration and a willingness to justify acts of violence. Such questions will lead us back to the foundational representations of revolt in the Bible (Exodus and Revelation), and they will lead us forward to contemporary questions about �terrorism.� (Since 9/11, a much publicized debate on Samson Agonistes has asked whether its protagonist is best described as a terrorist.) Other readings will range widely across historical periods and national cultures, and might include works by Blake, Kleist, Shelley, Melville, Nat Turner, and Yeats, as well as living writers such as Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe, and American novelist Don Delillo. On occasion, we will also take up theoretical writings on the subject of revolt, liberation, and violence by such authors as Kant, Benjamin, Arendt, Derrida, and�of course�Foucault.

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