English R1B

Reading and Composition: You Say You Want A Revolution*: From Independence Hall and the Bastille to Tahrir Square

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2016 Albernaz, Joseph
MWF 9-10 222 Wheeler

Book List

Burke, Edmund: Reflections on the Revolution in France; France, Anatole: The Gods Will Have Blood; Shenoda, Matthew: Tahrir Suite

Other Readings and Media

Course Reader with (possible) excerpts from: Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, Helen Maria Williams, William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, William Blake, Germaine de Stael, Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, Hannah Arendt, Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemberg, Karl Marx, Jean-Luc Nancy, Walter Benjamin, Angela Davis, Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Amiri Baraka, et al.

Other media we might examine could include painting (Jacques-Louis David, Wassily Kandinsky), film (Sergei Eisenstein, Christopher Nolan), music (Ludwig van Beethoven, The Beatles), and spoken word (Gil Scott-Heron).


Etymologically, the word “revolution” (from the Latin revolvere) signifies a “turning back.”  However, the word has come to take on quite a different meaning: the overthrow of the existing order and the birth of something radically new. This course will examine the valences, effects, and legacies of revolution starting with those events often considered to have inaugurated our modernity (the American and French Revolutions), and ending with the recent spate of revolutions around the world known as the “Arab Spring.” Along the way we will make stops to explore the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in the early 20th century and the turbulent uprisings of the 1960s.

Throughout the semester we will hear and analyze the voices of equally fervent supporters and detractors of revolution, but we will also pay attention to people simply trying to live out their lives against the backdrop of chaotic revolutionary times. Just a few of the questions we will consider include: Do the social media-inspired revolutions of the Arab Spring trace their origins to the democratic promise of the American and French Revolutions? Do revolutions in aesthetic form have to accompany political revolutions? What do we do with hopes for a new world once revolutionary and utopian promises disappoint and start to fade?

The central goal of the R1B course will be to build your research skills and habits. You will write three papers of increasing length over the semester, one shorter one and two longer papers based on research and revision.

*Well, you know, we all want to change the world. 

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