English 165

Special Topics: Is It Useless to Revolt?: Literature of Revolt

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Spring 2016 Goldsmith, Steven
TTh 2-3:30 305 Wheeler Poetry
Literary Theory
Special Topics

Book List

James, Henry : The Princess Casamassima; Kushner, Rachel: The Flame Throwers; Melville, Herman: Benito Cereno; Milton, John: Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, and the Complete Shorter Poems; O'Brien, Geoffrey: People on Sunday; Shelley, Percy: Shelley's Poetry and Prose


“Is it useless to revolt?”  Our course borrows its title from an essay by Foucault on the Iranian Revolution of 1979.  Foucault urges us to suspend judgment and listen to the voices of revolt, even as they seem entangled in a history of inescapable, recurrent violence.  Attracted and repulsed by revolutionary violence, 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 intersection of religion, art, and politics will 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 two foundational representations of revolt in the Bible (Exodus and Revelation), and they will lead us forward to contemporary questions about “terrorism.”  (After 9/11, a much publicized debate on Samson Agonistes asked whether its central character is best described as a terrorist.)  Other readings will range widely across historical periods and national cultures, including works by Blake, Kleist, Nat Turner, Shelley, Melville, and James in the nineteenth century, Yeats, Auden, and Darwish in the twentieth, and contemporary authors such as Kenzaburo Oe, Rachel Kushner, and (Berkeley’s own) Geoffrey O’Brien.  On occasion, we will take up theoretical writings on the subject of revolt, liberation, and violence by Kant, Benjamin, Arendt, Zizek, and—of course—Foucault.

This course is open to English majors only.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
165/1 Special Topics: H.P. Lovecraft in His Tradition Breitwieser, Mitchell
165/2 Special Topics: Handel's Art in Setting English Words to Music Hanson, Kristin
165/3 Special Topics: Is It Useless To Revolt? Goldsmith, Steven
165/4 Special Topics: Neo-Slave Narratives JanMohamed, Abdul R.
165/5 Special Topics: Incarcerations: The Literature of (Physical, Mental, Spiritual) Imprisonment Padilla, Genaro M.
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
165/1 Special Topics: Genres of Free Speech Lavery, Jos
165/2 Special Topics: Art of Writing Hejinian, Lyn
Benjamin, Daniel
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
165/1 Special Topics: The Graphic Memoir Wong, Hertha D. Sweet
165/2 Special Topics: Incarcerations: The Literatures of Physical Confinement and Spiritual Liberation Padilla, Genaro M.
Fall, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
165/1 Special Topics: Telling Stories: The Power of Narrative in Academic Writing Donegan, Kathleen
Spring, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
165/1 Special Topics: Arthurian Medievalisms No instructor assigned yet.
165/2 Special Topics: 21st-Century U.S. Poetry O'Brien, Geoffrey G.
165/3 Special Topics: Oscar Wilde and the Nineteenth Century Lavery, Jos
165/4 Special Topics: Representing Non-Human Life in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Britain Picciotto, Joanna M
165/6 Special Topics: Queer Lifestyles in Literature and Theory Weiner, Joshua J
165/7 Special Topics: Later 17th-Century Nonfictional Prose Starr, George A.
165/8 Special Topics: Arts of Writing: Academic Writing, Grant Writing, Food Writing Schweik, Susan
Rahimtoola, Samia Shabnam
165/9 Special Topics: Ovid and the English Renaissance Landreth, David

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