English R1A

Reading and Composition: Mere Humanism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
3 Summer 2019 Swensen, Dana
MTuTh 2-4 211 Dwinelle C


This course will evaluate the role that 'Humanism' has played across a transhistorical spectrum and a diverse generic range (we will read prose, drama, poetry across roughly five centuries). While the first half of the course will solidify a working definition of 'Humanist' and 'Humanism,' the second half will work to produce an equally sophisticated vision of what 'Antihumanism' might be, and how it orients contemporary practices. Beginning with the Early Modern notion of Humanism as rooted in a divinely bestowed capacity for dramatic self-creation, we will read the foundational works of the Renaissance 'Humanist' ideal. Pico della Mirandola's 'Oration on the Dignity of Man,' for example, and Desiderius Erasmus' In Praise of Folly will help to solidify a definition of what Humanism may have meant at its origin—was it a philosophy or an academic pursuit of what we now call 'The Humanities' (the studia humanitatis)? When we move on to studying 'Antihumanism,' the ideal will be to develop a capacious concept of the necessity of the anti-human in the contemporary world. At stake throughout will be a problematization of any easy binary opposition between 'the human' and the 'anti-human.' Is humanism in some way about 'the individual'? Does 'antihumanism' rule out 'the individual' as a nexus of subjectivity? The course will be aimed at the development of analytic thinking and close reading skills in tandem. Our goal will be to sharpen our writing skills by further developing the interface between thought and writing. This course will involve the writing of a number of essays throughout the term.

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