English 250

Research Seminars: Biopolitics and Biopower

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2021 Jones, Donna V.
T 12-3 301 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media






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 three major sections, combining literary and philosophical works: Nietzscheanism, Bergsonism, and Biopower.

Our study of Nietzscheanism shall begin with Nietzsche’s own affirmation of life against asceticism and conclude with an examination of the philosopher’s engagement with biologisms. 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, empire, and critical race studies.

Required readings (the reading will be composed of both selections and whole texts from the following books. Items marked with an * indicate chapters or articles found on bspace.):



Elizabeth Grosz The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution and the Untimely

Nicholas Rose The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century*

Gilles Deleuze Pure Immanence* 


Friedrich Nietzsche On The Genealogy of Morals and Will To Power

Gregory Moore Nietzsche Biology and Metaphor* 

Henri Bergson Creative Evolution
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*

T.E. Hulme “Notes on Bergson”*


Biopower, Biopolitics,Empire and Race
Michel Foucault Society Must Be Defended
Roberto Esposito Bios: Biopolitics and Philosophy*

Eric Cazdyn Already Dead: The New Time of Politics, Culture and Illness*

Melinda Cooper Life as Surplus: Biotechnology and Capitalism in the Neoliberal Era*

Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go

Octavia Butler Clay's Ark 


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