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Genre, Politics and Theory

Semester and Year FA 2015
Course Number IDSEM-UG1844
Section 001
Instructor George Shulman
Days T
Time 6:20 PM - 9:00 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SOC


Open to sophomores and juniors only.


Our inquiry in this course concerns the relationship between how (through style and genre) we speak and what we are saying. To pursue this relationship, we ask: What are the worldly and political implications when theorists write in the contrasting forms of -for example- dialogue, a treatise, a manifesto, or when literary artists write in the genres of tragedy or melodrama? How does literary form shape a depiction of the world and our relation to it? When political figures seek to authorize action, what differences follow from their form of address? If political actors seek radical political change, must they confirm or disturb our expectations of literary form? Our goal is not to make rules to distinguish genres, but, instead, to think through the kinds of self-reflection and action that different genres foster in audiences. In the first half of the course texts may include: Sophocles'  Oedipus Tyrannos  compared to Pericles "Funeral Oration," Machiavelli's  The Prince  compared with Thomas More,  Utopia ; Marx,  The Communist Manifesto  compared to Nietzsche "Thus Spake Zarathustra." The second half of the semester focuses on the American case by reading texts that perform jeremiadic rhetoric, the frontier myth, racial melodrama, populist rage, progressive narration, and apocalyptic endings.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)