The past is… An enabling tradition? A stifling burden? A repetition compulsion? A revolutionary imperative? Each of these by turns or all at once, the idea of the past figures centrally in the work of thinkers across disciplines and mediums: philosophers and psychologists, historians and social theorists, poets, painters, and filmmakers. This proseminar, aimed at the needs and interests of students embarking upon the Gallatin MA, offers an introduction to a series of influential theories and methods in the humanities and social sciences by exploring and comparing their conceptions of the past and its effects on the present and the future. The past is an unquiet ghost haunting theoretical texts as well as the literary and visual artworks they illuminate and that have inspired them. With the presence of the past as our guiding thread, we will read and closely analyze classic and modern texts (in fields ranging from philosophy and cultural theory to literature, painting, and film, to anthropology, sociology, and historiography); map major theoretical and political positions within these texts and artworks; develop a shared critical vocabulary; and formulate the urgent and intractable questions that motivate these texts and provoke our responses to them. Our texts may include essays and books by Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Woolf, Stein, Du Bois, Benjamin, Césaire, Foucault, Said, Gilroy, and Morrison. Students will play a major role in navigating our readings, steering our discussions, and choosing the topics we address. In addition to writing short responses and a midterm paper, students will conduct a critical research project on a relevant topic of their own choosing that will culminate in a 15-20 page final paper.
Graduate Core (CORE-GG)