Individualized interdisciplinary scholarship requires a practical commitment to the idea that individuals can make free choices about what questions to pursue and what paths to follow. But is that commitment theoretically supportable or even ethically desirable? This class will pursue these questions—which are foundational to the Gallatin MA program--broadly and critically but with a general focus on the ever-fluctuating value placed on “the individual” within Western art and thought. We will consider: how individuals are formed by history and with regard to the future; the diversity of ideas about what “individuals” are and whether they even exist; the influence of culture and society upon the shaping of individuals; the “individual” as a political entity endowed (or not) with “inalienable rights”; locating or losing the “individual” within the panoply of newer ways of talking about “subjectivity” and “subjects”; the mediated individual—how people are creatures and producers within different media; whether truth and beauty exist only in the “eye of the beholder”; the concept of “the individual” in relation to current identity debates and affect theories. The class syllabus will group literary works with philosophical texts in relation to culture and period—for example, works by Aristotle, Plato, and Sophocles; Machiavelli and Shakespeare; Rousseau, Jefferson, Kant, and (Mary) Shelley); Douglass, Marx, and Mill; Nietzsche, Freud, and Cather; de Beauvoir, Fanon, and Truffaut; Baldwin, Foucault, Morrison, and Butler. Students will contribute contemporary scholarly articles representing their own concentration to the class syllabus.
Graduate Core (CORE-GG)