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Proseminar: Silent Subjects: Critique and the Limits of Language

Semester and Year FA 2012
Course Number CORE-GG2019
Section 001
Instructor A.B. Huber
Days Thu
Time 6:20 PM - 8:20 PM
Units 4.0
Level G
Foundation Requirement


This seminar introduces students to critique, a mode of questioning and a practice of analysis that exposes the actions of power and denaturalizes social and political hierarchies. In this context, and drawing on perspectives from history, literature, philosophy, and political and critical theory, this seminar will take up the difficulties of speaking and writing about silence in order to consider the importance of what is unsaid or unsayable for our formation as subjects. How are our psyches and social worlds formed around a multitude of silences--traumatic, enforced, and/or enabling? In Western philosophy and political thought silence has often been figured as the Other of speech and reason, and cast as the domain of the abject or excluded, or associated with catastrophic experiences at the limits of human reason (including the extremities of pain, violence, and death). In the context of this Continental tradition we will familiarize ourselves with recent scholarship on testimony and the “unspeakable,” while also critiquing the assumption that silence is necessarily solipsistic or signals only the failure of speech or freedom. Some silences are enjoined or imposed; others, like the recent silent protests of the indignados in Spain and Greece, propose alternative politics and constitute their own communities. Throughout we will consider how critique can help us recognize and account for the operations of silence and those other concealed or disavowed forces that are in fact inseparable from the everyday workings of language, knowledge, and ideology.

Course Type

Graduate Core (CORE-GG)

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