|Semester and Year||SP 2012|
|Time||6:20 PM - 9:00 PM|
Open to sophomores only.
The premise of this course is that there is no great political philosophy in the American tradition—the Federalist Papers do not rival Plato or Marx—but that profound thinking about politics does occur—in the literary art of Melville, Faulkner, Ellison, Mailer, and Morrison among others. Moreover, formally "political” writers, like Madison and Hamilton, present a world that seems antithetical to the world presented by, say, Melville and Morrison: one depicts rational bargaining and self-interested contracts among men in markets and legislatures, whereas the other depicts racial and sexual violence, rape and slavery, in claustrophobic domestic spaces or in nature on frontiers. One depicts rationality and progress, the other madness and tragedy. The literature thus makes visible what is made invisible by prevailing forms of political science and American political thought, not only the constitutive power of race, gender, and sex, but also the deep narrative forms structuring the culture. We therefore ask several basic questions. First, what accounts for this difference and how shall we understand it? Second, what can we learn about (American) political life if we read literature as a form of political theory? But third, do we lose what is precious about literary art if we reduce it to an argument about politics? Or is the literary/aesthetic character of a work—the ways it uses language and narrative to create both ambiguity and meaning—an important part of what it can teach us about politics and political theorizing? To pursue these questions we focus on Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America , Herman Melville’s Moby Dick , and Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark and Beloved .
Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)