COMP 344
From Hermeneutics to Post-Coloniality
Last Offered Fall 2006
Division II Exploring Diversity Initiative
Cross-listed COMP 344 / REL 304
This course is not offered in the current catalog or this is a previous listing for a current course.

Class Details

This course explores some of the theoretical trajectories available in “our” pluri-cultural and (post)modern world by focusing on the relation between truth and interpretation, particularly in a pluri-cultural context. We start with Gadamer’s hermeneutics, which stresses the importance of being aware of one’s cultural background and prejudices, an important prerequisite for understanding cultural differences. Hermeneutics has also, however, several blind spots, which we examine through the critiques of Derrida, Foucault and Said. With Derrida we learn the critical tools and the rigor necessary to question some of the central notions such as identity and difference which are often taken for granted. With Foucault we question the relation between truth and power in interpretation, and thematize the complexities of power. With Said’s Orientalism, a seminal description of the ways in which the West has (mis)represented the “East,” we examine the nature of (mis)interpretation of other cultures and the role that ethnocentrism has played in the formation of modernity. We also consider some of the more compelling critiques of Said’s work such as Bhabha’s warning against the essentialization of difference and Spivak’s argument against the often too easy appropriation of cultural differences. We conclude by considering two concrete situations in India and Egypt which illustrate the relevance of the post-colonial critique and its main proponents, Said, Spivak and Bhabha (otherwise known as the Holy Trinity). Reading list: H.G. Gadamer, Truth and Method. F. Saussure, Course in General Linguistics. J. Derrida, Of Grammatology. P. Rabinow, Foucault Reader. E. Said, Orientalism. T. Mitchell, Colonizing Egypt. Hawley, Sati: The Blessing and the Curse.
The Class: Format: lecture/discussion
Limit: 30
Expected: 20
Class#: 1339
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: full attendance and participation and three essays (4-6 pages)
Prerequisites: none
Distributions: Division II Exploring Diversity Initiative
Notes: meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under REL; meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under COMP
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
COMP 344 Division II REL 304 Division II
Attributes: AMST Critical and Cultural Theory Electives
ASST Interdepartmental Electives
REL Body of Theory Courses

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