COMP 407
Literature, Justice, and Community Fall 2014
Division I Exploring Diversity Initiative
Cross-listed COMP 407 / ENGL 407
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

Can we imagine possibilities of justice not dictated by already determined norms? What would a community founded on such a conception of justice look like? Can we imagine a version of community not founded on exclusion? What would the members of such a community look like–what version of subjectivity would that community imply? And might literature in particular have something to say about the possibilities for such versions of community, selfhood, and justice? This course will look at recent, theoretically-oriented writing on justice and community, with an emphasis on the work of Hannah Arendt, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy and Giorgio Agamben. No prior knowledge of these writers is expected, but the course does require a willingness to wrestling with demanding (and rewarding) theoretical argument. We will place the philosophical work in relation to fiction from Euripides to Kafka, films (Resnais, Farhadi), photography (Silva, Badlands) and worldly examples of competing claims to justice. The course pursues the aims of the EDI initiative in part by engaging works in which cultural differences reveal the limits of universalizing accounts of law and justice, works such as Euripides’ Bacchae, Nuruddin Farah’s Maps, Louise Erdrich’s poetry, and Farhadi’s A Separation. But the course will equally suggest that such contingency is inherent in the concept of justice as such, insofar as the problem of justice is bound up with forms of constituting indebtedness that define humans as communal beings. In that sense, contingency and difference mark justice even in its most familiar instances–intimately and close to home, as it were.
The Class: Format: seminar with tutorial sessions
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 1659
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: one 5-page paper, and a final 15-page paper
Prerequisites: 300-level English course or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: English majors, students who have taken Criticism/Theory course in any discipline
Distributions: Division I Exploring Diversity Initiative
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
COMP 407 Division I ENGL 407 Division I
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses
JLST Interdepartmental Electives

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