ENGL 456
Topics in Critical Theory: Derrida Spring 2015 Division I;
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This course is for students of any major who wish to continue studying critical, cultural, or literary theory. Students will give close attention to a single theorist or philosophical school or perhaps to a single question as taken up by several theorists. Prior coursework in critical theory or continental philosophy, no matter the department, is strongly recommended. The subject of this semester’s seminar is Jacques Derrida. We often think of language as best when it is living and intimate: words spoken to a lover, arguments shared around a seminar table, the poet we finally get to hear read her works out loud. But it is Derrida’s signature argument that language is never really intimate in these ways — that it is always adrift, separated at once from the person who speaks or writes it, from the person to whom it is addressed, and from the things in the world that it putatively names. The words you speak and write aren’t really yours; nor can you ever be sure they will carry the meanings you intend them to have; nor can you guarantee that they will reach the people for whom they were devised, or that they will reach only them. Derrida’s core claim is that this is nothing to worry about — that, on the contrary, a liberated philosophy will have to keep faith with a language thus unfixed. We will spend the semester considering this idea and reckoning its consequences for our understandings of literature, metaphysics, ethics, politics, and law.
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 3724
Requirements/Evaluation: seminar paper of 25 pages; informal weekly writing; class attendance and participation
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam; prior coursework in critical theory or continental philosophy, no matter the department, is strongly recommended
Enrollment Preference: seniors with background in critical theory
Distributions: Division I;

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