2016 Summer Seminars


Of Masters and Slaves: Reading Hegel's Phenomenology

Hegel’s master-slave dialectic means to install the idea that human self-consciousness is intersubjectively and social constituted, and hence that we are essentially dependent beings: being for a human is to be recognized. In this course, we will examine four turning points in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit in which this idea is elaborated: the master-slave dialectic itself; the account of the unhappy consciousness; the discussion of Antigone’s rebellion; and the great finale of Spirit, the account of evil and forgiveness.

Jay M. Bernstein is University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research.  He previously taught at the University of Essex for nearly 25 years, where, among other efforts, he served as Dean of Humanities; he was W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University before moving to the New School. He works primarily in the areas of ethics, philosophy of law, critical theory, aesthetics and the philosophy of art, and German Idealism from Kant to Hegel.  Among his books are: The Philosophy of the Novel (Minneapolis, 1984); The Fate of Art: Aesthetic Alienation from Kant to Derrida and Adorno (Oxford, 1992); Recovering Ethical Life (1995); Adorno: Disenchantment and Ethics (New York, 2001); Against Voluptuous Bodies: Late Modernism and the Meaning of Painting (Stanford, 2006); he edited and wrote the introduction for Classic and Romantic German Aesthetics (New York, 2003). His next book, Torture and Dignity: An Essay on Moral Injury, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.

Freud to Klein: Death Drive, Pleasure, Ethics

This seminar will conduct a close reading of Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle and Civilization and its Discontents to understand the implications of compulsive repetition for thinking about what gives pleasure, what establishes the social bond, and what orients, and disorients, ethical relationality.  We will consider how the late development of the idea of aggression is taken up by Melanie Klein, shifting the basis of ethics from conscience to matters of survival, reparation, and preservation. We will ask whether destruction eclipses pleasure in Klein, and what other departures from the late Freud for ethics might be possible.

Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. She served as Founding Director of the Critical Theory Program. She is the author of Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France (1987); Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990); Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993); The Psychic Life of Power: Theories of Subjection (1997); Excitable Speech (1997); Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (2000); Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning (2004); Undoing Gender (2004); Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging (with Gayatri Spivak in 2008); Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2009); Is Critique Secular? (co-written with Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, and Saba Mahmood, 2009); and Sois Mon Corps (2011), co-authored with Catherine Malabou. Her most recent books include: Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (2012); Dispossession: The Performative in the Political (co-authored with Athena Athanasiou, 2013); and Senses of the Subject (2015). Her book, Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, will appear in 2015.  Her future projects include work on Kafka and Benjamin, philosophical fictions in Freud’s work, and gender in translation. She is also active in gender and sexual politics and human rights, anti-war politics, and serves on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace. She was the recipient of the Andrew Mellon Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in the Humanities (2009-13).  She is as well the past recipient of several fellowships including Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Ford, American Council of Learned Societies, and was Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and at the College des Hautes Etudes in Paris. 

Why Marx Today?

We will read on some basic texts of Marx with attention to problems of translation, and how they have led to serious problems in political practice. We will see how Gramsci's understanding of the Marxian project can be globally useful today. We will consider some recent interdisciplinary work on Marx and marxist feminism. 

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is University Professor and Founder of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. She was educated at the University of Calcutta, and came to Cornell University in 1961 to finish doctoral work. Her books are Myself Must I Remake (1974); In Other Worlds (1987); The Post-Colonial Critic (1988); Outside in the Teaching Machine (1993); A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999); Death of a Discipline (2003); Other Asias (2008); An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (2012); and Readings (2014). She has translated Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology (1976) and Mahasweta Devi's Imaginary Maps (1994), Breast Stories (1997), Old Women (1999), and Chotti Munda and his Arrow (2002). She has received honorary doctorates from the Universities Toronto, London, Rovira I Virgili, Rabindra Bharati, San Martín, St. Andrews, Vincennes à Saint-Denis, Yale, Ghana-Legon, Presidency University, and Oberlin College. She is active in the International Women's Movement, the struggle for ecological justice, and rural education.  Her influence has been felt in Art and Architecture, Law and Political Science, and in curatorial practices. She works for Humanities education as the best lasting weapon to combat contemporary disaster.