English and Film Studies

ENGL 635 A1: The Idea of "The World"

C. Harol

 

This class will read early modern (Leibnitz, Spinoza) and contemporary philosophy (Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari) of “the world” alongside seventeenth-and eighteenth-century literature that imagined other worlds. The concept of the “the world” engages questions about the relations between different levels of immanence (atoms, matter, humans, nations, universes) and transcendence (God, theory, ideas) and about the nature of human political and epistemological dominion. From a literary perspective the questions raised by the concept of “the world” involve, according to Eric Hayot (On Literary Worlds), no less than the nature of the literary imagination. The question of “the world” in the context of an English department further raises questions about both colonization and “world literature,” as Pheng Cheah (What is a World?) has recently argued. Early modern texts will include Francis Bacon’s Utopia, Cyrano de Bergerac, Voyage to the Moon, Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing New World, Aphra Behn’s Emperor of the Moon, Daniel Defoe’s The Consolidator, and Johnathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. While most of the class will grapple with the philosophical questions and the early modern literary texts, students will be encouraged to write essays on whatever interests them, and the last weeks of class will be devoted to study of this issue in contemporary culture.