Hannah Arendt & the Human Condition

Rob Mitchell
ENG 890S.03
 Wedn 11:45AM – 02:15PM, Allen 304I.
Hannah Arendt’s 1951 publication of _The Origins of Totalitarianism_ established her as a key political theorist of the twentieth century. Though subsequent texts such as _Eichmann in Jerusalem_, _On Revolution_, and _On Violence_ further consolidated that reputation, texts such as _The Human Condition_ and _The Life of the Mind_ underscored the singularity and essentially uncategorizable nature of Arendt’s intellectual project, which though it encompassed, yet was by no means limited to, political theory and philosophy. It is in part this singularity of Arendt’s project that is responsible for the recent reemergence of her texts as a key reference point in the work of authors working both within political theory proper (e.g., Linda Zerilli) as well as authors working within other intellectual traditions (e.g., Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito).  The primary goal of this course is to focus closely on Arendt as a writer, with the goal of understanding how her concepts, and her related mode and style of writing, can reconfigure our understanding of the relationships among politics, texts, interpretation, and the arts. (For example, we will consider Arendt’s interpretation of Homer, which is important for her overall project; her critique of the form of the novel; etc.). In order to enable this focus, we will read small selections from a number of her texts, as well as some of the authors upon whom she was drawing (e.g., Kant, Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger), but devote much of our time to a close and patient reading of _The Human Condition_, which synthesizes many of her Arendt’s key concerns. We will also consider selections from some of Arendt’s most important contemporary interpreters, including Linda Zerilli, Giorgio Agamben, and Roberto Esposito.

Wittgenstein and Literary Theory

Toril Moi
LIT681S-01; PHIL681S-01; ENG582S-01
Tues 10:05am-12:35pm
This course will examine key questions in literary theory from the point of view of ordinary language philosophy (Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, Stanley Cavell). The course will provide a grounding in the philosophy of Wittgenstein, Austin and Cavell. The emphasis will be on Wittgenstein. We will contrast Wittgenstein’s vision of language and Wittgenstein’s critique of philosophy with the tradition that builds on Saussure’s linguistics. We will also consider political critiques of ordinary language philosophy before turning to recent debates about the hermeneutics of suspicion, and modes of reading in literary studies today.


Toril Moi

ENG 822 / LIT822
Wed 10:05am-12:35pm

This course, limited to 10 students, is by permission of the instructor only. To apply, please email toril@duke.edu. Attach as a word document a 500 word text explaining why you want to take this course. Do include some thoughts about what writing means for you, why you think a course called “Writing Is Thinking” can help you with your own projects. Also please include your name, PhD program and year in the program on your application document.


Writing is a fundamental part of academic life. This course aims to teach graduate students at any level, from first-year students to dissertation writers, how to write well and with enjoyment, and how to make writing a part of their daily life as creative intellectuals. The course starts from the premise that writing is thinking: that we develop our own thoughts in the act of trying to express them, and that the more we learn to use writing at every stage of our work, the more we increase the range and depth of our thinking, and the more likely it is that we will get our writing published. On this view, writing is always rewriting; revision is integral to the process of writing.

In this course, the sentence is the key building block for writing. If every sentence you write make sense, you will find it easier to build paragraphs, and larger units.

When is note-taking useful, and when is it a waste of time? What is the difference between taking the usual reading notes, and taking the kind of notes that will help us as writers? By practicing different kinds of note-taking, we can integrate writing in our research.

We will learn to read as writers by working closely with selected examples of academic and non-fiction prose. This means learning to read not just as consumers of ideas, but as crafters of sentences, paragraphs, essays and books. What is the difference (if any) between good academic writing and good non-fiction writing? Do academic writers need to care about the shape and structure of their sentences, or paragraphs? Should they? What is “voice”? How do we take the audience’s needs into account?

We will learn to cut our own texts. We will discuss how best to use quotations, and consider the differences between different academic genres: what is the difference between a seminar paper and a published article? An MLA panel paper and a full-scale invited talk? What is the point of footnotes (or endnotes for that matter)?

We will also discuss and practice different types of writing groups. Learn how to ask for the kind of feedback you need, and how to use feedback.

The course will use one writing handbook: Verlyn Klinkenborg, Several Short Sentences about Writing. Other handbooks will be introduced as necessary.

The course will be writing intensive. You will have weekly deadlines for short pieces of writing. You will also get detailed feed-back on your writing every week.

Assignments: Weekly writing assignments of various kinds; participation in exploratory writing groups, participation in collective editing and rewriting in class. A short final essay.



Professor Gabriel Trop (UNC, Department of German and Slavic)
GERM 860
Tuesday 4:40 PM – 7:10 PM.
Course will meet at UNC

Taking our point of departure from a reading of Spinoza’s Ethics, we will examine the way in which philosophical and literary texts become invested in immanence—both as a concept and as a mode of attentiveness to sensuous self-organization. We will particularly examine the ramifications of immanence for aesthetic and conceptual-discursive form. Aesthetic, ethical, theological, and political consequences of literary and philosophical immanence will be considered. Authors include Spinoza, Goethe, Hegel, Schelling, Hölderlin, Flaubert, Deleuze, Mann, among others.

Readings and class discussions in English or German (depending on the participants’ language ability).


Deleuze: Cinema & Philosophy

 LIT 850S / AMI 850S / ENGLISH 860S / ROMST 850S
Markos Hadjioannou

This course is a graduate-level course examining Gilles Deleuze’s two books on cinema: Cinema 1: The Movement-Image and Cinema 2: The Time-Image. In order to understand the deep complexity of Deleuze’s film philosophy, we will explore the connections between his concepts of the “movement-image” and the “time-image,” and how these are informed by his other philosophical studies on Henri Bergson, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Friedrich Nietzsche (all in separate monographs by him). Particular topics we will address will include interpretations of movement and change, of time and duration, of being and becoming, of expressionism and aesthetics, of subjectivity, of the “will to power” and the “eternal return,” of cinema as philosophy and cinema’s relation to ethics.

During the semester, we will move progressively through the two cinema books and related reading from Deleuze’s other philosophical studies on the separate thinkers. While this approach will offer an in-depth understanding of Deleuze’s complex thinking, it will also challenge us to consider cinema’s potential as a medium of philosophical thinking—or as a thinking machine in and of itself. In so doing, Deleuze’s work will prompt an examination of cinema as a particular type of image (as movement- or time-image), which places the spectator within a dynamic relationship with the mediated view of the world and with the spectator’s own existential position within reality. Such an understanding will also lead us to examine the type of subjectivity that cinema’s various worldviews present or trigger, and how movement, time, and change are all integral to the composition of this subjectivity. This, then, will lead us to the ethical core of Deleuze’s philosophy of cinema, which looks at the potential and need for moving beyond transcendental idealism in order to exist actively and politically within a rapidly changing world.

Above all, this is a course on thinking philosophically about film—and the only way to do so is to think philosophically with film. As such, each week’s topic will have as its focal point one or two films (combining feature-length and short films) from primary representatives of art, world, and experimental cinema. More than just applying Deleuze’s concepts to the films, we will be concerned with looking at the philosophical prism presented by each film, in order to understand the extent to which the works replicate, expand on, or challenge Deleuze’s thinking. Some indicative filmmakers whose films we will explore are: Chantal Akerman, Catherine Breillat, David Cronenberg, Claire Denis, Marguerite Duras, Atom Egoyan, Michael Haneke, Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, Kim Ki-duk, Yorgos Lanthimos, David Lynch, Chris Marker, Park Chan-wook, György Pálfi, Alain Resnais, Bela Tarr, Gus Van Sant, Agnès Varda, Wim Wenders, and Andrey Zvyagintsev.