Toril Moi
ENGLISH 582s-01/LIT 681S-01/PHIL 681S-01
Mon. 1:25-3:55pm
Friedl 102
Duke University


The course offers an introduction to Wittgenstein’s late philosophy, and asks what its relevance for literary studies might be. We will focus on a detailed reading of important sections of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. We will try to understand Wittgenstein’s vision of language, of philosophy and philosophical inquiry; and the relationship between the inner and the outer (for example, the soul and the body; our pain and its expressions). To deepen our understanding of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, we will also read relevant texts by J. L. Austin, Stanley Cavell and Cora Diamond, as well as Moi’s Revolution of the Ordinary. We will then examine some major text in literary theory (by writers such as Saussure, Barthes, Derrida, Fish, de Man, Felski, etc.), and one literary text, to see how Wittgenstein’s philosophy enables us to respond to them.

Claim of Reason Symposium Videos
*Note the playlist of 7 videos total, on the right

Corina Stan
ENGLISH 590S-1-01
Thurs. 3:05-5:35pm
Allen 317
Duke University


This course explores modernism as a rich mosaic of intermedial aesthetic practices, focusing closely on intersections between music, visual, and literary arts: Auguste Rodin and R. M. Rilke, Stéphane Mallarmé and Claude Débussy, the artists who frequented Gertrude Stein’s salon in Paris, Stravinsky and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, the changing figure of Pierrot in works by Watteau, Picasso, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Marcel Carné, Jules Laforgue, T. S. Eliot, and Arnold Schoenberg, expressionist cinema, painting and opera (including Robert Wiene, Edvard Munch, and Alban Berg). Students will have the opportunity to map out the avant-garde across the arts, from Symbolism and Impressionism, through Futurism, Surrealism, Dada, including non-Western texts such as Oswaldo de Andrade’s Cannibalist Manifestoin conversation with the paintings of Wifredo Lam, and Aimé Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to the Native Land in the context of négritude. The seminar takes these artifacts of European high culture and non-Western works as expressions of dissatisfaction with an Enlightenment project that failed to deliver on its promises, placing them in conversation with the philosophical reflection on modernity from Friedrich Nietzsche and Richard Wagner to Robert Pippin, Edward Said, and Simon Glendinning, including Max Weber, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. Our aim will be to understand modernism as a philosophical and artistic project, and how accounts of modernism have changed over the past century and a half, from its own practitioners all the way to the New Modernist Studies.

Robert Mitchell
ENGLISH 590S-1-04
Wed. 12:00-2:30pm
Allen 317


According to a well-known–and largely accurate–narrative, “aesthetics” was invented in the eighteenth century, and then consolidated in the Romantic era. This course is intended to provide an introduction to this narrative of the emergence of aesthetics as an independent realm of study, and we will accordingly focus on the classic three categories of eighteenth-century and Romantic aesthetic theory–the beautiful, the picturesque, and the sublime–as well as several more “minor” Romantic aesthetic categories that have increasingly come to the fore in recent literary and media criticism (e.g., “the monstrous”). We will employ Immanuel Kant’s monumental and synthetic late work, The Critique of Judgment, as a lens through which we can reflect on both earlier eighteenth-century aesthetic theory and the emergence of a distinctive Romantic aesthetic theory. While the course will focus on aesthetic theory, we will also parse this theory through eighteenth-century and Romantic-era literature and art. Readings will be drawn primarily from eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British, French, and German authors, including Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edmund Burke, Uvedale Price, G. E. Lessing, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schiller, G. W. F. Hegel, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Jane Austen, P. B. Shelley, and Mary Shelley.

We will also use our study of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century aesthetic theory and aesthetics as a means for developing a schematic history of key movements within twentieth and twenty-first literary criticism. We will use, for early, early twentieth-century New Critical interpretations of Romantic poets as a means for understanding the implicit aesthetic theory of New Criticism, and then compare these to the interpretations and implicit aesthetic theories of subsequent critical movements that have engaged Romantic literature, including deconstruction, “cultural capital” approaches, feminism, critical race theory, and ecocriticism. (This course thus represents a first response–albeit one altered somewhat by departmental scheduling needs for a spring course that focuses on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—for requests for an “introduction to the history of literary criticism in the twentieth century” course.)

Alexandra Prica
GERM 860 (UNC)
Mon. 4:40-7:10pm
Dey Hill 405
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


In his Philosophy of Symbolic Forms(1923-1929) the German philosopher Ernst Cassirer described mankind as “capable of form.” He thereby pointed out the interrelatedness of forms with the conditions of human existence, in other words, the relationship between life and aesthetic expression. The seminar takes this idea as a starting point and a leitmotif. On a journey through the long history of poetics and philosophy of form from Antiquity to the 20thcentury, we will examine how humans shape an otherwise amorphous reality. Readings include Plato and Aristotle; form in the classical rhetorical tradition; Plotinus and his thoughts on form and the beautiful in juxtaposition with Augustine and Thomas Aquinas; form and creation in excerpts from the Cosmographiaby the medieval philosopher and poet Bernardus Silvestris (12thcentury) in juxtaposition with Derrida’s Chora (1987); form and the Eucharist in Minneleichby the German medieval poet Frauenlob (around 1300); form between knowledge, perception and being (Sein) in the age of Goethe, including texts by Karl Philipp Moritz, Schiller, Goethe and Hegel; a discussion of form and formats using the example of genre in Schlegel’s essay on the sonnet and in André Jolles’ Einfache Formen(Simple Forms, 1931); form and culture in Georg Simmel’s essays Der Begriff und die Tragödie der Kultur(Tragedy of Culture, 1911), Der Bildrahmen(The Picture Frame, 1902) and Die Ruine(The Ruin, 1911) and in Ernst Cassirer´s response to Simmel´s position; form as distortion in Viktor Sklovskij’s substantiation of formalism and in Brecht´s Kleines Organon für das Theater(Little Organon for Theater, 1948) and Über Stoffe und Formen(On Materials and Forms, 1929) and Deleuze´s Barthelby or the Formula(1989); Niklas Luhmann’s medium-form differentiation in Die Kunst der Gesellschaft(Art as a Social System, 1995) and Das Zeichen als Form(The Sign as Form, 1993). We will also include lyric poetry by Gottfried Benn, Ingeborg Bachmann, Stéphane Mallarmé and Charles Baudelaire. The course will be taught in English.

Sarah Pourciau
GER 890S-01 (2800), Lit 890S-05 (10474)
Tues. 4:40-7:10pm
Old Chem. 119
Duke University


Repraesentatio, “to make present” or “set before the eyes,” was originally a juridical concept, which gained theological import in the early Christian debates about the true doctrinal meaning of the Eucharist. The question of how, precisely, to interpret the equation between the body and blood of Christ and the bread and wine of the sacrament (the equation of “this is my body, this is my blood”) divided Protestants from Catholics, as well as Protestants (Lutherans) from other Protestants (Calvinists). Are the bread and wine mere signs of an absent signifier, or are they identical, once “transubstantiated” through the vehicle of the priestly invocation, to the king of kings himself? The disagreement had far-reaching political consequences that came to a head in the Baroque period. But the dynamic of Darstellunghas always also been an aesthetic problem: the nexus between theories of power and theories of art—between the making-present of the sovereign and the making-present of the Idea—plays a central role in the history of literature from the middle ages to the modern. In this course, we will examine some of the key texts in this lineage, by authors like Goethe, Schiller, Novalis, Wagner, Hofmannsthal, Kafka and George, alongside a few of the foundational 20th century theoretical attempts (Kantorowicz, Schmitt, Benjamin, Marin, and Agamben) to make sense of this tradition.

No knowledge of German is necessary; I will provide all texts in translation (we will also be reading a number of non-German texts) and all discussions will be in English.

David Aers and Sarah Beckwith
Thurs. 1:40-4:10pm
Allen 306
Duke University


In this course, we explore different forms of tragedy in works by William Shakespeare and John Milton. What, we will ask, are the relations between different forms of tragedy? Between drama and epic poetry, and between drama written for performance and drama not intended for the stage? What difference does Christian teaching make in the writing of tragedy? We begin the class with Shakespeare, and you should come to the first class having already read closely and thought carefully about both Macbeth and Hamlet. From Shakespeare, we will move to Milton’s Paradise Lost and his Samson Agonistes. Because Paradise Lost is a long and complex work, you should also read this poem before the course begins.

The set texts for the class are as follows:

  • William Shakespeare, The Complete Works, ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (2ndedition: Oxford University Press, 2005). ISBN: 978-0199267170
  • John Milton, The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton, eds. William Kerrigan, John Rumrich, and Stephen M. Fallon (Modern Library, Random House, 2007). ISBN: 978-0679642534
  • Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (3rdedition: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007). ISBN: 978-0268035044