MA/PhD Session Schedule
2024

May 10 - 12 (Valletta, Malta)
July 28 - August 25 (Saas-Fee, Switzerland)
October 1 - 16 (Valletta, Malta)
Date

Seminar 1

Seminar 2

May
10-12

Christopher Fynsk

Robert Antelme and Maurice Blanchot: Becoming Communist
First Part:  Return and Deportation,  Part One
Second Part: Return and Deportation, Part Two
Third Part: Blanchot’s Post-war Political and Ethical Thought
In Dionys Mascolo’s Autour d’un effort de mémoire, published in 1987 (Paris: Maurice Nadeau), we find an extraordinary assertion concerning the impact of Robert Antelme’s return from Dachau in 1945.  The experience shared with Antelme in the time after this return, Mascolo tells us, had the effect of rendering the group around him (which included Marguerite Duras) communist and Jewish.  This experience, and the subsequent publication of Antelme’s account of his captivity in The Human Race, “deported” them, he writes. Blanchot would later join that group and contribute to the thinking that led to Mascolo’s assertion.  Can we see in Blanchot’s post-war political and ethico-political writings evidence of what he shared with that community?  Did Antelme’s return and what he taught those he rejoined shape in some fundamental way Blanchot’s political and ethical thinking (or what we might even call his own teaching)?  The answer to this question must remain speculative.  Even “teaching” is a problematic term here.   But the experience of reading Blanchot after Mascolo and Antelme is both profoundly moving and instructive. The first two lectures in this seminar will explore the nexus of writings pertinent for the questions posed here.  These include writings by Antelme, Mascolo, and Blanchot.  The third lecture will focus more particularly on Blanchot’s post-war political writings, and statements on friendship and community.

This seminar will have two sessions per day.

Session 1: 1:30 – 4:00 pm Paris time/7:30 am – 10 am New York time.

Session 2: 4:45 – 7:15 pm Paris time/10:45 am – 1:15 pm New York time.

Date

Seminar 1

Seminar 2

Jul
28

Arrival Day and Orientation Session

Jul
29

Avital Ronell

The Destructive Impulse & Creativity in Melanie Klein

Catherine Malabou

The problem of synthesis in Derrida’s Of Grammatology PART I (“Writing before the letter”)

Derrida saw Melanie Klein’s Envy and Gratitude as another Genealogy of Morals, a modern
start-up engine for questions of justice and frustrated life. Klein’s work on envy, loneliness, and her analysis of The Oresteia continues to make inroads on political theories and psychoanalytic probes motivated by questions of political aggression and the depressive position. Her crucial analyses lead up to a thinking of reparative justice, casting the relation of law, agony, and paranoia in terms of the persecutory breast or “bad object,” acts of pollution and spoilage. For essential backup and mobility, we shall read Derrida, Sarah Kofman, and Lyotard to frame Klein’s critical apparatus and the way it sets up premises of work and creativity in view of a consistent devaluation of the primal object.

“How can everything start with a complication”? An originary co-implication? And is  a priori synthesis” the right name for it ? Such are the fundamental questions that Derrida raises early in his first Memoir (The Problem of Genesis in Husserl’s Philosophy (1953-54) ) and later in his Introduction to Husserl’s Origin of Geometry (1961). We will see how the issue of “synthesis” is still crucial in Of Grammatology, in a way which marks the advent of deconstruction and proposes, beyond Kant, Husserl, Heidegger and Saussure all together, to associate the notion of  “trace”, or “writing”, with that of “arche-synthesis”.  The deconstruction of logocentrism cannot by any means consist in a simple inversion of priorities which, contrary to the entire philosophical tradition, would grant writing a “privilege” over speech. If, as Derrida states, “writing comprehends language”, it means that before being understood as a technique, writing has to be seen in the first place as an opening : an “irreducible archesynthesis, opening in one and the same possibility, temporalization as well as relationship with the other and language.”  An “originary synthesis not preceded by any absolute simplicity”, archesynthesis is an another name for “the movement of difference” (soon to be called differance). The problem of archesynthesis is indissociably linked with the constitution of grammatology as a new science, announced throughout the first part of the book. Why has this science in the end never seen the light of day? What would have happened if it had?

Aug
4

Break Day

Aug
5-10

Elie During

The Sublime: A User’s Guide

Dagmawi Woubshet

Black Aliveness and the Afterlife of Slavery

Dropped jaws, widened eyes, raised eyebrows, goose bumps and shivers. Volcanoes awakened, skies ignited, storms unleashed. Crowds enthusiastically rising up. The Ocean with its towering waves. The abyss beneath. The Ocean again, but now still as death, stretching as far as the eye can see. Vastness, grandeur, elevation. But also, hyperbole, accumulation, saturation, excess. All this causing a mix of wonder and awe, admiration and terror —  “delightful horror”.

The aesthetic, moral and affective tropes commonly associated with the rhetoric of sublimity point in seemingly opposite directions: the sublime is at once overwhelming and elating, empowering and destructive. It evokes the eternal silence of the sidereal void as well as formless matter. Promoted as a new critical idiom, it poses a special challenge as there appears to be several competing discourses or regimes of the sublime (classic, romantic, modernist, post- or hyper-modern). Turning to philosophy, things only get worse. Kant raised the game to a new level by severing the sublime from its roots in the poetics of nature and spelling out the metaphysical implications of its dynamics. But once the sublime has been redefined as an inward movement of the mind performed by the subject in relation to the suprasensible – or the ‘unpresentable’ –, anything seems possible. In this respect, Hegel’s concern is still with us. Abject and sublimated, excessive and subliminal, antimimetic and hyperreal, opaque and void, or ‘ultrathin’: the contemporary sublime can take on all these features in turn, or simultaneously, as it freely moves between the intensities of the sensing body, the flights of the imagination, and the plane of moral and rational ideals. And so the abyss of representation can be interpreted as an initimation of the Thing in itself, a collapse of the symbolic function signalling the subject’s encounter with truth, or an avatar of Lacan’s ‘object a’…

To avoid hermeneutic overkill, this seminar will focus on a few invariants beneath the varieties of sublime experience. Two core intuitions will serve as guiding threads. (1) What the sublime achieves through the combination of pleasure and terror, sensory shock and anesthesia, is an immanent formalization of the ambivalence inherent in certain reflective dispositions of the subject. (2) This ambivalence can be apprehended at different levels of abstraction, suggesting unexpected connections between disparate domains. As a formal operator, the concept of the sublime acts as a bridge between heterogeneous fields of meaning: ethics and aesthetics, but also science, technology, politics, psychonalysis, theology, ecology, etc.

We’ll find ample confirmation of this in a history that runs through Longinus, Burke, Kant, Richter, Schiller, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Vischer, Benjamin, Bataille, Adorno, Lacan, Kristeva, Derrida, De Man, Jameson, Lyotard, Nancy, Deleuze, Zizek, Rancière… The available literature is abundant. Our focus will be on a few seminal texts by Kant, Hegel, and Lyotard. We’ll approach them with one question in mind: what inventive operations does the category of the sublime allow us to perform in a given context? For instance, if the sublime is dialectically related with the ridiculous and the comical, if the kitsch can be viewed as a form of reified sublime, what does this tell us? On a different chapter: how does the metaphysics and phenomenology of the unpresentable contribute to a politics of the Event? Is there such a thing as an egalitarian sublime? A digital sublime? A flat sublime? Finally, do these figures suggest a new idea of beauty? And what purpose could this serve?

This seminar provides a critical introduction to contemporary Black literary and cultural studies.  Through a set of literary, visual, and theoretical texts, we will explore key themes and methodologies animating the field. In the first half of the seminar, our focus will be on new approaches to the study of transatlantic slavery—including experimental works likeSaidiya Hartman’s theoretical essay, “Venus in Two Acts,” and M. NourbeSe Philip’s book of poems, Zong!—which contend with slavery and its archive in innovative ways that have broad implications for how we study archives, aesthetics, history, and politics. In the second half, we will turn to another key area of scholarly focus in contemporary African American literary and cultural studies—the study of Black interior and intramural life. Using Kevin Quashie’s The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture and Black Aliveness, Or a Poetics of Being, we will examine new methodologies that go beyond ideological critiques of race and racism and also beyond nationalist discourses of resistance to animate Black life.

Aug
11

Break Day

Aug
12-18

Frank Ruda & Slavoj Žižek *

How to Lose It — Audacity, Fortitude, Courage for Apocalyptic Times

Mladen Dolar & Slavoj Žižek *

Rumors, Gossip, Conspiracy Theories

We are living in and through times that hardly seem adequately described anymore when they are designated as catastrophic. A general sense that things have (almost) reached an apocalyptic disastrousness is omnipresent. What to do with such a condition subjectively? What to do when it seems impossible to act and all hope cannot but appear delusional? How to avoid being determined by a reactive and passive attitude that will make it worse by attempting to prevent the worst? How to face (and start from) the worst? To answer these questions the course will examine the concepts of courage, audacity and fortitude and their valences for contemporary apocalyptic times. It will  mobilize thinkers like Heidegger, Hölderlin, Tillich, Lacan and Badiou to explore the philosophical, poetic, theological and political (im)possibilities of a rearticulation of courage for today.

Rumors and gossip don’t look like a worthy subject of philosophical investigation. Yet one can see that from the dawn of philosophy they presented a strange counterpart to philosophical logos, the shadowy double of the epistemologically grounded knowledge, the double that was fatally efficient in its consequences despite its lack of foundation. Witness the fate of Socrates, the greatest harbinger of knowledge aiming at truth, who was eventually undone by the avalanche of malicious rumors. How to conceive the strange power of rumors? The aim of the course is, first, to provide a brief history of rumors through some vintage examples stemming from literature – Shakespeare, Cervantes, Rousseau, Balzac, Gogol, Kafka etc., each of them carrying important lessons. Second, to look at some philosophical treatments of gossip and idle talk, particularly in Heidegger, one of the rare philosophers who devoted important reflections to it. And third, above all, to consider the predicament of the present age where the spread of internet and particularly of social media brought a whole new dimension to the spread of rumors, to the point that one could take the general rumorization as a diagnosis, one of the possible diagnoses, of the present moment. On the way, it is important to draw conceptual differences between rumors, gossip and conspiracy theories, and to investigate the implications this new constellation has for the rise of new forms of authoritarianism and populism. The underlying philosophical question is that of the authority of knowledge and its fate in this constellation. In psychoanalytic terms, this concerns the status of the big Other and its apparent demise. In 2019 I gave a public lecture at the EGS on the subject of rumors that presented an incipient stage of research that has since grown and will be published as a book (with Polity) at the end of this year.

Aug
19-24

Jodi Dean

Capital's Futures: Becoming Neofeudal

Achille Mbembe

Apartheid After South Africa

This course considers tendencies in contemporary capitalism. It considers differentiated temporalities in Marxism, changes in labor and property, and the psychotic atmosphere of rivalry and identification.

Aug
25

Departure Day

Seminar 1: 1:30 – 4:00 pm Paris time/7:30 am – 10 am New York time.

Seminar 2: 4:45 – 7:15 pm Paris time/10:45 am – 1:15 pm New York time.

* The students participating in the seminars of Professors Frank Ruda and Mladen Dolar will meet in those seminars for four days.  The two groups will then come together for three meetings with Professor Slavoj Žižek.  The scheduled seminars for Profs. Ruda and Dolar will thus run for 7 days with the participation of Slavoj Žižek in the last three segments.

 

Date

Seminar 1

Seminar 2

Oct
1

Arrival Day

Oct
2-7

Kevin McLaughlin

Walter Benjamin around 1921
Sven-Olov Wallenstein
Robert Smithson

In 1921 Walter Benjamin was working simultaneously on three significant and interrelated essays:  “Toward the Critique of Violence,” “The Task of the Translator,” and “Goethe’s Elective Affinities.”  The seminar will take this set of writings as a pivotal configuration around which to approach Benjamin’s critical work as a whole—from his more academic early writings (on Hölderlin, German romanticism, etc.) to his later essays that were directed toward a broader public—on Proust, “the storyteller” and his great unfinished study of Baudelaire from the later 1930s (including selections from The Arcades Project).  We will conclude by considering the emergence out of this pivot of the problem of “popularization” as it becomes connected to the question of “theory,” specifically, “historical materialism.”  Works will be read and discussed in English with attention to the German (seminar participants with knowledge of German are encouraged to read the texts in the original language).

The course gives an interpretation of the artworks and writings of Robert Smithson (1938-1973). Situated in the midst of the radical midst of the transformations of artistic practice in the 1960s and early ‘70s, Smithson’s work spans across sculpture, photography, and cinema, as well as exploring new intersections of text and image, and his critical and theoretical writings constitutes not only one of the most important sources for the artistic thought of the period but has continued to exert a profound influence up to the present. Setting out from critical reflections on minimal art, Smithson develops a thought of entropy and decay that pits him against technological optimism, although not in the sense of a return to nature, but rather as a different experience of the time of geology, sediments, and layers that subsist inside all human projects. His writings pursue a similar task: dismantling theoretical and critical discourse from within he uncovers the cracks in syntax and vocabularies and traces a ”sedimentation of the mind.” The course consists of six sessions, each devoted to a central topic in Smithson’s work: the introduction of time and entropy in technology; the blurring of the line between writing (critical, theoretical, literary) and visual art; the exploration of space and time concepts, from small-scale Non-Sites to large-scale earthworks; the idea of “de-architecture” in relation to building and tectonics; the new use of photography as a way of producing documentation; the complex idea of the site of the artwork, which moves from the phenomenological to the institutional to the discursive.

Oct
8

Workshop

Oct
9

Workshop

Oct
10-15

Jack Halberstam

Unworlding: Atopia, Dystopia, Queertopia

Alenka Zupančič

Window of Fantasy

How do we unmake the structures, ideologies, modes of thought, epistemologies and ways of seeing that, in a Euro-American tradition, we currently call “world”? What is the world? Who is the world? Who must necessarily be excluded in order for worlds to exist, to thrive, and possibly to die? We will explore the making, unmaking, and dismantling of worlds, and the relation between aesthetic practice and un/worlding. The seminar emerges out of an interest in the challenges and pleasures of collective thinking and critical theory: in questions of negativity and a/dystopia, Blackness, queerness, transness and ontology, desire and its itineraries.

After elaborating the ontological anchoring of desire last year, this year’s course will focus on the epistemological, ethical and political dimensions of desire. Based on the Lacanian theory of fantasy as that which gives us access to reality, the course will pursue different ways in which desire forces us to rethink radically – rather than abandon – the subjective/objective divide. This will lead us through different figures of desire, from literature and art to philosophy and radical politics.

Oct
16

Departure Day

Seminar 1: 1:30 – 4:00 pm Paris time/7:30 am – 10 am New York time.

Seminar 2: 4:45 – 7:15 pm Paris time/10:45 am – 1:15 pm New York time.