On the Tragic and its Limits

Term: Spring 2011

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6109

Is the tragic an adequate category for thinking about the nature of contemporary conflicts, and their cycles of revenge, violence and claims to justice and state legitimacy? Was 9/11 a tragedy? Is the Israel/Palestine conflict tragic? Iraq? Afghanistan? The list goes on.

What is the nature of the tragic and what is questionable in its constant invocation in the contemporary world? What is the availability of the tragic for us, as an aesthetic genre, a mode of experience and a critique of the present?Are we perhaps approaching the limits of the tragic?

These are some of the general questions that will guide this course. Based in a close, constant, but critical attention to the texts of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, we will examine philosophical appropriations and misappropriations of the tragic in Rousseau, Hegel, Schelling, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Benjamin, Arendt and others.

A persistent and common concern will be the question of violence in relation to the constitution of the state and legality and the stakes of a critique of violence in relation to the possibility of a provisional anarchism.

Judith Butler will lead 6 sessions and Simon Critchley will lead 8 sessions with the possibility of one or two guest speakers.


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