Tuesday marks the beginning of my summer teaching session. This year, I am taking on two courses: Psychology of the Criminal Mind (retitled: Science of the Law: Race, Gender, and Criminality) and Intro to Philosophy. Both are experiments in course planning for me. I have never taught a philosophy course and Science of the Law is a complete reworking of a course I taught last summer. Both have me feeling a bit nervous about the next few weeks, particularly as I am simultaneously preparing for my qualifying exams in November. As such, both of these courses attempt to bridge (for my own thinking) a history of aesthetics and philosophy with an understanding of the material conditions of confinement in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The connections are tenuous, at best. However, some of the work I have shared here and kept to myself has been dedicated to these very questions. Therefore, over the next several weeks, I am producing a series of posts that attempt to broadly understand the relationship between teaching and the preliminary examination for a PhD in the humanities. At the same time, in an effort to work through this relationship, I will be reporting more specifically on the content and discussions emerging from these two courses.
It is generally my sense that the connection between teaching and the preliminary exams is a necessary one. While the hazing ritual known as your exams produce a narrative of monastic life, my approach has tried to be much more social. What are the preliminary exams if they are not the opportunity to construct an archive for teaching? With this in mind, I am taking these summer courses as an opportunity to rigorously prepare for these exams in the setting that will more closely mirror the rest of my career (as opposed to five of us in a room eating muffins and talking about why we still don’t like Orlando Patterson).
Until then, here is an excerpt from the first week of the Intro to Philosophy syllabus:
Notes on the Syllabus: No doubt, many of you are familiar with course schedules. They appear useful and often necessary in courses with a set curriculum. However, this is not one of those courses. In fact, I despise planning and scheduling. The micromanaging propensity of teachers, while I am sure is well intentioned, tends to suck the life and fun out of learning (and teaching). The reason I include this document in your course reader is to offer a rough sketch of the next three weeks. The order makes sense at the moment, but as we go, we may find this schedule either unsatisfactory or just boring. If that is the case, I am completely open to altering our course. (Having said that, we will read the materials included in the course packet. Any alterations will occur in relation to our methods, approach, and setting.)
We will engage EXCERPTS from the readings list below. To make our way through the texts in their entirety would be pointless and ultimately counterproductive to an introductory course. However, should you desire to explore them further, I have included the entire chapter, article, etc. Along these extremely rigorous philosophical texts, we will explore the oft-understated philosophical nature of art, literature, and music. They will accompany and aid in our study.
Day 1: What is Philosophy?
Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, “Study of Philosophy”
Day 2: The Dialectic, Violence, and Relationality
G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (excerpts), pt. 1
“Intro to Dialectics”
Visualizing the Dialectic (Group Activity)
Day 3: Revisiting the dialectic and becoming:
G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (excerpts), pt. 2
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Ch. 1
Race and Philosophy
Day 4: Beyond either/or: into the logic of binaries:
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil or Genealogy of Morals (TBD)
Genealogy as method of analysis
“To Make a Poem in Prison”
It is hard
To make a poem in prison.
The air lends itself not
to the singer.
The seasons creep by unseen
And speak no fresh fires.
Soft words are rare, and drunk drunk
Against the clang of keys;
Wide eyes stare fat zeros
And plea only for pity.
Pity is not for the poet;
Yet poems must be primed.
Here is not even sadness for singing,
Not even a beautiful rage rage,
No birds are winging. The air
Is empty of laughter. And love?
Why, love has flown,
Love has gone to glitten.