Douglas P Collins
C LIT 508
Literary criticism and theory from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance through the eighteenth century to, but not including, Kant. Offered: jointly with ENGL 508.
The Greening of Negativity: Spinoza/Rousseau/ Kant
What is the meaning for Critical Theory of the pathos of an exhausted nature? What explains a focus upon the suffering innocence of an inhuman vitality? The de-personalization of what Hegel called the work of “the negative”--the mitigation of the social spectacle of its cruelties through the displacement of human rivalries—becomes the master theme of the esthetic in the modern period. A study of seventeenth and eighteenth century neoclassical anger management teaches that the martyrological sensibility of eco-negativity was there at the birth scene of modern criticism, in Kant, preeminently, where the death of flowers trumps in significance the humiliation of eminent persons that Aristotle had described as central to great art. Early modern background is necessary baggage for understanding criticism that is a victimology strategically forgetful of itself as such. Particular attention must be paid to the passivity of a relation to nature, to the threat of a “knower’s remorse.” The pristinely ungrasped existence offers necessary hobbling of curiosity’s momentum, as what goads to excessive response is the trigger of a reversibility of violence. Benjamin: “There is, in the relation of human languages to that of things, something that can be approximately described as ‘overnaming’—the deepest linguistic reason for all melancholy and (from the point of view of the thing) for all deliberate muteness. . . . “Bataille on the reason for the anxiety concerning the wolfishness of witness: “No one can both know and not be destroyed.” Negativity as fossil fuel or as renewable resource? What explains Schiller’s affection for mossy stones? Hegel’s horror before the face of an ape? Bataille’s fascination for the backside of this same creature? Why does Nietzsche describe water as “disappointed”? How to understand the role of the animal victim in Adorno, the late Derrida? Why does Lévi-Strauss conclude his life’s masterpiece gazing into the eyes of a cat?
Readings include: Spinoza, Ethics Kant, The Critique of Judgment Rousseau, Politics and the Arts And, extracts from Schiller, Schlegel, Hegel, Nietzsche, Bakhtin, Adorno, Derrida, etc..
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