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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Terrence E Schenold
CHID 495
Seattle Campus

Close Readings in Theory

Close readings of a specific work, author, artist, or body of work.

Class description

Immanuel Kant is not a flashy or expressive thinker : he is the philosopher-analogue to the figure of Giotto di Bondone, the Italian painter and architect who when asked to demonstrate his skill by the Pope drew a circle as perfect as those produced with a compass, free-hand in red paint. Kant is patient, systematic, technical and precise, and his form of philosophical innovation is generated not out of conceptual creativity or affective figuration, but in the enhancement of thought through its focus, much like a sextant enabling our given powers of perception to access cosmic order for navigating a chaotic and expansive sea. In his own day, he was referred to as the "All-to-nothing crushing Kant"? for his limiting effect on the metaphysical ambitions of philosophy, and the modern philosopher Gilles Deleuze remarked on the "suffocating atmosphere"? of Kant’s work. Nevertheless, the shadow of Kant is cast everywhere in the Western tradition, and reaction to some aspect of his work was the starting point for many of the unstated canonical figures whose work is encountered under the heading of Critical Theory in the humanities today. And for all the crushing and suffocation expressed by critics, Kant's aim from beginning to end was a thoroughly technical appreciation and understanding of our ability to grasp the infinite novelty of Nature.

This course is designed first to guide students unfamiliar with Immanuel Kant through an intensive, technical reading of his three major Critiques (_Critique of Pure Reason_, _Critique of Practical Reason_, _Critique of the Power of Judgment_), and second, to put students in a better position to see the nature of Kant's significance in critics they may encounter in courses on Critical Theory or those that make use of it. The reading and assignments are shaped to give a sense of the development and continuity of Kant's work and will try to provide students with the means to pursue further study with more confidence. The general aim is to give readers a clearer picture of Kant's arguments that is based in a guided struggle with the primary texts, and specific key passages. To this end, the primary emphasis will be, at every stage, on answering the questions of reading and understanding: How can I understand what Kant said? Questions of how the texts connect with other themes or discourses, or how they can be applied will be secondary to developing a textually grounded understanding of Kant's arguments and their stakes.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Participants will be expected to:

1. Come to class prepared to participate in discussion.
2. Complete weekly quizzes on assigned reading (every Wed, weeks 2-9, for 8 total).
3. Write a commentary (4-5 pgs, due week 5) explicating a passage chosen from a selection provided.
4. Lead class in an explication and discussion of a passage (groups of 2 or 3 people, due allotted week).
5. Write an essay (6-7 pgs, due Finals time) exploring some implications of a passage in Critique of the Power of Judgment for a claim in Foucault, Bourdieu, or Deleuze.

Participation & Quizzes: 20% Passage Commentary: 25% Group-Lead Explication & Discussion: 25% Essay: 30%


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Terrence E Schenold
Date: 02/12/2010