Heather N Pool
POL S 401
Topics can include, but are not limited to, analytical theory pertaining to justice, exploitation, and freedom; revolution and social changes; collective choice and action; sexuality and politics; critical theory; Marxist theory; post-structuralism. Content varies. Recommended: POL S 201.
Using a combination of historical, theoretical, empirical, and cultural resources, we will consider the relation between death and politics. What role does death play in our beliefs and intentions about political life? While death is the end point of every individual life, how do our anxieties about that individual imperative play out in political ways? How does our fear or embrace of death construct our political horizons? What can we learn about ourselves and our politics from instances of mass deaths and the political responses to them?
The first half of the course will engage with several Greek tragedians as well as recent commentary on their works. These ancient discussions of death and its impact on the living will lay a foundation for more contemporary events that will be taken up in the last month and a half of the course.
Student learning goals
Students will be able to identify at least three analytically distinct ways that death shapes contemporary political life.
Students will be able to make an argument for when fears of death can contribute to justice or injustice in political life.
General method of instruction
Because this is a limited-enrollment course on an intense topic, the general method of instruction will be a discussion-based seminar. To ensure that the class is productive and enjoyable, students are expected to come to each section having completed all of the assigned readings and prepared to discuss them in some depth.
There are no prerequisites, and all students who are willing to consider the relation between ideas and politics are welcome to enroll. However, some experience with political theory is strongly encouraged, particularly POLS 201. Additional political theory courses would also be helpful.
Class assignments and grading
Response paper(s) and presentations, a mid-term take home exam, and a final analytic paper.