Spring 2015 - Undergraduate Course Description
Bambach, Charles
Discipline and Number
PHIL 4380 Section 001
TR Time 11:30 AM - 12:45 PM
Course Title
Topics in Philosophy

Description of Course:

Derrida writes that "to speak of justice is not a matter of knowledge, of theoretical judgment. That is why it is never an issue of calculation...Justice, if it has to do with the other, with the infinite distance of the other, is always unequal to the Other, is always incalculable. You cannot calculate justice---justice is the relation to the other." In this incalculable space between the Self & the Other [what Pindar calls the relation between what is of the home (oikos) & what is foreign (allotrios)], I wish to raise the question of justice again, pursuing the very questionability of this persistent question in a course that takes up the dialogue between contemporary continental philosophy( Heidegger, Derrida) and German poetry (Friedrich Hölderlin & Paul Celan).

In this dialogue between philosophers and poets, we will read each work closely, sometimes spending an entire class session on a single poem, reading line-by-line in a slow, hermeneutically focused way. Hölderlin’s and Celan's poems are difficult, resistant to easy analysis and requiring a rare concentration on detail, context, texture, resonance, and rhetorical frame. Part of my interest in our interpretations will be style, part translation--but the real focus here will be a philosophical reading of poetry that tries to grasp philosophy as a kind of poetic thinking. By reading each poetic text both through and against Heidegger’s philosophical writings, my hope is to spur a dialogue about language and hermeneutics in relation to the practice of philosophy itself.

In the perilous waters of 20th-century "ethics", I want to pursue an argument that attempts to think through the name of a Justice whose ground has been blocked/occluded by the metaphysics of "subjectivity." How are we to think of "justice" in the wake of a century whose sheer devastation, transgression, & violence has unmoored the old metaphysical certitudes about Platonic justice? How can we think justice if the metaphysics of justice itself has collapsed? Post-Nietzsche, what would it mean to raise again the ancient Greek question of limits, balance, and incalculable incommensurability? What would it mean to confront the ethical aporia of justice?
These are some of the questions that I would like to raise in this undergraduate class on "Tragedy, Philosophy, Poetry, Justice"

Required Texts:

Friedrich Hoelderlin, Selected Poems and Fragments
Martin Heidegger, Elucidations of Hoelderlin's Poetry
Paul Celan, Selected Poems and Prose (Felstiner, trans.)
Jacques Derrida, Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan
Paul Celan, Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry: A Bilingual Edition (Pierre Joris, trans.)

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

2 essays of 5-9 pp. length, a Protokoll of 1-2 pp. length, and a final paper proposal of 1-2 pp.

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