Fall 2010 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Turner Fred
Discipline and Number
HUSL 6355 Section 001
T Time 10:00 AM - 12:45 PM
Course Title
Literature, Science, and Culture

Description of Course:

We will explore questions of this kind:

Is beauty one or many? appearance or reality? changing or unchanging? relative or absolute? If “just” means “fair,” and “fair” means “beautiful,” is justice an aesthetic concept? If Thrasymachus in the Republic is right, can Hitler have been wrong? If Thrasymachus is wrong, can contemporary poststructuralist theory in the humanities, "cultural studies," etc, be right? If beauty is freedom and play, how can it exist in a physical universe (and a human society based on its necessities) that are deterministic? Is the universe deterministic? Is beauty the same as the aesthetic? Are the problems of dualism--mind/matter, soul/body, etc--the shipwreck of beauty, or is beauty the solution of them? Do animals have an aesthetic? Can beauty be rooted in animal ritualization? What would a classic Darwinian account of beauty look like? What are the limits of classic Darwinian theory? Is every human language a closed hermeneutic circle, an incommensurable culture-world, a "language-game," or is there a deep universal human language, a "humanese" or "worldese" of which natural languages are "dialects"? I.e., is verbal beauty purely local or both local and universal? Can the nature/nurture problem be overcome by a sophisticated gene/culture coevolutionary theory? Can there be a neurobiology of aesthetic experience? Do mind-brain issues cloud or enrich the question of aesthetics? If beauty is both a biological and a cultural phenomenon, how is the relationship between these aspects mediated? What are the implications for arts education if beauty genres are hardwired in the brain? Is beauty an objective property of the universe? If beauty is an objective property of the universe, what is the universe like and where does beauty fit in? Can chaos and complexity theory help us toward a new understanding of aesthetics? What is the relationship between a Chaos/complexity theory of beauty and an evolutionary theory of beauty? Can game theory assist us in creating narratives and games that have the allure of beauty? Can we pull all this together? How should the academic humanities be changed--in goals, self-description, relationship to the public, disciplinary organization, etc, if our conclusions (if any) are valid? How will this new view of the arts fit into the increasingly democratic, diminishingly statist, market capitalist, ethnically diverse, theologically reawakened, technologically sophisticated global culture of today?

Required Texts:

Readings for the course may include some of the following works:
THEORY: Gyorgy Dóczi: The Power of Limits, Judith Wechsler: On Aesthetics and Science, Konrad Lorenz: On Aggression, Friedrich Schiller: Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, Plato: Republic, Stephen Pinker: The Language Instinct, Epstein, Rentschler & Herzberger: Beauty and the Brain, D'Aquili, Laughlin, McManus et al.: The Spectrum of Ritual, J. T. Fraser: Time the Familiar Stranger, James Gleick: Chaos: Making a New Science, Alexander Argyros: A Blessed Rage for Order, Robert Wright: Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Frederick Turner: Beauty: The Value of Values.
EXEMPLIFICATION: John Keats: “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Akira Kurosawa: Kurosawa’s Dreams, Ingmar Bergman and W. A. Mozart: The Magic Flute, W. B. Yeats: “Lapis Lazuli,” J.W. v. Goethe: “The Metamorphosis of the Plants,” Miklós Radnóti: “Calendar,” etc.

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Grades will be based 33% on contributions to class discussion, 33% on short-essay quiz answers, 33% term paper.

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