This week we have a full sprint of classes in Human Sciences' Study The Humanities series — both day and night, and a field trip! Here are the details:
Monday, January 9th, 7pm at Studium on 2200 Tillery Street: Read Fiction
Why do we read fiction? What are the political implications of this ostensibly private act? How might our utopian desire to find meaning in fiction be manipulated, and how might we resist? In particular, we'll read a heavily politicized short story, Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street." We will also read Lee Edelman's nuanced critique of how "Bartleby" was used by, and against, the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and how that speaks to the existence of what he calls the "corporate humanities."
Texts (optional, but encouraged):
"Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street" Herman Melville
"Occupy Wall Street: 'Bartleby' Against the Humanities" Lee Edelman
Wednesday, January 11th, 10am at Flitch Coffee: Read Theory
In this class, we'll consider Theory as a genre of writing that many critics feel lost it way with the Deconstructionist turn of the 70s: theory today, critics argue, is overly specialized, badly written and overly dependent on jargon, self-absorbed, and even nihilistic. Proponents argue that theory is and always has been "an engine for difference and change," an engine that needs continually evolving vocabulary in order to enact that change.
Why should we read theory? Where does it get us? Does "jargon" communicate ideas better than "plain" language? In order to wade into these ancient questions, we'll read a typical critique of theory from 2000 by Andrew Delbanco (see the additional reading section, below, for an interesting review from two years later that adds shading to his ideas). We'll also read an essay by our Director of Education, Haylie Swenson, which draws liberally on theoretical jargon in a way that Haylie now feels somewhat conflicted about.
"Academic Battleground": Review of The Victims' Revolution (Bruce Bawr) by Delbanco
Thursday, January 12th, 7pm at Pump Project (field trip!): Study Art
Why should we study (and make!) art? Is the study and practice of art merely a decoration to life, a nice hobby for the cultural elite? Or is there something vital about it, something that can speak even to people who might not usually spend much time with art?
For this class, we'll be meeting at one of Austin's local galleries, the Pump Project Art Complex, in order to bring these questions to some actual work. It's a Field Trip! We will be viewing an exhibit by Bethlehem Makonnen. From the exhibit's site:
In ኣለማየሁ : I saw the world, Betelhem Makonnen investigates issues of estrangement, exile, racism and forced migration. The starting impulse of all her works are questions that arise from her own experiences in relationship to history and the construction of archives. Her references are a mixture of her personal history in combination with fragments of sources, ideas and thoughts she absorbs from research in texts of history, philosophy, literature and the internet.
After we have all spent some time with Makonnen's work, we discuss what we saw and experienced, as well as a NY Times article about police officers at the Met.
Texts (optional, but encouraged):
"Off the Beat and Into a Museum: Art Helps Police Officers Learn to Look" NYTimes