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Fall 2017

RSCP 72100 - Introduction to Renaissance Studies:  Neoplatonism across Time and Faith, GC: W, 2:00-4:00pm., Rm 3309, 3/4 credits, Prof. Clare Carroll and Feisal Mohamed, Cross listed with CL 80900 and ENG 71000

Engaging in questions of Platonic influence may seem to support a traditional view of the Renaissance as reviving and redoubling a unitary sense of Western culture tracing its roots to ancient Greece. This course poses a strong challenge to that narrative. By focusing on the Platonism of late antiquity, we in fact engage in a profound re-mapping of the period’s engagement with classical and medieval locales, one less centered on Athens and Rome and taking into its ken Alexandria, Damascus, and Baghdad.
The Neoplatonic tradition was the philosophical limgua franca of the Renaissance: the rediscovery of Plotinus and Proclus achieved in no small measure through the prodigious influence of Marsilio Ficino was a spark generating widespread interest. And as was recognized in the period, it is a tradition that spans all three Abrahamic faiths: the great wellspring of biblical Neoplatonism is the Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria, whose influence can be discerned in the seminal Christian mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius and in the Islamic tradition of falsafa. These interests certainly display themselves in literature, though this course will ask whether such engagements constitute thick intellectual engagement or a merely ornamental embellishment.
We will see in the course how Neoplatonism continues to provide a common philosophical language to theologians of all three faiths, as in the work of the twentieth-century Shi’a philosopher Henri Corbin and of the member of the “Radical Orthodoxy” school Simon Oliver.


FRENCH 70500 - Writing the Self: From Augustine to Selfies, GC: T, 4:15-6:15pm, Rm 3310A, 2/4 credits, Prof. Domna C. Stanton

How is the self written, visualized, constructed? What different forms and shapes do such texts take over time, in different genres? What purposes do they serve, for the several selves inscribed in a text and for others (including the self) who will read it.This course will begin by examining several theoretical texts on writing the self (Lejeune, Smith, Derrida, Glissant, Stanton), then trace self-writing from the Middle Ages (Augustine, Kempe, Pisan) through the early-modern periods, focusing on both the global (travel narratives on conquest --Columbus, La Casas, Equiano), and on various forms (letter and diary, for instance) of gendered interiority (Cavendish, Gentileschi, Sévigné, Westover). Signal texts on post-Enlightenment confession and memoir (Rousseau, Sand) will be followed in the second half of the seminar by a more thematic approach to issues of modernity, including  slavery and liberation always deferred (Jacobs, Douglass, Wright, Coates); modernism and the limits of experimentation (Woolf, Nin, Kafka, Cahun); autofiction  (Colette, Joyce, Stein); dislocated, traumatized selves in wars and holocausts (de Beauvoir, Sartre, Anne Frank, Levi, Henson [comfort women]); testimonio, the indigenous (Hurston, Levi Strauss, Menchu) and human rights narratives (Eggers); and French  post-structuralism and the psychoanalytic (Barthes, Kristeva, Cardinal, Louise Bourgeois, Lacan). Our last two seminars will involve a discussion of inscriptions of sexual and medical bodies, featuring birthing, AIDS, cancer and transgender selves(Arenas, Guibert, Bornstein, Leonard, N.K. Miller); we will end with the topics of digital/virtual self-writing and the selfie (Smith, Giroux, Nemer and Freeman). Throughout, we will consider possible meanings of confessing/revealing/ concealing and constructing/deconstructing the selves; and finally, we will ask whether, at bottom, all writing is self-writing.

Work for the course: Whether the course is taken for 2, 3 or 4 credits, all students will be responsible for doing the readings closely and for engaging consistently in class discussion. They will each present a reading of a primary text from the syllabus to the class. All students will take the final exam.

a.  Students who take the course for 4 credits will also write a 20-25-p. paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor. In preparation, they will  first turn in a title and a paragraph summary of the paper; then a thesis statement and a 4-p. outline; finally a 4 p. introduction and the bibliography (the schedule will be indicated on the syllabus).
b.  Students who take the course for 3 credits, will do all of the above but instead of a 20-25 p. paper, they will do a 10-13 p. paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor.
c.  Students who take the course for 2 credits will submit their reading of a primary text in writing (5-7 pp.)

Please contact Domna Stanton with any questions ( 

The syllabus and the course materials to be downloaded will be posted on Blackboard by August 15, 2017.