Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Yet Another Syllabus Cadged From a Master and His Pupils

Relative to Karl's beautiful post, Caninophilia II [which I hope everyone will read, even though, sure, we're all stressed out with the usual beginning-of-the-semester madness], and to yet another instance of cadging the neural matter out of Jeffrey's brain [hmmm . . . that's a terrible image, isn't it?], I offer my other syllabus inspired by the authors and commentators on this blog, "Bodies-Becoming and Identity Machines: Post/human Literatures." I am teaching this as part of Southern Illinois's English department's "Senior Seminar" series [only senior-level English majors are enrolled in this course as part of their "capstone" experience], and I appreciate [as always] any comments from our readers. Here be the syllabus:

Bodies-Becoming & Identity Machines: Post/human Literatures


Unknown said...

Wow. Looks like a tremendous course. I specifically appreciated the quotes at the opening of the syllabus. I have done some thinking on these subjects and agree in following your opening statement that "the body does not end at the limits of the skin." However, the skin and the physical body do do provide an essential boundary seen most clearly in the context of pedophilia and child pornography. How do you (or your literatures) intend to address the function and boundary of skin while also transcending it?
The image of Christ holding the bread and wine is intriguing here as the skin is in contact with what his body becomes or is. I do not have my own copy (or one on hand) but Graham Ward explores this via sexuality, analysis and literature in his Cities of God.
I also appreciated introducing the idea of deterritorialization. I am from an Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition and we have struggled with issue of identity and theological articulation. Some recent work has taken to the issues of territory and identity. Much of the Anabaptist story is that of displacement. Chris Heubner perceives the Anabaptist story as "the ongoing task of giving expression to a body that does not admit of establisment, a truth that does not admit of ownership, and an identity that does not admit of location." As a communal body Anabaptist identity is inherently contingent. "It is thus not a territorial given to be protected and secured, but unsettled and diasporic, pulled ceaselessly beyond itself." (A Precarious Peace)
This again reminds me of how we conceive and secure individual and social boundaries or "skin".
In any event the course looks great.

Rick Godden said...

Looks like a great course Eileen. When it comes to reading portions of Freud and Deleuze & Guatarri on the case of the Wolf-Man, I wonder if it would be productive to include the work of Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok. They have a book called the Wolf Man's Magic Word, and a collection of essays called the Shell and the Kernel. Their larger project involves the psychoanalytic mechanism of introjection (used a bit differently from Ferenczi and Freud), where introjection allows a person to appropriate the other and consequently survive trauma and other life experiences. Anyway, thought that there critique of Freud and re-reading of the Wolf-Man might be a productive addition.

Eileen Joy said...

Thanks, indiefaith and Rick, for your very helpful and thought-provoking comments. As regards identity and certain processes of "territorialization" and "de-territorialization," this is something I am just beginning to explore myself, partly for two reasons:

first, because of an informal talk Holly Crocker gave a couple of years ago on a BABEL panel at the Southeastern Medieval Association meeting in Daytona Beach, Florida, where she said,

"In an effort to unthink historicist fidelities, which frankly investigations of gender do even if they don’t acknowledge it, I’d like to suggest that gender is more about places than times. Gender is a structure of difference, and as such, it immediately illuminates what Jeffrey Cohen calls the “temporal interlacement” of the Middle Ages: the “the impossibility of choosing alterity or continuity” as a critical model for contemporary scholars. And, considering the post-historicist interest in medieval studies in “place” (a la David Wallace's Premodern Places: Calais to Surinam, Chaucer to Aphra Behn), it seems that we should put more thought into the human as its own “topographical mode,” if you will."

Further, Holly said,

"I’d like to suggest that contemporary interest in “place”--which often defies temporalities--needs to be thought of as an active category of difference that can have troubling consequences over time. Placing the human, particularly through constructions of gender difference, allows us to think about the structures that we continue to respect as visibly neutral (or outside time). These can be quite tangible (and here I’m thinking about texts and their material constructions), but they can also be quite abstract. The ways in which the tangible and abstract of what we count as “human” bleed into one another, then, and calls upon us to review the ways in which categories that we’ve often thought outside the domain of place--race, class, gender, sexuality, religion--are in many ways the place-holders for a “human” identity that stands apart from all of these, except in privileged, rarefied, and fantasized ways (and here I want to bring in Bruno Latour’s exhortation that we recognize the “fact” as a gathering--like a place, or a storehouse, to bring in Mary Carruthers or Vance Smith--over which we exercise creative control through time)."

second, it was recommended I read Patricia Fumerton's [she is an early modernist historian] book "Unsettled: The Culture of Mobility and the Working Poor in Early Modern England," where Fumerton connects the ideas of territorial displacement and subjectivity to talk about "unsettled subjectivity" and a "lowly aesthetics of unsettledness"--it's such a beautiful book. This is linking up nicely with work I am only just now getting into [for the first time] by Rosi Braidotti on "nomadic ethics" in relation to a new article I want to write on the "lowly unsettled aesthetic" and "initnerant subjectivities" of the St Guthlac narratives [in Anglo-Latin and Old English].

Also, Rick, thanks so much for the pointer to the book by Abraham and Torok; thanks to you, I just ordered it through my library's interlibrary loan services. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

A *really* informal talk! Get this: I go away for a while (in an attempt to get my classes together), and here you are, Eileen, reminding me of some preliminary ruminations I had on "placing" the human, and inspiring me with your pedagogical investigations of the possibilities of the human's displacement--what a great course! Mine look quite drab by comparison. Thanks for sharing, as always.

Now that I'm here, however, and in case indifaith hasn't gone off to do his own work for a while, I would like to ask you guys a question, which relates to my own research at the moment: does anyone talk about the soul as a place of difference in the MA? or since?

I know scholars speak of religion as a differential border of identity (and in extremely helpful and nuanced ways). But what about the soul? I ask this question particularly because premodern theories of the soul hierarchize its faculties, and in the Aristotelian tradition, they suggest that environmental differences are important to alterations in (or the disposition of) a person's soul. Do people who talk about "geohumoralism" talk about the soul? I can't recall that they do, but I may be misremembering. If you want to write me off blog, that would be just fine.

Thanks again,