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C LIT 596 D: Special Studies In Comparative Literature

Kant and Criticism

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
MGH 238
Leroy Searle

Additional Details:

This seminar will focus intensively on major works by Immanuel Kant, with particular emphasis on the central role Kant (and Kant studies) have played in the development of modern and contemporary critical theory.

We will start with the recognition that Kant, more than any single figure, gave shape to the idea of the Critique as a particular form and project essential to the idea of "criticism" as a principled and focused intellectual activity. But the seminar will be grounded in what should qualify, by any reasonable standards, as a contemporary revolution in Kant studies.

Starting with the long project by Cambridge University Press of issuing a uniform set of translations of Kant‘s work—in the course of which numerous works have been located, re-edited, or redescribed, some for the first time—the scholarly response to Kant has been transformative. The most striking aspect of this revival of interest in Kant is the recognition of his prodigious tenacity and coherence, following problems and topics for decades. In many fields (conspicuously in literary studies), Kant has been read very selectively and partially, such that commonplace views may be based on reading only one text (or only part of that one), without sufficient attention to the shape of Kant‘s sustained critical probject. In literary study, that has meant that the study of Kant is most likely to be restricted to "What is Enlightenment" (if one is in a hurry) or the third critique (usually titled in translation as The Critique of Judgment, now more accurately titled in the Cambridge edition, The Critique of the Power of Judgment)—and in that critique, the virtually exclusive focus on the topoi of the Beautiful and the Sublime, with little or no attention either to the first introduction or the Critique of Teleological Judgment.

The seminar will, perhaps too ambitiously, concentrate on reading a substantial portion of Kant‘s major works: The Critique of Pure Reason; parts of The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and The Critique of Practical Reason; and more intensive work on the whole of The Critique of The Power of Judgment.

Written work will be short explanatory papers (and I do mean short) on problematic passages in the major works. There will be no comprehensive seminar papers: we are, alas, alas, not on a semester system, and my strong preference is to provide a coherent framework and venue for learning to read Kant attentively, so far as that can be accomplished in 10 weeks.

The secondary purpose of the seminar will be to explore some of the most exciting recent scholarly work on Kant, by Thomas Friedman, John Rawls, Karl Ameriks, Manfred Kuehn, John Zamitto, Eckhardt Forster, Dieter Henrich, Sanford Budick, and others. Part of our focus will be on examining how current views on Kant relate, in particular, to main lines in the development of contemporary critical theory, shaped particularly by Hegel, Heidegger, and French theorists from Althusser and Derrida through Foucault and Deleuze—much of which derives from readings of Kant that appear, in light of recent work, to stem from radically incomplete responses to Kant. There will be a substantial portfolio of critical articles and selections from books as a place to begin.

Immanuel Kant: The Critique of Pure Reason; The Critique of the Power of Judgment
Karl Ameriks: The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism
Manfred Kuehn: Immanuel Kant: A Biography

Course Reader:
Selections from Reflections on a Spirit Seer. . ., Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Critique of Practical Reason, Essays by Rawls, Beck, Heinrich, Forster, Allison, and others.

Catalog Description: 
Offered occasionally by visiting or resident faculty. Course content varies.
GE Requirements Met: 
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
April 28, 2016 - 9:19am