POST 152 PZ -Politics and Literature
Description: Would you like to know which variables are currently the most statistically reliable indicators of the winner of next year’s presidential election? Would you enjoy analyzing the responsiveness of members of Congress to their poorest constituents? Do you desire the knowledge to make incisive comments about European monetary policy? If so, great! Society needs more curious individuals like you.
Please be aware, however, that this is not really what we’ll be thinking about in this class. “Politics” is in the title. I see that. But we’ll be thinking about politics in its broadest possible sense, as when Aristotle says that justice is an ordering of the soul, or when Kant argues that freedom is a moral quality. Before we get to the debating and voting and legislating, there is a vast, subterranean world of values that we must evaluate and order. This is the level at which we struggle to understand the nature of freedom and how it is achieved. It is where we face the challenge of directing our own lives and of discerning our obligations towards others. This is a political process.
Why literature? Is there something that literary works can communicate that a more prosaic work of political theory cannot? Is there special political knowledge that eludes us when we remain on the level of newspapers, policy analysis, or journal articles?
And what is literature anyway? If Gertrude Stein wrote down and published the results of Congress’s last roll-call vote, what then?
Thus, defining “politics” broadly and lacking precise knowledge about where a mere aggregation of words end and literature begins, I have arranged this syllabus with the zeal of academic freedom (though not the license of tenure). I want to see what happens when we contemplate freedom, tyranny, obligation, inequality, oppression and war through literary mediums. Is the knowledge that results any different at all? If so, why? If not, why not?
For up-to-date information on current course offerings and details, please refer to the Pitzer class schedule on MyCampus2 Portal.
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