Category Archives: Seminar

Interdisciplinary perspectives on science fiction literature

Andrew Lincoln Nelson, “Plantimal 4”, 2016

Date and place : every Thursday at 9h10, room C17, Sociology Department, Charles University (Celetná 13, Praha 1)
Lecturer : Julien Wacquez (CEFRES/EHESS Paris)
Language : English

During the last decades, scholars within the Humanities and social sciences have shown a growing interest in science fiction literature. Unlike most overview studies concerning science fiction literature, in this course we will treat science-fiction not only as an object of investigation (is it possible to embrace the huge diversity of stories published under the label ‘science fiction’ as a whole? Is it possible to grasp it as just a ‘literature’ or should it be considered as a ‘culture,’ a ‘social movement?’ What is its relation to science?) but also as a field to work with, as a tool to produce new concepts which would help us to better understand our reality.

Throughout the semester, and through the lens of science fiction literature, we will explore a vast range of current and urgent themes on which much research in Humanities and social sciences is focused on, such as the Anthropocene, Feminism, Posthumanism, Postcolonialism, Science, and Technology.

For each session, two kinds of readings will be assigned: 1) a text by a scholar (or two) who uses science fiction narratives in her/his theoretical research, and 2) some science-fiction novels that allow to reflect upon a particular theme (animals, gender roles, climate change, etc.) We will observe how this scholar reads the stories, and which place (or function) s/he gives to these stories in her/his work. This method of investigation will enable us to think in two directions:

(i) what can we learn about science fiction literature through its usage by scholars coming from different fields of study?
(ii) what can we learn about academic research through these practices of reading science fiction stories? What does it mean to read science fiction as a scholar working on the Anthropocene, feminism, postcolonialism?

Since one of the aims of this course is also to introduce science fiction to those students who are not familiar with this literary field, we will mostly focus on the classics and the most renowned authors (Karel Čapek, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Olaf Stapledon, H. G. Wells), chosen from among different genres of science fiction (Hard Science, Cyberpunk, Space Opera, Climate Fiction), from the 19th century to today. The course also aims to give students the basic tools to undertake their own research on science fiction, be it in Humanities or social sciences.

Requirements:

– Class participation. Students are strongly encouraged to attend all classes. (20 % of the final grade)
– One short presentation of the assigned readings (10 minutes) for each student. The presentation should provide a summary of the texts, backed up by a critical analysis. (35 % of the final grade)
– Final paper. (50 % of the final grade)

Maurice Merleau-Ponty: phenomenology and Literature

LecturerBenedetta Zaccarello (CNRS / CEFRES)
Inscription: Department of German and French Philosophy, FHS UK
When & where: Thursdays 4/4, 11/4, 25/4, 9/5, 16/5, 23/5, 11h00-12h20, CEFRES, Na Florenci 3, Prague 1
Language: French

Élu à la chaire de Philosophie du Collège de France en 1952, Maurice Merleau-Ponty dispensa pendant sa première année d’enseignement le cours intitulé Recherches sur l’usage littéraire du langage. Ces leçons permettent de mieux comprendre le rôle joué par la littérature dans la philosophie de Merleau-Ponty, notamment en ce qui concerne l’élaboration d’une nouvelle méthodologie phénoménologique en dialogue avec (et en opposition à) la pensée critique de Sartre. L’étude de ces textes, ainsi que leur comparaison avec le projet laissé inachevé et publié posthume sous le titre de La Prose du monde, nous aidera à mieux comprendre l’évolution de la pensée de Merleau-Ponty ainsi que le débat philosophique de l’époque sur la question de la littérature.

Cultural Industry: Benjamin, Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse and Critical Theory of Media. 2

LecturerBenedetta Zaccarello (CNRS / CEFRES)
Inscription: Departement of German and French Philosophy, FHS UK
When & where: Wednesdays 3/4, 10/4, 24/4, 15/5, 22/5, 9:30-12h20, CEFRES, Na Florenci 3, Prague 1
Language: French

Syllabus
Throughout a close reading of some texts of Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, the course aims to understand the contemporary use of mass media as the result of an historical process of evolution in our approaches to creativity and communication.

Deconstruction and Phenomenology

Lecturer: Thomas Mercier (CEFRES / UK)
Inscription: Department of German and French Philosophy, FHS UK
When and where: Thursdays 9:30–12:20, CEFRES, Na Florenci 3, Prague 1 (dates tbc)
Language: French

Syllabus

Starting with Jacques Derrida’s very first publications, the basic tenets of deconstruction were elaborated through a complex dialogue, loving but antagonistic, with phenomenology. In this course, we will examine this tumultuous relationship, and will emphasise deconstruction’s paradoxical indebtedness to phenomenological thought. We will carry out a transversal and selective reading of Derrida’s œuvre by engaging with texts he devoted to mainly five authors, phenomenologists or heirs of the phenomenological tradition: Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas, Merleau-Ponty and Patočka. Each of these readings will be focused around one or two specific notions: speech and writing (Husserl), language and technics (Heidegger), violence and alterity (Levinas), Europe and responsibility (Patočka), body or corporeity, and the world (Merleau-Ponty).

The course will thus deal more particularly with the problematics of inheritance and reading, and will provide a presentation of Derrida as a reader and as a paradoxical heir, both faithful and unfaithful, of phenomenological authors.

 

Philosophy, Literature and the Art of Poetry in India and Europe

Lecturer: Benedetta Zaccarello (CNRS / CEFRES)
Institute:
FHS UK, Department of German and French Philosophy  #YMFPR143
When and where: Thursdays 9:30–12:20 or 11–12:20, CEFRES, Na Florenci 3, Prague 1
Language : French

Syllabus
Ce cours propose d’abord une exploration d’importantes théories de la littérature, et notamment de la poésie, dans l’histoire de la philosophie européenne – du romantisme allemand à la théorie de la performativité formulée par le penseur italien Luigi Pareyson ou à la notion de “opera aperta” élaborée par Umberto Eco, en passant par la poétique du Symbolisme français et le développement des courants critiques du Criticisme et du Structuralisme. À partir du XIXème siècle en effet, la critique littéraire ainsi que les méthodologies des “textual studies”, se développent en véritables théories du langage et de la communication. En même temps la production littéraire et poétique fournit de plus en plus matière à la méditation philosophique, donnant lieu à une véritable hybridation entre philosophie et littérature dans la production théorique française du XXème siècle par exemple, réassignant de nouveaux objectifs à la discipline et dessinant pour elle une différente épistémologie. C’est ce que fait Maurice Merleau-Ponty dans ses Recherches sur l’usage littéraire du langage, qui fournira au cours des éléments d’analyse. Une interaction semblable entre philosophie, théorie de la poésie et philologie semble être à l’oeuvre en Inde au passage entre XIXème et XXème siècle. Le philosophe et poète d’origine Bengali Aurobindo Ghose travaille en effet à sa notion de “quantitative meter”, qu’il met par ailleurs en pratique dans la composition de ses vers, pendant qu’il re-interprète le concept de “mantra”, traditionnel dans la philosophie indienne. Par là, la théorie d’Aurobindo Ghose vient à inspirer de nouvelles mouvances dans l’esthétique indienne, nourrie également de l’apport d’autres contemporains illustres. Le cours analysera dans un deuxième moment ce mouvement historique de la pensée indienne, brassant philosophie, exégèse et littérature, grâce notamment à l’analyse de textes tirés de The Future poetry de Aurobindo Ghose, “Pathway to Mukti” de Rabindranath Tagore et de Art Experience fr Mysore Hiryanna. Nous proposerons enfin un esquisse de comparaison des paysages culturels et des outils conceptuels élaborés dans ces deux différents cadres, européen et indien.

For further information, please contact Benedetta Zaccarello.

Critical Theory of Media. 1.

Lecturer: Benedetta Zaccarello (CNRS / CEFRES)
Institution: EKS Department, FHS UK
Time and address: Tuesday 11-12h20, 3rd floor, José Martího 31, Prague 6 – Veleslavín
Language: English

Abstract
Throughout a close reading of some texts of Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, the course aims to understand the contemporary use of mass media as the result of an historical process of evolution in our approaches to creativity and communication. Constantly reshaped by the forms of our social living and influenced by different kinds of power and authority, the idea of technique is understood through this course in its relation to knowledge, art, freedom and power. Students will be guided through an understanding of how technology influences our representation of the world, the ways in which we perceive our own experience, and the set of forms and signs we use to communicate.

Themes of the sessions
1. W. Benjamin, introduction to his life and work.
2. The essay on work of art, historical situation and theoretical novelty.
3. The concept of aura and its decay.
4. New forms of art, cinema as the non-auratic mode of art.
5. Adorno and Horkeimer: historical introduction to the Frankfurt School.
6. History, dialectics, culture.
7. Dialectic of enlightenment: the concept of enlightenment.
8. Enlightenment and technique.
9. Myth versus science: roots of our aim to domination.
10. From dictatorships to mass persuasion.
11. The cultural industry as our reflection.
12. Strategies of persuasion in cultural industry.