In this course we will explore a series of ideas from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that have substantially changed the way people think about humanity. Each idea is closely associated with an author. While from year to year the ideas and thinkers will shift, for 2012 we will closely read and write about Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Communist Manifesto, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Friedrich Nietzsche’sOn the Genealogy of Morals, Sigmund Freud’s The Ego and the Id, Max Weber’s essays “Science as a Vocation” and “Politics as a Vocation,” Hannah Arendt’sEichmann in Jerusalem, Franz Kafka’s story, “In the Penal Colony,” and Michel Foucault’sDiscipline and Punish.
This course introduces students to modes of critical thinking and analysis, by exposing them to writers who have mastered various techniques of intellectual inquiry and critique. Active participation in seminar discussion will enable students to learn how to articulate their understanding of the materials. Students will be required to bring to each class a particular passage from the reading for the day, and explain to all why that passage is of import for the day’s discussion. Weekly written assignments of various length – from two to six pages each week – variously involving description, presentation of evidence, logical analysis, critique and creative response – will help students develop their writing skills. The final assignment of the course will be designed to allow students to provide an overview of their experience, and a separate (and anonymous) critique of the syllabus and the instructor.