Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-107
Austin D. Sarat (Section 01)
Politics seems almost unimaginable without secrecy and lying. From the noble lie of Plato's Republic to the controversy about former President Clinton's "lying" in the Monica Lewinsky case and President Trump’s alleged assault on truth, from the use of secrecy in the war against terrorism to the endless spinning of political campaigns, from controversies about "fake news" to efforts to hide and excuse police miscoduct, from President John Kennedy's behavior during the Cuban missile crisis to cover-ups concerning pedophile priests in the Catholic church, from Freud's efforts to decode the secrets beneath civilized life to contemporary exposés of the private lives of politicians, politics and deception seem to go hand-in-hand. This course investigates how the practices of politics are informed by the keeping and telling of secrets, and the telling and exposing of lies. We will address such questions as: When, if ever, is it right to lie or to breach confidences? When is it right to expose secrets and lies? Is it necessary to be prepared to lie in order to advance the cause of justice? Or, must we do justice justly? When is secrecy really necessary and when is it merely a pretext for Machiavellian manipulation? Are secrecy and deceit more prevalent in some kinds of political systems than in others? Can democracy survive in a “post-truth” era? As we explore those questions we will discuss the place of candor and openness in politics and social life; the relationship between the claims of privacy (e.g., the closeting of sexual desire) and secrecy and deception in public arenas; conspiracy theories as they are applied to politics; and the importance of secrecy in the domains of national security and law enforcement. We will examine the treatment of secrecy and lying in political theory as well as their appearance in literature and popular culture, for example Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Primary Colors, Schindler's List and The Insider.
This is a discussion-based course. Students will be expected to be active participants in the seminar. During the course of the semester we will use our discussions to cultivate reasoning skills as well as student capacities to present arguments in a compelling manner. In addition, there will be frequent writing, and I will provide careful and extended responses to student writing. The course will provide an introduction to liberal studies by helping students learn how to read and comprehend complex texts, respond to them in sophisticated ways, and engage in critical reasoning about venerable and pressing ethical, social and political problems.
Fall semester. Professor Sarat.
How to handle overenrollment: Dean handles this.
Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: The seminar will focus on the related skills of close reading, engaged discussion, and critical writing. Reading prompts will ask you to practice the reading skills required for active class discussion and effective writing. Students will write frequent short papers and have regular writing consultations with the instructor.
Tu 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM CLAR 100
Th 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM CLAR 100
|The Prince||New York : Bantam Books, 1981, c1966.||Niccolo Machiavelli; with selections from The discourses; translated by Daniel Donno; edited and with an introduction by the translator||Amherst Books||TBD|
|Darkness at Noon: A Novel||Scribner||Arthur Koestler,||Amherst Books||TBD|
|Beloved||Vintage||TONI MORRISON,||Amherst Books||TBD|
These books are available locally at Amherst Books.