Philosophy & Critical Theory

Apocalyptic Modernity

Instructor: Ignacio Valero
OAK / PHCRT-200 / PHCRT-300 /SSHIS-200 / SSHIS-300 / DIVSM-300 (pending approval)
15 sessions
Prerequisite: Foundations in Critical Studies and Writing 1
July 14-August 14, Mon./Wed./Thurs., 6:45–9:45 p.m.

There is a popular Bizarro cartoon in which a Mayan sculptor, showing the calendar disk to his priest-king, says: “I only had enough room to go up to 2012.” The playful royal responds: “Ha! That’ll freak somebody out someday.” Well, 2012 came and went, but so much is freaking us out now that the end of the world is the least of our worries -- or is it? An Oakland preacher, Harold Camping, swore that the end was coming on May 21, 2011, at 6 p.m., while Google shows 2.5 billion search results for “end of the world.” Then, there was the Y2K scare, the interminable ‘end of days’ apocalypses throughout the centuries, and still no end in sight. Around 1635, Bishop Ussher (and Sir James Lightfoot) suggested the world had been created at 9 a.m. October 3, 4000 B.C. According to his literalist biblical calculations, Adam and Eve had been evicted from Paradise on November 10 of the same year—a very short paradisiac bliss indeed!

Why this continued fascination with the end of times -- chasing ever growing apocalyptic vampires, cyborgs, and zombies? It is “easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism,” say F. Jameson and S. Žižek. The bank and the mega-church have replaced the temple but not the hope of transmuting lead into gold. The biotech (blue? red?) pill comes with promises of extended life without pain. Prayer seems to cure cancer. And the universe looks ever more magical in the scribbles of the modern cosmologists, Hollywood, and the digital screens of the virtual.

Is history cyclical, linear and/or non-linear, enchanted and/or disenchanted? Sacred and/or Secular? Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Cathay, Peru and Mesoamerica as well as Siberia and the humid forests were already asking these questions millennia ago. For some answers, we travel with shamans, alchemists, rabbis, mullahs, and priests, as well as philosophers, scientists, magicians, artists, designers, and charlatans, in search of the elusive Philosopher’s Stone, Paradise, and the Elixir of Life. We weave through some historical, intellectual, environmental, political, economic, technological, religious, pop social media, and multicultural threads, implicit and intertwined in the notions of Apocalypse, Modernity, and Hybridity, and contrast them with American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny, which seem to be suffused with a strong dose of Nostalgia for a Lost Golden Age that still might be reconstructed. Films and Visual analysis support the course readings and discussions.

Due to its interdisciplinary nature, this course fulfills a 200- or 300-level Philosophy & Critical Theory, 200- or 300-level Social Sciences/History, Diversity Studies Seminar (pending approval), or H&S Elective.

The Ecological Imagination

Instructor: Stuart Kendall
SF / PHCRT 200 / PHCRT 300 / SSHIS 200 / SSHIS 300 / VISST 200
15 sessions
Prerequisite: Foundations in Critical Studies and Writing 1
August 4-22, Mon.-Fri., 1-4 p.m.

Ecology is a branch of biology that studies the interrelationships of organisms and the environments in which they live. As a mode of systems-based analysis ecology offers an approach to our environment and often a mode of environmentalism. But ecological thinking isn’t just for biologists. Designers across the design disciplines interested in sustainability ground their work in ecological thinking. And artists interested in environmentalism and environmental activism use ecological thought to inform both the form and content of their works. In readings, films, and field trips, this course studies the ecological imagination as it appears in and informs ecological thought, design and art. We will read ecological and environmental philosophy as well as examining works of art and design that exemplify diverse approaches to the problems of ecological thinking and the necessities of sustainability. This will be a course in ecological philosophy, design and aesthetic activism and a study of the presentation of our environment and environmentalism in contemporary culture.

Due to its interdisciplinary nature, this course fulfills a 200- or 300-level Philosophy & Critical Theory, 200- or 300-level Social Sciences/History, or 200-level Visual Studies.

The following summer study abroad course also satisfies a Philosophy & Critical Theory requirement:

Berlin Past/Present + Biennale