(Super) Heroic Politics, Elizabeth Barringer
A fascination with heroes has been a constant feature of Western political thought stretching back to classical times. Yet their role in political orders is complex, varied, and dynamic—and frequently not aligned with the common good, or with democratic conceptions of politics. Our task in this course is to look at recent superhero movies as a continuation of this long tradition of heroic politics and to critically examine their potential for (or against) democratic practices: what kinds of political relationships do these stories imagine or support? Do superheroes function as good ethical and political role models that empower audiences? Or are they disempowering, teaching audiences to trust in the strengths of exceptional individuals (or exceptional states) instead of their own capacities to act in concert? Can these stories teach us to be better citizens? To address these questions, his class will consider a selection of recent super-hero films from the Marvel and DC "universes" alongside classical texts of political theory, analyzing questions of ethics, democratic agency, courage, and state power. Among others, we will read works by Arendt, Rousseau, Schmitt, Cavell, and Plato, as well as some contemporary authors, to see how these films take up political ideas, and to better understand the kinds of political worlds and actors they imagine.
The Courage to Judge, Samantha Hill
If we are in a world, as many fear, where truth no longer matters and cultural criticism is dictated by Internet mobs, how are we to judge? With the phenomenal appearance of totalitarianism in the middle of the 20th century, Hannah Arendt famously argued that the traditional moral categories of good and bad have lost their relevance. The inability to discern fact from fiction, and make critical judgments paves the ground for the emergence of fascist propaganda and rhetoric. So, how do we preserve and nurture our ability to make judgments? This course will examine the political concept of judgment and the way it has evolved within the western tradition of political theory. Primarily examining the works of Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hannah Arendt, and Theodor Adorno we will ask: What does it mean to judge in the world today?
Introduction to Christianity in Revolutions, Bruce Chilton
Christianity has both promoted and resisted revolutions during the course of its history. The aim of this course is to understand why and how that process has unfolded. The method of the seminar is to understand how Christianity developed through systemic changes, and to read selected authors against the background of that evolution. This course is part of the Courage To Be College Seminar Series; students are required to attend three lectures in the in Courage to Be Lecture Series sponsored by the Hannah Arendt Center.
Theorizing Facebook: Technology, Society, and Social Networks, Laura Ford
In this course, we will seek to understand social media, as social and moral phenomena. Each week we will “theorize” social media from a different perspective, seeking new sociological insights into social media-related “spaces,” and into the ways that morality, ethics, and politics are enacted within such spaces. After initially situating one technological platform for social media (Facebook) in its historical and legal context, we will expand our inquiry and seek answers to the following types of questions. What are social networks, and how do they work? How do the technical controls (e.g. friend suggestions) and institutional frameworks (e.g. corporate business models and intellectual property laws) of social media impact qualities and characteristics of social interaction? How might this matter for social movements relying on social media? Do social relationships and communities work differently, when they are formed through social media? How might we affect normative orders of truth-telling and justice in the ways that we use (or don’t use) social media?