Thursday, February 8, 2018

Winter 2018 at Bryn Mawr College

Power, Plato, and the Good Life! Winter has arrived and I'm reprising two beloved courses from the past: Power and Resistance, which I first taught at Deep Springs College (original syllabus here) in Fall 2013, and Introduction to Ancient and Early Modern Political Philosophy, which I taught at Bryn Mawr (original syllabus here) in Fall 2015. I'm grateful to have the chance to rework and update these courses for new students and new times. Three weeks into classes, it has been delightful.

In this year's Power and Resistance (syllabus), students will choose a topic such as "Power, Violence, and the State" or "Exploitation and Economic Power" and then map how the key theoretical texts we're reading joined and influenced an intellectual conversation stretching from the past into the future. The course follows the reading schedule of my Spring 2015 iteration (syllabus here), but I have changed the writing projects to introduce students to basic research skills. I'm especially interested in helping students discover and reconstruct an intellectual conversation about a topic. In this course, I'm also working closely with the excellent librarians at Bryn Mawr Libraries to show students how to use database tools both to find the antecedents (whom or what they cite) of a given scholarly work as well as its descendants (those that cite it in turn).  I'm excited to see the directions students will go!

My recent conversation with Andy Fitch in the Los Angeles Review of Books about What Would Socrates Do? reminded me how much I have learned from "the silent philosopher": Plato. Reading Jill Frank's Poetic Justice in manuscript last fall also invigorated my thinking about the Republic, so I decided to place Plato at the center of a revamped Ancient and Early Moderns course (syllabus). While working through the Republic we will also pivot to contemporary engagements with Plato, reading work by Martha Nussbaum, Iris Murdoch, Jacques Rancière, and others. "The more I read Plato, the more questions I have."

Outside the classroom, I'm also supervising some fascinating thesis projects: Rousseau's Reveries, Marx's critique of justice, whether or not trans people should demand inclusion in the military, critical race theory's critique of judicial institutions, participatory budgeting in the contemporary United States, and the politics of recognition's theorization of subjectivity. And I'm reading (and rereading) Black political thought with another extraordinary student: Cornel West, Robert Gooding-Williams, Michael Dawson, Tommie Shelby, Cathy Cohen, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Dorothy Roberts . . . This semester is abundant!