Dreaming and Thinking [B] - Sharon Sliwinski
Freud regularly insisted that, at bottom, dreams are just a particular form of thinking made possible by the conditions of sleep. We will take this insight as the central theme of our course: Here dream will be understood both as an psychical object and as a form of thinking, which is to say we will be exploring the terrain of dream-life but also investigating the nature of this “other form” of thinking and what it offers for ethics, politics, and social thought. As Derrida once proposed (while reflecting on one of Benjamin’s dreams), we must dare to take dream seriously, to care for what it let’s us think about, especially when it let’s us think about the “possibility of the impossible” and what would have to be done to think differently, to think thinking differently.
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900)
Walter Benjamin, “Paris, Capital of the 19th Century” + selected excerpts from the Arcades Project
Jonathan Lear, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation
Derrida, “Fichu: The Frankfurt Address”
Thomas Ogden, This Art of Psychoanalysis
Lyotard, “The Dream-work does not think”
(Film) Regeneration (1997) dir. Gillies MacKinnon
1. Questions (10 x 2.5) 25%
For each class in which there is reading assigned, prepare a written question. To give your question a home and a trajectory, introduce your query with a few sentences. Then try to elaborate your question by reflecting on what your inquiry is grappling with, what your question wants, or what kind of relationship you are bridging with the reading. This small piece of work should be no more than one page, typed, and double-spaced. Your questions may become the basis of class discussion; in other words, you may be asked to share your work.
2. Apothegm 25%
Apothegm means to “speak out”: Students will deliver a very short, in-class presentation at least once over the course of the term. On the week you are scheduled to present, pick a short quotation from the assigned reading and prepare a brief discussion about the quotation’s significance. Include this quotation as the heading to your discussion and bring copies to distribute to the class. The idea of this assignment is to work closely with the text, unfolding and reflecting upon the significance of the passage you have chosen. You might wish to choose a quotation that you believe to be the crux of the author’s argument. Or you might choose to focus on an obscure passage in order to speculate on the significance of this outlying idea. I encourage you to choose a passage that you do not immediately understand, but which somehow strikes you. Depending on your choice, you may wish to use the quotation as a way to try to paraphrase or summarize the author’s argument. Or you may wish to deconstruct the logic at work in the passage. Or you may wish to link the quotation to another reading from our course. Frame your work with a few questions. Your discussion should be no more than 3 pages in length.
3. Abstract 10%
Prepare an abstract for a conference paper. Imagine submitting this abstract to a conference call on “Dreaming & Thinking” with the course material serving as the basis for the description of the conference. The abstract should outline your proposed paper’s argument, including the specific concepts, theoretical tools, and any objects, texts, or events you intend to examine. Your abstract should implicitly justify the significance of your paper. In other words, you are trying to convince the conference convenors of the importance of your proposed study. Aim for about 5oo words in length. We will be discussing the abstracts and proposed papers on the last day of class.
4. Conference Paper 40%
You are required to write one conference length paper. The paper should be a concise inquiry into some aspect of our course. Start by returning to the weeks’ readings that pertain to the topic you have chosen. I encourage you to be modest in your inquiry, focusing on a very specific problem or theme drawn from one of the readings. While you are welcome to draw upon outside material, the focus of the paper should critically engage one or more of the issues or themes we have worked with in the course. Your essay should take a very specific point of view, but spend time defining the geography of the problem being considered, for whom it is a problem, and the issues such thinking might raise for you and others. The conference paper should be approximately 10 pages in length – no longer, in other words, than twenty minutes read aloud.
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