Courses / Religious Studies / 3 units / RELIGST 38S: Who Am I? The Question of the Self in Art, Literature, Religion, and Philosophy

Who Am I? The Question of the Self in Art, Literature, Religion, and Philosophy

3 units
June 26 - August 19, 2017

In 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary declared “selfie” to be the word of the year, as researchers revealed that usage of the term had increased 17,000% since the previous year. By 2014, the New York Times, following on the heels of a study conducted by the Pew Research Foundation dubbed millennials the “selfie generation.” And today, identity politics have moved to the forefront of public discussion in unprecedented ways. It seems that everyone is talking about the self—but what or, better yet, who is this mysterious entity we speak for each time we use the first person pronoun?
This seminar engages the question of the self through the exploration of art, literature, religion, philosophy, and pop culture. Through close, guided readings and analysis of classic, contemporary, and popular materials, we will attempt to understand and complicate the notion of the self and inquire into the personal, social, and political relationships that define its contours and boundaries.
Course content will be drawn from a diverse but complementary range of works including those by: Plato, Plotinus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, James Baldwin, William Blake, Guy Debord, Christopher Noland, and Friedrich Nietzsche. We will also interrogate what films such Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, artists such as Ana Mendieta and Barbara Kruger, and countercultural musical movements such as punk rock and black metal have to add to our inquiry. Short lectures will contextualize the topics treated; but the focus will be on fostering robust and substantive discussion while developing the philosophical skills needed to think through and debate the notion of the self and its attendant issues in a reflective and nuanced manner.
By drawing from different eras and cultural contexts, we will gain a new appreciation for the historical background of the existential questions that concern us today, while confronting the radical diversity of possible responses. However, since the question of the self must necessarily be raised in the first person—you will be the most important subject of this course. In this spirit, the seminar’s ultimate aim is to engage with multimedia materials that help you develop, articulate, and ultimately live out your own personal response to a very pressing question: “Who am I?”
All are welcome. No previous experience with philosophy, literature, art, or religious studies will be assumed.




RELIGST 38S Syllabus - 2017