I teach regularly at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (BISR). For an up-to-date list of my past BISR courses, check out my faculty page there. To enroll in upcoming courses (by me and others!) check out BISR’s catalogue.
American Violence: Empire, Capital, and Culture. The Brooklyn Institute, Spring 2017.
American life is saturated with violence: from mass shootings to police killings to imperial violence abroad. Writing in 1970, the historian Richard Hofstadter described Americans as “legendary for their refusal to accept the reality of death, but violence they endure as part of the nature of things.” Today, our consciousness of violence is regularly tested and expanded by mass killings, police abuses, and fierce political debates. In a new and urgent way, the Americans are grappling with how we endure—and inflict—violence. How did we get here? Is America—a former colony that conquered a continent—endemically and uniquely violent? What are the relationships between different modes of violence—interpersonal, political, and economic—and how sustainable are those distinctions?
In this class, we’ll address these questions through a survey of the contemporary landscape of violence in America. Our method will be interdisciplinary, drawing on sociology, history, and political science. Our focus will be intersectional: How is violence in American experienced, distributed, and conceptualized along race, class, and gender lines? Ultimately, we’ll seek to develop a comprehensive critical perspective on American violence both as a concept and as a matter of history, politics and everyday life. Topics to be explored include: workplace violence; domestic violence; hate violence; police violence; vigilantism and self-defense; and the role of American militarism and the War on Terror. Examining American violence in its many dimensions (as a feature of American cultural and imperial history, its expression in gun ownership, its role in supporting white supremacy, its place in the family, etc.), we’ll read authors like Hofstadter, Bryan Burrough, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Caroline Light, Carol Anderson, Ida B. Wells, Jeremy Milloy, Kay Whitlock, Gary Younge, and Michael Bronski.
Hysteria, Pathology, and Unconscious Life: An Introduction to Freud. The Brooklyn Institute, Fall 2017.
In 1876, an aspiring young Austrian scientist named Sigmund Freud spent several thankless months in a lab in Trieste, trying without success to develop a technique for determining sexual differences among eels. By the time of his death in 1939, he had become world famous for something else entirely: founding psychoanalysis, a sprawling body of knowledge that encompasses therapeutic practices, psychological theory, philosophical and cultural criticism, and more. In what ways did the Freudian revolution destabilize longstanding social and philosophical biases that placed rational consciousness as the anchor of human subjectivity and proposed that we have privileged and transparent access to our own mental life? How have Freud’s ideas and his insistence that we are not “masters in our own houses” affected the way we conceive of everything, from identity and agency to the nature of human civilization itself?
In this course, we’ll track Freud’s foundation and development of psychoanalysis as a discipline, reading and discussing excerpts from The Interpretation of Dreams, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Studies on Hysteria, and the Dora case study. From his development of the “talking cure” as a treatment for hysteria, to his investigation on dreams and everyday behavior (like the famous “Freudian slip”), to his clinical cases studies, to his formulation of the Oedipus Complex, we’ll explore Freud’s key theoretical ideas and clinical contributions and his influence on fields ranging from political philosophy to literature.
RELIGION-045: Psychology of Religion and the Problem of Universality. Swarthmore College, Spring 2016.
COMM-402: Professional Ethics in Communication. Philadelphia University, Fall 2014 Syllabus, Spring 2015 Syllabus
CPLT-201: The Feasting Animal. Emory University, Fall 2013 Syllabus
One thing all creatures have in common is the need for nourishment. But what separates humans as eaters from the animals and plants that we eat? In this course, we will survey philosophical and literary texts that take up the consumption of food as exemplifying truths about human nature and as dramatizing relationships among humans as well between humankind and the natural world. From the ritual meals of the Bible to the philosophical drinking parties of Classical Athens to the Bacchanals of Rome to bawdy medieval banquets, our exploration will engage topics including table manners, gluttony, hospitality, intoxication, man-eating animals, cannibalism, asceticism, connoisseurship, the Carnivalesque, and more.
Course Texts: Apuleius. The Golden Ass, or, Metamorphoses. (Kenney, trans); Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. (McWilliam, trans); Heaney, Seamus, Beowulf: A New Verse Translation; Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn `Ali. Selections from the Art of Party-Crashing in Medieval Iraq. (Selove, trans); Petronius. The Satyricon. (Sullivan & Morales, trans); Plato. Symposium (Seth Benardete, trans). Additional primary texts will include selections from Hesiod, Norse Sagas, and Provençal Fabliaux; theoretical readings will include selections from Mauss, Derrida, and Bakhtin.
Jacques Lacan and French Psychoanalysis Emory Psychoanalytic Institute, Fall 2011 (Co-taught with Kareen Malone, PhD)
Designed for a mixed classroom of medical residents, social workers, psychologists, and counselors, this semester-long course offers as a systematic introduction to the clinical dimensions of French Psychoanalytic thought, with particular emphasis on the writings of Jacques Lacan on psychoanalytic technique.
Course Texts: Lacan, Jacques. The Mirror Stage, The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis, Seminar on the Purloined Letter, and “My Teaching” (selections). Fink, Bruce. Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique: A Lacanian Approach for Practitioners; Mathelin, Catherine. The Broken Piano: Lacanian Psychotherapy with Children. Additional reading selections from secondary texts by Bowie, Roudinesco, Cantin, Chatel, and Felman.
CPLT-203R: Novel Buddhas. Emory University, Fall 2010 Syllabus
Since the death of Siddhārtha Gautama circa 400 BCE, representing the actions and doctrines attributed to the personage of the Buddha has proven a polyglot, culturally plural, and historically variable enterprise. In this course, we will assess the recent prospect of the “Buddhist novel” and “Buddhist fiction” more generally by examining literary representations of explicitly Buddhist themes in works by global authors alongside pieces by emergent authors in media ranging from film to manga to nonfiction prose. We will join these works with selections by various theorists in order to approach questions of cultural appropriation, generic classification, translation, and canonicity.
Course Texts: Armstrong, Karen. The Budda; Aśvaghoṣa. Life of the Buddha. (Olivelle, trans); Tezuka, Osamu. Buddha Volume 4: The Forest of Uruvela; Kipling, Rudyard. Kim; Hesse, Hermann. Siddharta (Rosner, trans); Endo, Shusako. Deep River. (Gessel, trans); Mitchell, David. Cloud Atlas.Pelevin, Victor. Buddha’s Little Finger. (Bromfield, trans); Mishraj, Pankaj. An End to Suffering, Secondary texts include selections from Gethin, Said, Asad, Lopez, and Jullien. Films including Kim Ki-Duk’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring, Khyentse Norbu’s The Cup, and the Wachowskis’ The Matrix will also be screened.
CPLT-203RWR: Serial Time: Comics, “Graphic Novels,” and the Space of Narrative. Emory University, Spring 2010
At their best, comics masterpieces can move us, change our take on the world, stoke a controversy – powers we often ascribe to literary works – but what does it mean to say we “read” pages containing much more than the printed word alone? How do the creators of comics arrange visual material in two-dimensional space to produce the effect of multiple perspectives and the passage of time? How do comics produce meaning and narrative? In this course, we will attempt to build and apply a vocabulary for critically discussing comics as “literature” while also refining and broadening our understanding of the label itself. With the redoubtable comics artists Scott McCloud and Will Eisner as our guides, and drawing on works from the traditions of phenomenology and narratology (no prior knowledge required!), we will address how literary concerns (genre, authorship, narrative, metaphor, the ethics of representation, etc.) play out in the world of comics and how the comics we will read each offer different literary treatments of shared themes.
Course Texts: McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics; Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth; Thompson, Craig. Blankets; Mizuno, Junko. Junko Mizuno’s Cinderalla; Sacco, Joe. Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995; Miller, Frank. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Additional comics texts by Eisner, Crumb, Spiegelman, and others will be paired with theoretical readings by Jauss, Husserl, Arendt, McLuhan, and Deleuze.
CPLT 110: The Apocalypse and Beyond. Emory University, Fall 2009.
Some say the world will end in fire / some say in ice.” Robert Frost’s elemental vision of the world’s termination and of humanity’s extinction represents but one take on a narrative that is age-old. The Apocalyptic genre draws on a millennia-long tradition, and apocalyptic themes have inflected politics and religion since time immemorial. But what does it mean for the world to end? How can the human mind fathom and represent the end of “everything”? This course will offer an introduction into the Apocalyptic as a literary genre and set of themes, and will provide context for discussion and analysis of apocalyptic visions that involve elements ranging from messianism to political revolution to environmental disaster to thermonuclear war to zombies. How does the Apocalypse rework our notions of time and of knowledge, and how does it relate to the enigma of our own, inevitable, deaths? And, ‘finally’, what does it mean to talk of a ‘Post-Apocalyptic’ world?Course Texts: Houellebecq, Michel. The Elementary Particles; McCarthy, Cormac. The Road; Mellis, Miranda. The Revisionist; Miller, Walter, and Martin Greenberg, eds. Beyond Armageddon. In addition to these longer, modern texts, we will survey sources ranging from Summerian Battle Myths to the Books of Daniel and Revelation alongside the work of poets including Blake, Dickinson, Shelley, and Yeats. Secondary text readings will include selections from Keller, Nancy, Derrida, Cohn, and Gray. Films including Michael Haneke’s The Time of the Wolf, George Miller’s Mad Max, and Nicholas Meyer’s The Day After will also be screened.