How to do things with words: poiesis & praxis

Summer 2021 First Session
Freshman - Senior
Class Size: 25
4 Credits per quarter
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This intensive introductory inquiry will use critical and creative reading and writing to investigate the relation between language and power, between writing and doing, between making in language (poiesis) and taking action (praxis). We will do this by studying the ways in which arrangements of words can influence and be influenced by the shape of thought and the shape of history. The objective is to better comprehend the material consequences and political upshots of choices made with language both on and off the page. The primary form in which we will conduct our investigation will be that old stand-by, the essay. Our effort shall be to re-animate this form, prying it free from any knee-jerk reflexes, worn-out proficiencies, and straight-up allergies we might have by reconnecting ourselves to the form’s roots in the French word for “attempt,” as one of the essay’s progenitors, Michel de Montaigne, will so helpfully remind us. The wager here is that the essay itself is a kind of laboratory, a space in which experiments in language can be composed, where new forms of thought may be invented, and new actions and practices persuasively proposed. No experience necessary, some assembly required, all students welcome. But whoever you are, be sure to bring a notebook and a good pen to our first class. The only way to do this right is by writing.

Our work will be conducted remotely, using Canvas and Zoom. Faculty will offer alternative assignments if conditions or illness prevent students from accessing our synchronous meetings, which will allow students to earn comparable credit.


Summer 2021 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

First Session (4): 40054

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First Meeting