“Europe is literally a creation of the Third World,” Frantz Fanon declares in his indelible book The Wretched of the Earth, “the wealth which smothers her is that which was stolen from the underdeveloped peoples. The ports of Holland, the docks of Bordeaux and Liverpool specialized in the Negro slave trade, and owe their renown to millions of deported slaves. So when we hear the head of a European state declare with his hand on his heart that he must come to the aid of the poor underdeveloped peoples, we do not tremble with gratitude.” Fanon’s words, written in 1961, aim an unflinching look at the fallacies and paradoxes of liberalism, humanism, colonialism, and what he calls the “infinite science” of the colonizer. But many would argue that these words are equally illuminating in our own neo-imperial moment in which occupations, militarized police forces, and violations of “failed states’” sovereignty are daily occurrences. If Fanon set a course for black revolutionary and anticolonial action in the last century, what can his thought offer us now?
This course will serve as an intensive introduction to Fanon’s philosophical and political writings, which continue to stand as some of the most influential and rousing works of the twentieth century. Born in Martinique and trained in France as a psychiatrist, Fanon spent the last decade of his life in Algeria, where he joined the struggle for national liberation. Marked by a layered history of anti-colonial struggle in the Caribbean, Europe, and North Africa, as much as by a commitment to the world-wide projects of decolonization and revolution, Fanon’s writing was has been taken up by protest movements around the world, from South Africa to Sri Lanka, from the Black Panthers to queer theory. In this intensive course, we will read Fanon’s two major works, Black Skin, White Masks, and The Wretched of the Earth, as well as the essays on Algeria collected in A Dying Colonialism, and selections from Toward the African Revolution. We will also watch Isaac Julien’s Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask and Göran Olsson’s documentary Concerning Violence, on the legacy of Fanon’s thought.
Gustavo Doré’s image of Don Quixote for the landmark illustrated French edition of 1863 shows our hero in the act of reading, mouth agape, encapsulating the root of his madness. When he leaves his chair and exits the door, he will see the imaginings of chivalric romance in the mundane, interpreting windmills as giants and common inns as majestic castles. Yet there is something more to Doré’s portrayal—a larger commentary on the role of the book in Miguel de Cervantes’s novel. Alonso Quijano’s engagement with the object in his hand creates the world around him; it makes him believe he is the brave knight of La Mancha, Don Quixote, and in turn brings to life a whole universe of interactions. Armored knights and damsels encroach upon his chair, traversing the border between the read and the lived. In the lower left corner, a miniature knight rides the spine of a tome, while to his right, a maiden leans upon another. As Doré’s pictorial commentary suggests, books mediate and shape the relationships between characters in Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece. Moreover, Cervantes’s timeless meditations on reality, fiction, madness, and friendship, as well as his satirist humor and groundbreaking literary experiments, all hinge on the presence of books within the story and references to those without in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain of his day.
In this course, we will delve “Into the World of the Book” in four ways. First, we will extensively and closely read Don Quixote, parts I (1605) and II (1615). If you have always wanted to read this first—and in the minds of many, best—novel, this is your chance. Second, we will hone in on the many books that populate the narrative—chivalric romances, Arabic manuscripts, short stories read aloud at inns, wax tablets found on mountaintops, books being constructed in print shops—and analyze those passages in connection to broader themes. Third, we will learn about book production and circulation in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain and Europe, historically grounding Don Quixote in its original context. Finally, our setting, Word Up Books, a community bookstore in Washington Heights, will inspire and inform our discussions about books and the social, inciting us to consider Don Quixote’s contemporary relevance and parallels.
In addition to reading Don Quixote, some secondary critical readings will be assigned. Students may choose to read the novel in English or Spanish; both will be available for purchase at Word Up Books. The class discussion will be in English, but may be conducted in Spanish or bilingually depending on the make-up of the group.
With complimentary drinks and other light refreshments and followed by an informal ‘cocktail hour.’This course will include a free visit to the Hispanic Society of America at 155th street and Broadway, a little-known gem in Washington Heights. After exploring the artistic treasures of the society’s museum, which holds paintings by Goya, Velázquez, and Sorolla, the director of the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books will give us an exclusive presentation of early editions of Don Quixote and other rare books.
In the mid-nineteenth century, a young Karl Marx wrote, in the form of a published open letter to Arnold Ruge: “But if the designing of the future and the proclamation of ready-made solutions for all time is not our affair, then we realize all the more clearly what we have to accomplish in the present-I am speaking of a ruthless criticism of everything existing, ruthless in two senses : The criticism must not be afraid of its own conclusions, nor of conflict with the powers that be.” In this course, we will explore how Marx developed this “ruthless criticism” over the course of his life as a scholar, journalist, and activist. Over four extended sessions, students will be introduced to key texts in Marx’s philosophical, economic, historical, and political works. We will pay special attention to the various moments in these texts that later became influential in both Marxian and other theoretical and social movements, from feminists to anti-colonialists, romantics to futurists, critical theorists to accelerationists. Readings will include selections from The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Capital (Vol.1), Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, The Communist Manifesto, Theses on Feuerbach, The German Ideology, Critique of the Gotha Program and the 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. We will also read short excerpts of relevant secondary literature that will illuminate the extraordinary variety of interpretations and understandings of Marx. No previous knowledge of Marx, philosophy, or political economy is required.
All participants who register by 5/5/2015 receive a free copy of Capital Vol. 1 courtesy of the good people at Penguin Books.
COLORS, a worker founded and worker run restaurant in lower Manhattan, will also provide a low cost menu for those who are interested during the course. No purchase required. THIS COURSE IS NOW FULL. IF YOU WISH TO BE PUT ON A WAITLIST OR ENROLL IN A POTENTIAL NEW SECTION PLEASE EMAIL INFO@THEBROOKLYNINSTITUTE.COM
This class centers upon one of Latin America’s most prolific and influential literary figures, Jorge Luis Borges. It will introduce students to Borges’ most canonical works, including the two short story collections Fictions and The Aleph, as well as the essay collection Other Inquisitions. Students with previous knowledge of Borges’ work will certainly be familiar with some texts from these collections, such as the stories “The Garden of Forking Paths,” “Emma Zunz,” or “The Library of Babel,” and with the essay “Kafka and his Precursors.” However, the course will provide an overview of literary themes and social concerns across the most formative decade of Borges’ work, so prior knowledge is neither necessary nor required. The 1940s, during which nearly all these texts were written, was a tumultuous moment in world history. For the first half of the decade, World War II was raging; during the second, decolonization was reorganizing global power. Borges saw fiction as a particularly well-suited medium in which to engage with social questions. Nazis, Jews, German soldiers in Prague and Chinese spies in England are just part of the carnival of political allusions that populate his narratives. One crucial way in which Borges was able to bind political questions to fictional writing was through the use of mysticism as a set of literary tropes. As such, we will look closely at the theme of mysticism—particularly Cabala, or Jewish mysticism—in Borges’ writing, in order to investigate Borges’ literary weaving of an intimate relation between speculative metaphysics and political realities. Stories and essays will be supplemented with relevant secondary literature.
With complimentary drinks and other light refreshments and followed by an informal ‘cocktail hour.’