Brooklyn Institute for Social Research -
  • “Read!” This is the very first word, the first injunction of the Qur’an. Beyond its religious significance, reading the Qur’an constitutes a unique aesthetic experience. Though some of the episodes it recounts are derived from other monotheistic works and Near-Eastern sources, the Qur’an diverges from them in style, structure, organization, and principle. Whether read historically, religiously, aesthetically, philosophically or in any combination, the question remains: how can we read the Qur’an?
  • Contemporary globalization marks an age where the “world is flat,” to quote an international best seller. Yet nearly a century earlier, Rosa Luxemburg had already theorized and recorded a global form of capitalism, a massive augmentation of Karl Marx’s original critique of capital with an understanding of how imperialism and colonialism are fundamentally internal and necessary for the perpetuation of a capitalist economy. Sometimes better known for her political work and writings, Luxemburg’s actual scholarly specialization was in political economy, and The Accumulation of Capital is her magnum opus, one of the first major attempts at truly coming to terms with the functioning of global capital.
  • What, if anything, should paradise mean to us right now? Paradise Lost wrestles with questions of human freedom, divine providence, political organization, religious tolerance, the relationship between church and state, the possibility of marriage between equals, and—crucially—the nature of good and evil. In this course, students will read the whole of Paradise Lost in the context both of Milton’s poetic career and of the poem’s complex and curious reception, with particular attention to Milton’s meditations on the nature of paradise.
  • How are we to understand loneliness today? It appears that we are facing a mass epidemic of loneliness. Britain has appointed a Minister of Loneliness to counter rising rates of isolation. Approximately 20-43 percent of American adults over the age of 60 experience “frequent or intense loneliness.” And, it is clear from medical research that loneliness has significant health impacts: lonely people are more likely to develop chronic health conditions and die younger. What are the causes of mass loneliness, and what consequences might it have, not only for individuals, but also for cultural and political life?
  • “Soul-sick was I, and tormented, accusing myself severely.” So writes Augustine of Hippo, recounting the transformative anguish that preceded his conversion to Christianity. As we follow Augustine’s struggles with sex, the body, love, friendship, ambition, loss, and the fear of death, we’ll also consider the literary form of autobiography and Augustine’s making of a self in the Confessions through the narration of the past, through the representation of prayer, and through the act of confession, both of sin and of praise. Finally, we’ll discuss Augustine’s concluding arguments on time, memory, and history, in which the contingencies of individual experience are subsumed by claims to general truth.

THE BROOKLYN INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH is an interdisciplinary teaching and research institute that offers critical, community-based education in the humanities and social sciences. Working in partnership with local businesses and cultural organizations, we integrate rigorous but accessible scholarly study with the everyday lives of working adults and re-imagine scholarship for the 21st century.

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Recent Posts

Podcast for Social Research, Episode 35: Capitalism’s Hidden Crises

American capitalism is frequently contrasted with its European other—namely, the social democratic model that seems, to American eyes, more equitable and less crisis-prone. Yet, according to sociologist Oliver Nachtwey, all is not well in social-democratic Germany, Europe’s largest economy, where stagnant social mobility has led to social fragmentation and a revived nationalist right-wing. In the […]

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