Last summer, a couple colleagues (Dr. John Muckelbauer and Nate DeProspo ABD) and I started up a reading group on G. W. F. Hegel’s most famous book, The Phenomenology of Spirit. Like so many things last summer, it was brought on by the pandemic. We were all pretty much living in lockdown and feeling a bit intellectually starved. We just wanted to read some smart stuff and talk about it with other people. We met once a week for a few weeks and went at a ludicrously slow pace, like only a few pages per session. Reading Hegel is tough and we wanted to have a chance to really think and talk through what was going on in the short sections we were reading. When we met, we talked, a lot: like 2-3 hours straight. We talked a lot about Hegel and the passages we read, but we also talked about related things that those passages drew to mind. And then we talked about things that those things drew to mind. Then, most of the time, we came back to Hegel, or at least somewhere close.
This was a ton of fun and, eventually, John got the idea that we should turn it into a podcast. The idea was simple enough: even though all three of us are academics and all three of us tend to concentrate our research on philosophy, none of us are “experts” on Hegel. We would never presume the authority to explain Hegel’s philosophy to anyone else. But we are pretty good at reading and thinking and talking through what we’ve read of Hegel’s philosophy. And since reading and thinking and talking are skill sets that one can train, we thought other people might enjoy reading and thinking and talking with us, as a way of practicing those skills and as a way of thinking about Hegel, philosophy, and rhetoric more generally.
Our idea was to turn the podcast into a pedagogical experiment. The goal is to record ourselves talking through Hegel in such a way that invites listeners to talk and think through Hegel as well. That’s why we’ve titled the podcast Thinking With… The ellipsis at the end is important because it emphasizes a sense of thinking-together that doesn’t privilege the “thing” or “content” that the thinking is aimed at. That’s the pedagogy: to practice moves of thinking rather than just learn what Hegel’s philosophy is (of course, it’s tough to have one without the other). The ellipsis is also important because it opens up with whom or what that thinking is with: the listener is invited to think with the text, with us, and with each other. Part of the idea is that thinking only happens in relation to other things.
We recorded our sessions all summer and fall. We then spent December and January editing those longer sessions down into manageable 60-90 minute episodes. We started releasing our first season in February, and called it “The Hegel Tapes.” That was a few months ago and we’ve just released our 12th, and final, episode of the season.
We’ve loved making this podcast and, frankly, we’d probably do it even if nobody listened to them. But, the cool thing is that people are listening to them! We have a small, but steady, listening audience somewhere north of 40. People have written us to let us know how much fun it is to think along with us. So, the only obvious thing to do is to make another season. Over the next few weeks, we’ll start editing sessions from our last reading group on Giles Deleuze’s The Logic of Sense, which we started recording last December. It’s a brilliant, totally trippy, work of philosophy that focuses on everything from Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland to the ancient stoics. We’re calling it “The Deleuzecast.” Stay tuned in for more.
Registration is now open! Today’s featured course is ENGL/WRIT 2220, Writing to Influence. You have a choice of two sections of this course, one in the fall term, which is an online version with a synchronous session on Tuesday, 6:00-7:15. Dr. Nathaniel Street is teaching a section on campus in the winter term, Tuesday and Thursday 10:30-11:45.
More information from Dr. Street about his section of the course:
Pre-requisite: WRIT 1120 or five units of university study. If you are taking this course in the Writing minor, you are recommended to complete WRIT 1120 first.
This class takes Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric as “an ability, in each case, to see the available means of persuasion” as a starting point for theorizing and practicing the persuasive power of writing. We will study classical rhetorical concepts and techniques – invention, kairos, ethos, stasis, topoi – for discovering, creating, and analyzing rhetorical argument. Students will do this by learning the theory and history of these concepts, practice using them to analyze the rhetorical power of example texts, and mobilizing them in their own writing. This work will culminate in a semester-long research project written for a popular audience in the spirit of essays written for publications like The Walrus, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker.
For more information about the course, you can email Nathaniel.Street@msvu.ca.
Registration is now open for the fall – winter terms! Today’s featured course is ENGL/WRIT 2223, The History of Writing, Reading, and the Book, to be taught in the fall term by Dr. Anna Smol. This is an online course in a blended format, with a synchronous session every Wednesday from 6:00 – 7:15 p.m. and asynchronous activities assigned every week.
More information from Dr. Smol:
Book history is an interdisciplinary field that opens up many avenues of study. In this course our topics will range from literary and rhetorical analysis to historical and cultural research. We will study the book as a material object, from scroll to codex to digital text, as we review the development of various writing systems in manuscript and print culture from antiquity to the contemporary era, setting Western developments in a global context. We will discuss the social, political, and economic factors at play in constituting readers, authors, patrons, scribes, libraries, and publishers in different eras, including contemporary developments in digital writing and publishing. We’ll examine the book’s relation to power in discussions of censorship, sacred texts, and the revolutionary power of books. We’ll consider the nature of oral traditions and their interaction with written literacies. Course readings will alternate between non-fiction (in theoretical and historical articles) and fiction (People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, short stories by Thomas King, and Fangirl, a young adult novel by Rainbow Rowell).
This course schedules discussion forum posts, a synchronous online session, and individual written responses and essays as a regular part of the coursework for most weeks. For more details about the course, see http://annasmol.net/teaching/englwrit2223.
You can take this course as either an English or a Writing credit. This course may also count as a 0.5 elective in the Cultural Studies program.
If you have any questions, you can email Anna.Smol@msvu.ca.
Registration is now open! Today’s featured course can count as an English, Writing, or Philosophy course: ENGL/WRIT/PHIL 2225, Tricksters, Liars, and Sophists: The History of Rhetoric, to be taught by Dr. Nathaniel Street, Tuesday and Thursday 1:30-2:45, in the fall term.
More information from Dr. Street:
This course focuses on the history of the rhetorical tradition in the West from ancient Greece through the Renaissance. We will survey major and marginalized works on rhetoric from a variety of perspectives, including some that are (ostensibly) hostile to rhetoric. The class will study rhetoric as a historical phenomenon that gives insight into its contemporary place and read course texts as live interlocutors that may change and/or enrich how we theorize and practice rhetoric in the present. Additionally, the course will offer counterhistories of more established traditions that emphasize the role of women in rhetorical scholarship and practice, question the supposed “disappearance” of rhetoric after the fall of the Roman republic, and interrogate the ever-changing relationship between rhetoric and the practice of invention.
If you have questions, you can email Nathaniel.Street@msvu.ca.
Registration opens today and tomorrow! Today’s featured course is ENGL 2213, Contemporary Film, to be taught by Dr. Bernadette Russo in the fall term, on Monday and Wednesday, 12:00-1:15.
More information from Dr. Russo:
In a visually-oriented society filled with ever-advancing technology, film has become a primary art form. While primarily working through examples taken from contemporary films, we will explore the nuanced and subtle language of cinema through an introduction to cinematic formal elements, genre, and narrative structure. This course will introduce students to the basic concepts and techniques of film analysis, criticism and theory.
If you have any questions, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registration opens in the next two days! Today we are featuring a full-year course, ENGL 2201, Shakespeare, which will be taught by Dr. Reina Green in the fall 2021 to winter 2022 terms, on Monday and Wednesday, 1:30 – 2:45.
More information from Dr. Green:
In this course we will examine a range of plays by William Shakespeare from across his career (1590s-1610s), covering the genres of comedy, history, tragedy, and romance. We will study these works in their historical, socio-political, theatrical, and contemporary cinematic contexts and reflect on the implications these contexts can have for an understanding of his plays. Key themes that will frame our discussions are power, authority, rebellion, and revenge in connection to gender, race, sexuality, and family ties. In addition, we will consider how Shakespeare explores these topics from genre to genre.
If you have any questions, you can email Reina.Green@msvu.ca.
Registration opens in the next few days (May 11-12), so now is the time to plan your courses! Today’s featured course is ENGL 3211, Contagion Gothic, to be taught in the winter term by Dr. Karen Macfarlane on Tuesday and Thursday 3:00-4:15.
As a special treat, you can watch a video trailer for the course. Click on the image below:
More information from Dr. Macfarlane:
“Contagion is never just about the transmission of disease…Our responses to contagions… reveal a web of social connections… A vivid imaginary, marked by fear, anxiety, and anticipation, accompanies the idea of an efficient carrier spreading disease everywhere it travels.” (Chung-jen Chen, Victorian Contagion 5)
What better place to work through the implications and fears of contagion than the Gothic? Drawing on theories of the Gothic as a mode that explores and exaggerates cultural anxieties, this course will examine representations of contagion and what it means to be contagious in Gothic narratives from the nineteenth century to the present day. We will discuss the interrelation between power structures, processes of Othering, definitions of monstrosity, the limits of life and death, bodily and cultural transgressions and more through a variety of cultural texts including literature, film, television, medical accounts and digital media.
If you have any questions, you can email Karen.Macfarlane@msvu.ca.
Registration opens soon! (May 11-12). Now is a good time to plan your courses, even for the winter term. Today’s featured course is ENGL 3305, Indigenous Children’s Literature in Canada, to be taught by Dr. Rhoda Zuk on Monday and Wednesday, 3:00 – 4:15 (winter term).
More information from Dr. Zuk:
In this course we will explore picture books, novels, memoirs and animations created for children by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis writers, illustrators, and animators. We will analyze culturally specific issues with relation to voice, memory and representation in texts by writers such as Nicola I Campbell, Tomson Highway, Thomas King, Christy JordanFenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, Catherine Knutson, and George Littlechild. We will also consider animations by Alan Syliboy and an animated cartoon series produced in cooperation with Norval Morrisseau. Our study will be informed by the theoretical frameworks and insights of Indigenous literary critics concerning language, land, orality, spirituality, gender, and resistance.
If you have any questions, please email Rhoda.Zuk@msvu.ca.
Registration opens next week (May 11-12). If you’re looking for either an English or a Writing credit, take a look at this winter-term course, ENGL/WRIT 3221, Creative Nonfiction, to be taught by Dr. Nathaniel Street, Tuesday and Thursday 1:30-2:45.
More information from Dr. Street:
The ancient Greeks commonly combined rhetorical instruction with athletic and musical training (the aulus and lyre players would keep a beat so that students could literally stay in rhythm with each other). This educational strategy deliberately weaves bodily movement, sensation, voice, and mind. This may seem strange to us today because the Greeks, unlike us moderns, were hesitant to make any strong division between the mind and the body. It made sense for them to train the brain like it was a muscle and the body like it had an intellect. For these reasons, ancient rhetorical training was primarily driven by exercises, especially imitation, repetition, and adaptation. When written, these exercises were called the progymnasmata, which included fables, maxims, ekphrasis (vivid descriptions that entice the senses), encomiums and invectives (speeches of praise and blame), and personification. The purpose of these exercises wasn’t so much to teach these specific genres of writing, but to train aspiring rhetors in a wide range of rhetorical moves and techniques (in the same way one would teach bodily moves and techniques); and, more importantly, to develop an agility in using those moves so that students would be comfortable mobilizing them when the situation called for them.
In keeping with, and relying on, the tradition of the progymnasmata, this course is aimed at developing your rhetorical facility with creative nonfiction writing, especially in the areas of style, invention, and arrangement. The course will be driven by workshops and, especially, writing exercises that will help you learn how to make a wide range of stylistic moves and train you to adapt those moves based on the specific needs of your writing situation. This will involve a lot of writing; but we will practice writing as an embodied and spatial act. We’ll write in response to objects, visual-art, and music. We’ll not only write a variety of genres, but mediums as well. Assignments will be of two kinds: 1) a series of classic progymnasmata assignments that will be drafted and refined for submission and 2) a series of short, generally in-class, writing exercises. Taking this class will help you cultivate habits of writing that will carry over to all arenas of life where writing is important, including academic, personal, and professional arenas.
If you have any questions, you can email Nathaniel.Street@msvu.ca.