CSP 13 Literature and Philosophy: The Dionysian in Modern Thought

More than simply a "god of wine," Dionysus was for the Ancient Greeks a god of ecstatic self-abandon, of gushing fertility, of violent dismemberment and unexpected rebirth. In myth he was attended by raving Maenads and mischievous Satyrs; amongst humans he was worshipped with festive dances, communal shouts, ritual obscenities, and (perhaps most importantly) with poetry -- with the literary genres of ode, comedy and tragedy that were invented specifically to honor him. What could be farther, we might ask, from the cool, reasonable practice of philosophy than this wild, uncanny, irrational god? And yet, as we shall see in this class, this reckless god of madness and poetry stands at the foundation of some of the most important ideas in modern philosophy -- Hegel's phenomenology of spirit, Nietzsche's will to power, Heidegger's philosophy of Existenz, Bataille's notion of excess, and Derrida's "non-concept" of differance. Beginning with an exploration of Dionysian poetics in Ancient Greece, this course will attempt to show what thinkers like these found so inspiring in this ancient god, and what the writers and thinkers of our own time might yet find in him still.

Credits

4 units

Prerequisite

Open only to first year frosh.