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31367 Post-Modern Political Theories


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31367 Post-Modern Political Theories

  1. 1. POLI31367 Post-Modern Political Theories 2009/10 Teaching Block 1, weeks 1-12 Unit Owner: Prof. Terrell Carver Level: H Credit points: 20 Phone 0117 9288826 Prerequisites: None Email Office 1.3, 10 Priory Road Office hours Mon 3-4, Tues 10-11 Curriculum area: Political Theory Unit description This unit distinguishes between postmodernity and postmodernism, taking the latter to be a 'way of looking at the world'. This will be explained and explored in informal lectures, focused reading, class discussion and questions, student presentations, and engagement with current politics. Students will be expected to apply insights developed in the unit to areas of their own special interest such as party politics, gender politics, international relations, political economy, and public policy. This will require self- directed reading and news-following. There will be one two-hour seminar each week for 10 weeks. Initially there will be an element of staff- lecture, with questions and discussion; as the unit progresses we will have student presentations as required and also group exploration of topics and issues. Three seminars will be devoted to watching films complete; there will be written guidance from the lecturer before each film (included at the end of this syllabus) and verbal guidance during the film. These films are also in the Library on DVD. The emphasis in this unit will be on grasping ideas from careful listening and working with ideas on self-generated topics. THIS MEANS THAT THE CONVENTIONAL METHOD OF 'READING ABOUT IDEAS' AND 'WRITING UP ESSAYS FROM AUTHORS' WILL NOT SUFFICE. THIS IS NOT A ‘BOOKS AND ESSAYS’ COURSE; IT IS A ‘DOING THINGS WITH IDEAS’ COURSE. The required and supplementary reading is limited, and it is expected that considerable attention will be paid to the conception of postmodernism outlined by the lecturer in class, and in the coursepack, and to the working variations on it that are developed by students in dialogue about contemporary political issues. Teaching arrangements One 2-hour seminar per week for 10 weeks. Requirements for credit points • Satisfactory attendance at seminars • Completion of all summative work to an acceptable standard Summative assessment • Book review (50%) • Seen examination (50%) Core reading Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Also published under the title Blade Runner) 1
  2. 2. (Gollancz 1999, £7.99 paperback). PS3554.128.D6 (SLC) Objectives • To familiarise students with the philosophical ideas ascribed to postmodernism • To help students to apply these insights to the analysis of political issues • To help students develop an awareness of postmodern concerns with power Learning outcomes • Thorough knowledge of postmodernism as a 'way of looking at the world' • Ability to deploy postmodern conceptions of 'reading', 'boundaries', appearance, representation, metaphor and power • Ability to read politics from films and to read politics into films and other visual media • Ability to use the postmodern linkage between genre and knowledge • Ability to take part in structured class presentations involving simulation and role-play as principal and 'audience' participants • Ability to locate related contemporary political issues (using what you have learned in other units in terms of content and techniques) and to make them accessible to others in class and in written work. Transferable skills • Listening and speaking in discussion • Extraction of meaning from full-length films • Simulation and role play • Creative application of counter-intuitive ideas • Thoughtful approach to writing under pressure Development and feedback You will have feedback from your lecturer as follows: • Feedback sheet returned to you regarding your completed and marked Book Review • Note that there is no feedback on the ‘seen’ examination Remember that all seminar sessions include a chance to ask about anything that puzzles you. Additionally, the lecturer has office hours and is generally willing to help. Details of coursework and deadlines The Book Review is due Friday 22nd January 2010 (week 12) before 12 noon Work required: • Completion of an individually written and non-plagiarised ‘Book Review’ (NOT an essay) on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Maximum 2000 words. Method: You should write as if for publication in The New Yorker, Sight & Sound or similar journal which takes lengthy ‘thoughtful’ reviews. You should draw out the ideas in the novel and link them to the politics of the present. Marking will be 50/50 between ideas (such as we have been discussing in the seminars) and politics (your choice from reliable media and academic sources – but it must be recent politics). Remember that this is NOT an essay; you should interest your reader in ideas and politics, as you use your knowledge of the novel from close reading and careful thought. Few book reviews have footnotes and references. If you need to acknowledge sources, submit a separate page showing bibliography consulted. 2
  3. 3. This is due on Friday 22nd January, which is the general deadline for submission of assessed work from Teaching Block 1. You will need to follow the same rules/regulations/procedures as with electronic submission of essays. You will be submitting ONE electronic Word file ANONYMOUSLY. You may seek ‘formative’ advice on plans, drafts, ideas etc. about the above requirement with me in person (only) in my regularly weekly office hours. If these are over-subscribed, I will schedule additional time. If you have a serious conflict with my scheduled office hours, please contact me by email ( YOU ARE ALSO REQUIRED TO SIT A ‘SEEN EXAMINATION’ • This will be a conventional examination paper, 2 questions in 2 hours, but you will be required to use BOTH academic material AND material from contemporary politics in EQUAL measure for EACH ANSWER. The questions will be quite general, and will NOT be author- or week-related as such. You should draw on any or all of the elements of the course and otherwise that you think are relevant. • The paper will be posted onto the Blackboard website for this unit 7 days before the exam. You will thus have time to choose your questions, consider your answers, and practise writing to time. The paper will be available again at the conventional examination session, for which all the usual rules and procedures apply. Note that your overall unit mark for degree classification will be a strict average of your TWO ‘summative’ assessment marks, i.e. the Book Review and the ‘seen’ examination. Introductory and supplementary reading You should purchase this book from a local bookstore: Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Also published under the title Blade Runner) (Gollancz 1999). PS3554.128.D6 (SLC) Gollancz paperback £7.99. (Imaginative fictional exposition of important postmodern conceptions, such as: gradations towards a supposed boundary; organised human violence to police supposed boundaries; commercialisation of gradations towards supposed boundaries; hence an exploration of supposed human/animal, human/machine, animal/machine boundaries.) COURSEPACK This will be available from the Department’s main office, 10 Priory Road. It contains all REQUIRED reading for ALL seminars. The Library will NOT keep coursepacks. The coursepack materials are NOT on the Blackboard website. However, they ARE in the Library where indicated below. REQUIRED FILMS ON DVD IN THE LIBRARY • Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen) • Dark Star (John Carpenter) • Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven) COURSEPACK READING Simon Thompson, chapter on 'Postmodernism', in Adam Lent (ed.), New Political Thought, pp. 143-62 JA71 NEW (Excellent short introduction to postmodernism and politics.) William Adams, ‘Woody Allen: Illusion and Reality’, Dissent (Fall 1985), pp. 490-3. (Very clear discussion of how the film works politically.) Michael J. Shapiro, 'Metaphor in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences', Culture & Critique, vol. 2 (winter 1985-86), pp. 191-214. (Masterly deconstruction of knowledge as language.) (In 3-hr SLC Issue Desk 3
  4. 4. 278.) Donna J. Haraway, 'A Cyborg Manifesto', in Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. HQ 1206 HAR. (Important conceptualisation of 'hybridity'.) Richard Rorty, ‘The Contingency of Language’, chapter 1 in Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, pp. 3-22. BD21 ROR OTHER READING All the books listed below are in the Library on 3-DAY LOAN Christopher Falzon, Philosophy Goes to the Movies. BD21 FAL Adam Roberts, Science Fiction. PN3433.5 ROB Sara Mills, Discourse, 2nd edn. P302 MIL David Howarth, Discourse. P302HOW Philip Barker, Michel Foucault: An Introduction. B2430.F724 (In 3-hr SLC.) The above books are short, introductory guides, which you might find helpful. The books and chapters below (ALSO ON 3-DAY LOAN) are rather more specialised. Terrell Carver and Matti Hyvärinen (eds), Interpreting the Political: New Methodologies, esp. Introduction. JA71 INT John W. Murphy, Postmodern Social Analysis and Criticism. HM26 MUR (Introductory text.) Mike Featherstone and Scott Lash (eds), Spaces of Culture: City-Nation-World. HM101 SPA (Applications of postmodern way of looking at the world.) Mike Featherstone (ed.), Postmodernism (special issue of Theory, Culture & Society, June 1988). HM73 POS (Interesting collection re political issues.) Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley, Social Theory and Archaeology. CC79.E8 SHA (Superb deconstruction of any way of looking at the past.) Mike Davis, City of Quartz. HN80.L7 DAV (SLC) (Iconic postmodern/historical study of how political power builds ‘postmodern’ environments in Los Angeles). Mike Davis, Ecology of Fear. HN80.L7 DAV (Imaginative essays, particularly on how power materialises metaphor politically, again with Los Angeles and the cinema as his setting). Seminar schedule Week 1: Introduction 1: This seminar will be initially concerned with making arrangements and explaining requirements. In addition, there will be an important introductory informal lecture and questions (both ways) on postmodernism as a 'way of looking at the world'. Read this for week 2 to get you ready for the film. Simon Thompson, chapter on 'Postmodernism', in Adam Lent (ed.), New Political Thought, pp. 143-62 JA71 NEW and William Adams, ‘Woody Allen: Illusion and Reality’, Dissent (Fall 1985), pp. 490-3. 4
  5. 5. Read the Study Questions on 'Purple Rose of Cairo'. Make sure that you are reading Shapiro, 'Metaphor', so that you are ALL prepared for discussion in week 3. Learning outcome: Understand the 'linguistic turn', intersubjective idealism, and 'constructionist' perspective. Weeks 2-3: Methods: Interpretation/Hermeneutics/Deconstruction 2: 'Purple Rose of Cairo' DVD (Woody Allen) Make sure that you are reading Haraway, 'A Cyborg Manifesto', so that you are ALL prepared for discussion in week 5. Learning outcome: Understand the individual- and context-dependent use of 'appearance' and 'reality' as ways of deploying power. 3: 'Appearance and reality: the politics of "Purple Rose"'; questions and class discussion on the film and also on the reading below. Michael J. Shapiro, 'Metaphor in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences', Culture & Critique, vol. 2 (winter 1985-86), pp. 191-214. (In 3-hr SLC.) Read the Study Questions on 'Dark Star'. Learning outcome: Understand the relationship between the 'constructionist' perspective and postmodern theorisations of knowledge. Weeks 4-5: Changes: Technology/Communications/Globalisation 4: 'Dark Star' video (John Carpenter) Make sure that you are reading Richard Rorty, ‘The Contingency of Language’, chapter 1 in Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, pp. 3-22, so that you are ALL prepared for week 7. Read the Study Questions on 'Total Recall'. Learning outcome: Understand how this film prefigures postmodern concerns with humans/animals/machines, with scientific 'disinterest' and militarism/technology, and with anxiety about identity. 5: 'Uncertainty, unreliability and anxiety: the politics of "Dark Star"'; questions and class discussion on the film and also on the reading (below). Donna J. Haraway, 'A Cyborg Manifesto', in Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (Free Association 1991). HQ 1206 HAR. (In 3-hr SLC.) Learning outcome: Understand the postmodern view that identities are not fixed and that the distinctions that constitute normality are unreliable. Weeks 6-7: Narratives: Marxism and Liberalism Make sure that you are reading Philip K. Dick, Do Androids [Blade Runner] .... so that you are ALL prepared for week 8. 6: 'Total Recall' video (from Philip K. Dick story 'We can Dream it for you Wholesale.') Learning outcome: Understand the interaction in the 'knowing subject' between narrative and 5
  6. 6. knowledge, memory and identity. 7: 'Memory, identity and knowledge: the politics of 'Total Recall'; questions and class discussion on the film and also on the reading below: Richard Rorty, ‘The Contingency of Language’, chapter 1 in Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, pp. 3-22. Learning outcome: Understand the constructionist character, and reflectionist discourse, of grand narratives of politics. Weeks 8-9: Objects: Humans/Animals/Machines 8: class discussion of the 'core' reading for this topic: Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (listed above under Required Texts for Purchase) The lecturer will explain the format and requirements for the 'Chat Show' (below). This format should enable 'guests' and 'audience' to experience the non-boundary between 'reality' and simulation. Learning outcome: Understand the theory of infinite gradations and boundary-policing. 9: 'Chat Show' format for 'the human', 'the animal', 'the machine'. Learning outcome: Understand the indeterminate and political character of these constituents of 'normality'. Week 10: Postmodern Political Theories? 10: lecturer review: boundaries/policing/power; narrative/identity/agency; certainty/anxiety/truth. Review of reading: Shapiro, Haraway, Dick, Rorty – students should bring in questions/problems/difficulties and make sure that they understand these texts and the major ideas! Learning outcome: Understand the way that postmodernism challenges traditional theorisations of politics. 6
  7. 7. General departmental rules Attendance at classes The Department of Politics takes attendance and participation in classes very seriously. Seminars form an important part of your learning and you should make every effort to arrive on time, having done the required reading. If you miss seminars, even if it is for a valid reason, you may be asked to complete ‘catch-up’ work to demonstrate that you are not falling behind on the unit. These pieces of work are required for credit points and it may affect your progression if you do not complete them. Submission of coursework Please note you will be required to submit coursework electronically using Blackboard, the University of Bristol’s Online Learning Environment. Without an extension late work is subject to penalties. A piece of work that is handed in AFTER 12 noon but BEFORE midnight on the following day will have 10 marks deducted from the total. After that there will be an additional penalty of 5 marks per day. A piece of work submitted more than one week after the due date will receive a mark of zero. Length Each piece of coursework must conform to the length requirements listed in the syllabus. This includes footnotes but does not include the bibliography. The syllabus will confirm whether appendices are allowed. A piece of work that is over length or under length will receive a penalty of 10 marks. Referencing Unless specified by the unit owner, coursework that either does not contain a bibliography, or fails to cite sources, or does not reference the material used will be penalised. An essay with no referencing will be marked no higher than 40. Inadequate referencing will result in marks being deducted. Students who are uncertain about the standards of adequate referencing should consult the Departmental Handbook. Plagiarised work will be marked at 0 and students will be required to resubmit, usually for a capped mark. Further penalties may be imposed (see the Departmental Handbook, Examination Regulations and Student Disciplinary Regulations). Extensions Extensions will only be granted by the Progress Tutor, Mary Weir. Requests should be made directly to her. Extensions will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances and they should be accompanied with supporting documentation, for example medical certificates. Note: Corrupt computer disks and exhausted printer cartridges do NOT qualify as exceptional circumstances. Remember to back up your work and give yourself time to cope with last minute problems. Fails and resits If you fail an assessment you may be required to retake it, but the original mark will still stand. You are not permitted to resit a classificatory examination (i.e. one that contributes towards your final degree classification). For further information, students should consult the Politics Undergraduate Handbook and the appropriate Faculty Handbook. 7
  8. 8. The Purple Rose of Cairo Study Questions This film has a strong feminist reading. Look at what situations women are in, what they say and don’t say, what they do and what happens to them. Do the same for men. Consider Tom Baxter’s fictional masculinity. Consider Monk’s real masculinity. Consider real life. This film also has a strong Marxist reading. Look at the different social classes involved. And at political consciousness, particularly the lack of it. What takes its place? What role does Hollywood as an industry play in the characters’ lives? Consider contemporary info-industries and the flexible labour market. Consider the film as an exposition of the concepts appearance and reality. Consider how a boundary is claimed to exist between the two. How then do disruptions occur? How do New York and Hollywood function as appearance and reality? Who makes these places perform these functions? Are they really places? Ditto New Jersey. Consider how characters other than Cecilia deploy these signifiers. Are the real humans real because they make choices? Consider Cecilia’s choice and the ending of the film. Put your construction back into the Marxist and feminist frames. 8
  9. 9. Dark Star Study Questions Look up the definitions of: • Satire • Parody • Allegory Work out how they apply to this film. Consider the varied personalities of the humans. What personalities and other 'human' characteristics do machines have? the animal? List the uncertainties that ALL the characters (not just human ones) are subject to. List the uncertainties that the audience has about them. What is the relation of the humans to technology? to life forms generally? to the human life form? What boundary lines are deployed, and how? In what sense are they 'there'? What is the politics behind this film? Why is insecurity horrifying? How is security horrifying? Read the sound track. 9
  10. 10. TOTAL RECALL Study Questions Consider these questions carefully. You may also like to read the Philip K. Dick story, 'We can dream it for you wholesale', in one of the big paperback collected works volumes. What makes anyone what they are? What makes anyone think that they know who they are? What role do memories play here? Objects? Other people? Are there 'false memories'? Recovered memories? Memory implants? How is doubt about identity introduced? What sorts of conflict does doubt introduce? How do the characters cope with this? What metaphorical processes are transformed into technologies? Is memory reliable? If it isn't, what stops our doubts from spiraling? What role do commercial processes and interests play in identity construction? Also educational and governmental processes and interests? In identity management? Why would Marxists like this film? What happens after the end of the film? What happened before the beginning? Is there any one point of view from which the narrative makes sense? If there isn't, is there any sense to the narrative? 10