January to May 2015

The sixth CAPPE Seminar Series in Critical Theory and Radical Politics

A reading course, January to May 2015 and workshop with Professor Simon Critchley 20th May 2015 – 22nd May 2015

This research seminar hosted by CAPPE is aimed at staff and research students interested in contemporary politics, philosophy, ethics and critical theory. Each year we focus on a different theorist or issue, engaging in a close critical reading of their work. In previous years we have read Alain Badiou, Theodor Adorno, Ernesto Laclau, Judith Butler and Wendy Brown. This year our reading of Simon Critchley’s work culminates with workshop with Simon Critchley, in the last week of May 2015.

On this course we will systematically read Professor Critchley’s work, focusing on (among other topics) his account of ethics and deconstruction, his account of fidelity and commitment, his work on disappointment, nihilism and critique, and his influential accounts of humour, tragedy and politics. Participants on the reading course are expected to read in advance of, and to attend, all sessions. Each session will begin with an introductory overview of the arguments followed by close scrutiny of passages in the texts under discussion.

Reading course outline

Session 1: The Ethics of Deconstruction

Monday 12th of January

The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas (1992, republished 1999) was Critchley’s first published book. His then novel reading of an ethics of deconstruction both changed the way in which Derrida was read, and established his long standing interest in the possibility of deconstruction as ethically demanding, as well as the relationship of deconstruction to Levinas’s ethics. We will also analyse Critchley’s own self-criticism, as an introduction to themes explored in weeks to come.

Session 2: Nihilism and Meaning: From Philosophy to Literature 1

Monday 26th of January,

In Critchley’s second book Very Little…Almost Nothing we begin to link the different strands of his developing thought. He insists that philosophy must understand the significance of death or finitude, and that this requires an exploration of the place of nihilism in philosophy. Critchley reads Nietzsche and Heidegger before considering Blanchot, Levinas, Cavell and Beckett. This critical reading of their accounts of finitude culminates in a rethinking of the relationship between philosophy and literature. Critchley asks if literature opens us toward the possibility of addressing religious disappointment without seeking solace in new forms of meaning. These themes recur throughout Critchley’s oeuvre. In this first session we critically address Critchley’s reading of Nietszche. Heidegger and Blanchot.

Critchley, Simon (1997) Very Little…Almost Nothing, pp. 1-85.

Session 3: Nihilism and Meaning: From Philosophy to Literature 2

Monday 9th of February,

In this session we complete the reading of Very Little, Almost Nothing with a critical reading of Critchley on Cavell and Beckett.

Critchley, Simon (1997) Very Little…Almost Nothing, pp. 86 – 181

Session 4: Infinitely Demanding 1: Demanding Approval and Ethical Subjectivity

Monday 23 February

In the next two sessions we engage in a close reading of one of Critchley’s key text, Infinitely Demanding. This week we explore his ethics, in particular the concepts of approval, (infinite) demand and ethical subjectivity.

Lecture and workshop with Professor SImon Critchley

Wednesday 22nd May: Public Lecture Professor Simon Critichley Old Courtroom

Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th of May Workshop with Professor Simon Critchley

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