Literature & Psychology – “Supposing to Know, Desupposing Knowledge”

Terry Harpold
Fall 2012

M, 12:50–3:50 PM (periods 6–8)
TUR 4112

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The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne

Course description

In this seminar we will interrogate relations of knowledge – knowledge of self, knowledge of others, institutional productions and transmissions of “objective” knowledge (such as those practiced in the classroom and laboratory) – in light of Freudian and Lacanian breaks with prior epistemologies. Psychoanalysis presents us with a subject of knowledge that is irreducibly divided between its allegiances to systems of positive truth and the insistent negativities that orient and sustain its desires. For such a subject, not knowing and routinized forms of stupidity are (at least) as constitutive of self-awareness as are reflection and mutual comprehension. What are the consequences of this model of knowledge for our individual and consensual habits of mind? For our practices of research and teaching?

Course readings will include primary texts by Freud (portions of the Norton Freud Reader, Freud’s short biographical study of Leonardo da Vinci) and Lacan (portions of Ecrits, Seminar XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis), and selected short and long texts by theorists and critics writing in their wakes (Henry Bond, Carlo Ginzburg, and Dany Nobus and Malcolm Quinn).

Graded assignments include a critical commentary on one of the assigned readings, a response to another student’s critical commentary, and a final research essay. (A research prospectus for the final essay is also required; this assignment is not graded.) All written work for the course will be completed in a course wiki. Basic knowledge of WWW- and image–editing applications may be to students’ advantage for some assignments, but is not required.

Course syllabus

The course syllabus, including the calendar of readings, assignments, and other course requirements, may be downloaded in .pdf format from this link:

PDF Icon  ENG 6016, Fall 2012 (approx. 230K)


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The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne.
Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1508.

© Terry Harpold. All rights reserved.
Last revision: 8/26/12