EGMT 1540: Revolution - Theory & Practice

“The revolution will not be televised . . .”—Gil Scott-Heron What do you mean when you speak of a “revolution”? Be careful how you answer. People tend to understand that notion very broadly, probably because it excites them to think that they themselves are living in revolutionary times. Today, for example, we speak commonly of an “internet revolution” or an “information revolution.” In this course, however, we will try to be uncompromisingly critical in our examination and in our application of the concept of revolution. The principal question to be asked is: Can I ever be “objective” about a true revolution? Is it really a revolution if I can form a comfortable idea of how it is shaped and where it is headed? Even in the case of instances from the past, must a true revolution not disorient me ethically here and now? Must revolution not open before me the abyss of the strictly Unknown? Using texts, images, film, TV footage, and music (including selections suggested by students), we will examine a wide variety of material: including scientific revolutions, the political revolutions in America, France, and Russia, and several instances of revolutionary ambition that strain the limits of the possible: the Black Panther Party, Nietzsche’s vision, and later Freud’s, of a new intellectual world, Monique Wittig’s idea of a Lesbian revolution. But throughout the session, a focus will be maintained on students’ individual ethical situations, and on their shared ethical situation, the problem of establishing and maintaining a reasonable ethical posture with respect to the American Revolution(s).