Semester: Sommersemester 2015

3.02.571 S Biopower in Modern and Contemporary Literature


  • Donnerstag: 10:00 - 12:00, wöchentlich
  • Fr., 30.10.2015, 14:00 - 20:00


Since Michel Foucault coined the terms biopower and biopolitics (in the final chapter of the first volume of his “History of Sexuality”) in order to describe a particular conception and practice of power that has become central to modern society, these concepts have gained a wide currency and have been extensively discussed across disciplines. Our course will enable students to engage with Foucault’s conception of the phenomenon as well as with selected other contributions to the debate. Above all, we will explore in what ways in which modern literature can be read in relation to this conception of power: to what extent do literary texts represent this type of power, in what ways to they respond to it? What options are there for the literary critique of biopower, and to what extent can literature itself be seen as participating in the practice of biopower?
As our textual basis, I suggest two novels that approach the topic in different ways: J. M. Coetzee’s The Life and Times of Michael K. (first published in 1983) and Richard Powers’s Generosity. An Enhancement (published in 2009).
Please make sure that you purchase and read these texts ahead of our course.
Our course work will be arranged in two main sections. We will begin with a practical part preparing students for the critical discussion of the texts and the issues they raise. In this part, we will recapitulate the relevant analytical tools from the Basismodul in Literary and Cultural Studies and undertake a structural and thematic analysis of our texts. The second half of the semester will consist of student-led critical discussion that will include important secondary literature and work with the results, insights and questions reached in the first part.
The elements of active participation and seminar programme will be proposed for discussion in the first meeting. The preferred form of Prüfungsleistung is „Referat mit Ausarbeitung“ of 12 to 15 pages. In case of high attendance numbers, alternatives may be discussed with the course leader.
NB. Please note that due to a conference commitment in Britain, our first meeting will take place only in the second week of term, on April 23, 2015.



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