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How To Read The Principle of Hope by Ernst Bloch

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[This course will be presented by visiting poet and scholar Carla Harryman.] Rather than reading the three volumes of Ernst Bloch’s magnum opus from cover to cover, we will approach this massive work through several processes of selection that will provide us direction and choice in respect to how we encounter and engage the text. These include cueing readings to Bloch’s introductory explanation of the three volumes, which offers the reader a gloss of the content and degree of difficulty of each major section; following terms of Bloch’s unique lexicon, such as “The-Not-Yet-Conscious” and “Anticipatory-Illumination;” and using sampling techniques that will open up the text to collective, non-linear close reading as well as written and other creative responses to the work. [These can happen on or off the site of the class meeings]. Taken together, the approaches to reading The Principle of Hope will offer us the grounds for thinking about Bloch’s constructs of hope from a twenty-first century perspective. This approach shall encourage skepticism in respect to common uses of the language and symbols of hope while it will, equally, take seriously Bloch’s philosophical aesthetics and the anticipatory illuminations with which he imbued his prose and which he sought indefatigably in works of human mediation. Note on Bloch: Ernst Bloch is often considered the pre-eminent utopian thinker of the twentieth century. Characterized by Jürgen Habermas as the “Marxist Schelling,” which nomination one might attribute to an incompleteness, or openness in the philosophical project, the traces of mysticism in his thinking, and his capacious interests in the production, mediations, and phenomena of the human life-world (the circus, “Marx’s Eleven Theses on Feurbach, daydreams, health initiatives…), Bloch’s essays enlist the language of expressionism toward a reconsideration of the systems of thought associated with the European philosophical tradition. Written in the 1940s while Bloch was in American exile from Nazi Germany, The Principal of Hope is a three-volume opus magnus elaborating the philosopher’s theory of utopia and the role the principle of hope plays in seeking a future of non-alienated human existence. The essays that comprise Bloch’s Hope exhibit in full array his rich vocabulary of “the anticipatory emotion” and its utopian function. Readers will note that his unique lexicon of the “Not-Yet,” the “Not-Yet-Conscious,” the “No-Longer-Conscious,” the “Not-Yet-Become,” suggest something far more complex and psychologically charged than the common notion of utopia as a perfect world, symbolized in thos literary or other art forms that merely depict utopian existence as a sealed paradise or describe it in static terms. For Bloch, evidence of the utopian--whether symbolic, social-geographic, or technological—becomes an object of radical critique and not of mere rearrangement for the purposes of improvement and perfection. I am particularly interested in following Bloch’s construct of the ‘Not-Yet-Conscious,’ as he shifts the direction of its motion from backward to forward, from the past to the future. The Not-Yet-Conscious …is a relative Unconscious disposed towards its other side, forwards rather than backwards. Towards the side of something new that is dawning up, that has never been conscious before, not, for example, something forgotten, something rememberable that has been, something that has sunk into the subconscious in repressed or archaic fashion. From Leibniz’s discovery of the subconscious via the Romantic psychology of night and primeval past to the psychoanalysis of Freud, essentially only ‘backward dawning’ has previously been described and investigated. [The Principle of Hope]. Works cited: Bloch, Ernst. Introduction. The Principal of Hope. Boston: MIT Press, 1987.

Carla Harryman
Sunday, November 17, 2013 - 19:00
BAY AREA PUBLIC SCHOOL -- 2141 Broadway, Oakland more
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