The Craft of Writing
R1A - 003 | CCN: 29849
Instructor: Richard Grijalva & Thomas Gilbert
Amidst global imperial rivalries and a continent rocked by revolutions, eighteenth-century Spain was at the height of cultural foment and enlightenment. In 1799, a painter in the Spanish Royal Court, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, self-published a set of eighty aquatint etchings entitled Caprichos. One of the most famous is number 43, which shows a sleeping man slumped over a writing desk in the lower left hand corner. A flock of darkly rendered owls flies ominously behind him as a gleaming-eyed cat in the lower right hand corner splits its gaze between the sleeping man and the viewer. A negatively-rendered caption on the side of the desk facing the viewer reads: El Sueño de la Razon Produce Monstruos, or "The Sleep of Reason Creates Monsters".
Whatever the message of Goya’s image, reason was at the very center of these artistic experiments. A defining function of human nature that has been used to distinguish humans from other animals, reason occupies a privileged place in Western thought and culture. It is so fundamental so as to be taken for granted. Yet Goya’s image suggests that reason can somehow go amiss, in spite of how closely we use reason to identify our species, civilizations, and personal sense of intelligence and value.
This course poses four questions: what do we ask of reason when we demand its application to pressing problems? What does reason demand of us in turn? What is reason’s allure? What can we make of it in contexts defined by highly accelerated technologies of thought? In exploring some of reason’s relevant trouble-points, we will be approaching pieces from, among others, Gorgias, Plato, Augustine, Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, Kant, Melville, Peirce, Lincoln, Nietzsche, Weber, Marx, and Foucault. As the first half of UC Berkeley’s Reading and Composition requirement, this course is designed for students to develop skills in analytical reading, critical thinking, argumentation, and cohesive, coherent writing. Because this course is writing-intensive, assignments will require students to cultivate a practice of sustained recursive thinking and iterative writing that demands frequent revision and editing. The course will engage in discussions guided by close readings of texts and engagement with conceptual problems.