Political Theory and Literature: Political Myth from Plato to Kim Jong Il
This course explores the intersection of political theory and literature by tracking the theme of political myth through the history of political thought. (read more)
...It was in 20th Century Europe, and the various places of refuge to which its intellectuals had fled, that the study of political myths gained urgency, as critics of culture sought explanations for the irrationality that had overtaken their national ideologies. Political ideas and the means by which they were communicated were not being confined to the bounds of reason, but appealed violent emotions and to aestheticism. What's more, these critics found, this had always been the case in political theory, for authors as early as Plato had been blurring the line between political theory and literature, and in particular, many had been weaving myths into their political treatises.
The course assumes an intersection of political theory and literature but it also takes that intersection to be highly problematic. An alternate title for this course was “Rhyme or Reason: Mythology and Rationality in Political Philosophy”; at stake is a renewed examination of the classic relationship between logos and muthos. The syllabus is designed around three broad genres of political tales, exemplified by the three prominent myths of Plato‟s Republic: (1) the noble falsehood, or the foundation myth; (2) the allegory of the cave, or conversion myth; and (3) the myth of Er, or the eschatological myth. We will also supplement our theoretical reading with case studies, examining literature from Third Reich Germany and North Korea.