Origin Stories

New School for Social Research: Philosophy

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Graduate Course
Degree Students (with Restrictions)
Origin Stories
Spring 2023
Taught By: Gwen Grewal
Section: A

CRN: 13350

Credits: 3

The nebulous notion of “origins” lies at the heart of many ancient Greek myths. These tales do not have a single root but rather were and are ever mutating in their circulation throughout the Mediterranean from near and far, eventually making their way down through history’s telephone line to us. Indeed, it was not as “the Greeks” that the Greeks came to be Greeks, but rather, through their relationship to that which was “non-Greek”—a phrase captured by the onomatopoeic word, barbaros, which refers to what was perceived to be the incomprehensible sound of the foreign (bar-bar) in contrast to Greek. Yet, just as Greece was not unified in dialect or culture, as a sound and a word barbaros must be both original and derivative. Greekness could only have come from non-Greekness, for a people only becomes familiar to itself by recasting its once inscrutable origin as newly germane. The claim to an “original” genos—a word whose broad meanings include “race,” “family,” “gender,” and “political allegiance”—thus demands a story that can blur the genetic and the cosmic, the familiar and the foreign. Ideally, this would be a story that flies through the air with no traceable source: a self-generating tale of self-generation. Philosophy is no exception, and its relationship to myth-making—or more broadly, to poetry—peaks in the attempt to tap the fount from which all things, but especially human things, have emerged.This course will examine “origins” as a nexus of the philosophical and the poetic—as stories we tell to substantiate our roots and theories we form about the roots of our substance. We will focus on texts that blur these lines in intriguing ways. We will also consider how this blurring is at work not only in the nostalgic reinvention of Greek antiquity in the 18th and 19th centuries, but also in the contemporary claim that antiquity is the problematic origin of our own inheritance. Authors will include Hesiod, Herodotus, Euripides and/or Plato.

College: New School for Social Research (GF)

Department: Philosophy (GPHI)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 19

Add/Drop Deadline: February 5, 2023 (Sunday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 16, 2023 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 4:30am EDT 6/4/2023

Meeting Info:
Days: Monday
Times: 4:00pm - 5:50pm
Building: 6 East 16th Street
Room: 1108
Date Range: 1/23/2023 - 5/15/2023