Thinking Fictions I:
Topias & Invention
Instructor: Ben Woodard Guests: Anne-Françoise Schmid, Rasheedah Phillips, Moor Mother, Ytasha Womack, Ed Keller, & Deneb Kozikoski Credit: 1 Module: 1 of 2 Date & Time: Saturdays: May 14th, 21st, 28th, June 4th 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM EST

Can a proper boundary between fiction and speculation be made? Whereas Kant attempted to construct a critical net to limit the excesses of idealism, recent forays into speculation and ontology have raised questions regarding the reality of fictions, the status of speculations, and the actuality of models and simulations which push against critical limits.

Philosophy has always flirted with fictional terrains, possible worlds, utopias, metaphysical entities, and the like, but it has always raised itself above the fabric of the fictional in the last instance. Since Reza Negarestani’s theory-fictional Cyclonopedia, and the subsequent exhumation of the fictional/hyperstitional entities of the C.C.R.U., fiction has fought against the fangs of its parasite philosophy. In a different way, Francois Laruelle has claimed that philosophy overly distances itself from the material it claims to understand. Laruelle’s philo-fiction, rather than abandoning the fictional, recasts it as hyperspeculation. This self-referencing or looping method constructs a radical fiction according to its material, rather than of its material.

In addressing the role of fiction and philosophy, and following two semesters of coursework on hyperstition and science-fiction, this two semester course will examine the question of thinking fiction across a spectrum of conceptual worlds: hauntological (Marxism never lived but is now dead), possible (what could be that is as real as the actual), impossible (what could never be logically and materially), and hyperstitional (making fictional entities real). Can the radically new escape archives fictional or impossible if invention and creation necessarily follows from the actual? In addressing the more specific question of archives and conceptual invention, we will address how the past is philo-fictionally treated as material across these conceptual worlds, examining how the creation of worlds theoretically and fictionally lend themselves to the interconnection of ethics, politics, and time (eg. how the past is reactivated or not).

TOPIAS & INVENTION (Module 1 of 2):

In this seminar, we will attempt to understand how fictions function philosophically and politically as an invention and/or as a temporal or spatial augmentation of the present. This will require not only exploring various utopias, dystopias, and other speculative places and times, but also an exploration of the specific function of fictions as a philosophical tool.

More specifically, the first half of the course will focus on utopia and dystopia as they are deployed in AfroFuturism broadly construed. Afrofuturism is conceptually generative here since the tensions between fiction and political-social reality, local constraints and futuristic dreams, and technology and colonialism, are all simultaneously deployed. In short, AfroFuturism makes it painfully clear that the necessity of the utopian or dystopian imaginary has to acknowledge, but also break with, the local conditions of its genesis that are either productive and/or critical.

In addition, this makes the question of how the fictional functions very basically in terms of whether and how the imaginary departs from actual, a salient question.


The seminar will be composed of four two and a half hour sessions, each of which will be split between an lecture of around 30-60 minutes and a group discussion of around 90-120 minutes. Readings will be set for each week, and students will be expected to engage in group discussion in the seminars and on the google classroom page in between sessions. In addition, we will collectively develop and manage a wikipedia page to map out the various fictional worlds and possible futures that we come across during our sessions. The final assessment will consist of at least a 1500 word essay on a topic agreed upon with the instructor in advance. We are open to other ideas to supplement the writing assignment: i.e. film essays, short stories, and other forms of media output.

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