Summer School 2018

Seven philosophy short-courses taught in Melbourne Jan - Feb.

The Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy is proud to present the Summer School 2018 curriculum.  All seven courses are 10 hours in length. As always significant discounts apply for those enrolling in multiple courses. If you have any questions which aren't in our FAQs please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When: 15 Jan -  23 Feb, 2018

Where: Kathleen Syme Centre, Carlton & 1888 Building, UniMelb, Parkville.

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Courses Waged Unwaged
1 $120 $80
2 $180 $120
3 $210 $140
4+ $240 $160

The enrolment form includes both attendance and distance enrolment options. Distance Enrolment is available for all seven courses.


Summer School Programme

2 hours per week for 5 weeks

Mon 6.30-8.30pm
Starting 15 Jan
Friedrich Schelling and "Philosophical Psychology"
Lecturer: Dr Gord Barentsen
Tues 6.30-8.30pm
Starting 16 Jan
Introduction to the Philosophy of Raymond Ruyer
Lecturer: Dr Jon Roffe
Wed 6.30-8.30pm
Starting 17 Jan
Approaches to Marx's Capital Volume 1 - FULL
Lecturer: Dr Rory Dufficy
Thur 6.30-8.30pm
Starting 18 Jan
The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir - FULL
Lecturer: Dr Emma McNicol

2 hours per day for 5 days

19-23 Feb
'Street-Fighters and Philosophers': Ecofeminism in the Anthropocene - FULL
Lecturer: Dr Lara Stevens
19-23 Feb
Georges Bataille and the Intoxication of Destruction
Lecturer: Dr Erin K Stapleton
19-23 Feb
Fernando Pessoa: Three Poets and an Existentialist Bookkeeper
Lecturer: Dr Desmonda Lawrence


Course Descriptions

ws1Friedrich Schelling and “Philosophical Psychology”

Lecturer: Dr Gord Barentsen

Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Mondays starting Jan 15

Location: Kathleen Syme Centre, Carlton (See Board for room details).

Much of the renewed contemporary interest in Friedrich Schelling’s philosophy resists the orthodox understanding of him as a “systemic” thinker in the German Idealist tradition.  This hermeneutic shift has also emphasised Schelling’s important prefiguration of contemporary psychological theories of the self, and this opens up the space for considering the idea of a philosophical psychology – a concept which names the disciplinary transference between metaphysics and metapsychology (the latter taken in its broadest, not specifically Freudian sense) which resonates throughout Schelling’s oeuvre, and which also punctuates the question of “system” which haunts the pages of some of Schelling’s most powerful works.  This course tracks this philosophical psychology by focussing on texts which represent significant evolutionary points in Schelling’s thought.  We will read Schelling’s oeuvre through the lens of a dissociationist psychology avant la lettre, which is marked in particular by a key turn in Schelling’s thinking circa 1809 to a darker, more aleatory conception of Being than his earlier work in transcendental idealism.

The course will begin with a brief introduction to the premises of the course.  We will then turn to brief excerpts from the early Naturphilosophie of his First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (1799), which already suggests a dissociationist topography that reappears at crucial points in his thought.  We then move to Schelling’s embattled attempt to formulate a “system” of knowledge that includes both mind and Nature in the System of Transcendental Idealism (1800).  Philosophical Inquiries Into the Nature of Human Freedom (1809) is Schelling’s self-described “theory of personality,” which makes the powerful claim that God is always already subject-ed to its own unconscious.  This text marks the conclusive turn in Schelling’s thinking which is pursued in The Ages of the World (1815), which invokes mesmerism and magnetic sleep in a significant step toward merging metaphysics with psychology.  The 1821 Erlangen lecture “On the Nature of Philosophy as Science,” despite its title, ultimately formulates a philosophical psychology which anticipates modern theorists such as Bataille.

The course will conclude by amplifying this philosophical psychology’s alignment with dissociationism.  We will discuss a key lecture from Schelling’s 1842-1843 philosophy of mythology, reading it forward to Carl Jung’s analytical psychology, which in many ways constitutes a post-Schellingianism that has influenced such seminal thinkers as Gilbert Simondon, Gilles Deleuze, and Gaston Bachelard.  Contrary to historical misunderstandings of Jung, there is a radically deconstructive element to analytical psychology which is brought out in Jung’s alignment with Schelling’s philosophy – a relationship of which Jung was not aware, and which has only very recently attracted critical attention.

Students registering in this course are recommended to read in advance the very short text “The Oldest System Programme of German Idealism,” which outlines several themes taken up by both Schelling and Jung.  It exists in various forms and translations but which can be found in Chapter 1 of David Krell’s The Tragic Absolute: German Idealism and the Languishing of God (Indiana UP, 2005).

Course Schedule

Week 1: Introduction; the concept of philosophical psychology and Schelling’s place in the dissociationist tradition; First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (excerpt); System of Transcendental Idealism (1800)

Week 2: Philosophical Inquiries Into the Nature of Human Freedom (1809)

Week 3: The Ages of the World (1815)

Week 4: “On the Nature of Philosophy as Science” (1821); as Jung remains largely unknown, there will be some preliminary discussion of Jung in preparation for the final session, where I will discuss key Jungian concepts as ways in to the essays for the following week.

Week 5: Schelling, Historical-Critical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology, lecture 10; Jung, “On Psychic Energy” (1928), “On the Nature of the Psyche” (1947/1954)

Bibliography of Readings


  • The Ages of the World (Fragment), From the Handwritten Remains: Third Version (1815),  trans. Jason Wirth (Albany: State U of New York P, 2000).
  • First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature, trans. Keith Peterson (Albany: State U of New York P, 2004).
  • Historical-Critical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology, trans. Mason Richey and Markus Zisselsberger (Albany: State U of New York P, 2007).
  • “On the Nature of Philosophy as Science,” trans. Marcus Weigelt, in German Idealist Philosophy. ed. Rüdiger Bubner (London and New York: Penguin, 1997), pp. 210-243.
  • Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom, trans. Jeff Love and Johannes Schmidt (Albany: State U of New York P, 2006).
  • System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), trans. Peter Heath (Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1978).


  • “On Psychic Energy,” The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, 2nd. ed. (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969), pp. 1-66.
  • “On the Nature of the Psyche,” The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, 2nd. ed. (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969), pp. 159-234.


ws6Introduction to the Philosophy of Raymond Ruyer

Lecturer: Dr Jon Roffe

Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Tuesdays starting Jan 16

Location: Kathleen Syme Centre, Carlton (See Board for room details).

Long a relatively unknown figure in the history of twentieth century French thought – in both France and beyond – Raymond Ruyer’s philosophy has over the past few years begun to slowly garner serious attention.

Despite his lesser-known status, Ruyer was a touchpoint for a series of key French thinkers, including Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Georges Canguilhem, Gilbert Simondon, and Gilles Deleuze. The essential aim of this course is to understand why this was the case.

The recent English translation of Neofinalism and the forthcoming La genèse des formes vivantes (The Genesis of Living Forms) provide us with the resources to outline his novel thought. And in the contemporary conjunction – dominated by an embrace of the hard sciences on the one hand, and a quasi-vitalist endorsement of complexity theory and emergent systems on the other – the novelty of Ruyer’s neo-finalist position retains the full force of its strangeness.

Drawing principally from these two works, this course will outline the major claims that guide Ruyer’s philosophy, his remarkable (arguably unique) engagement with the science of his day, and his attempt to develop a metaphysics adequate to it.

Note on readings. Aside from extracts from Neofinalism, all readings will take the form of draft translations of other pieces by Ruyer, and will be made available at the start of the course.

Course Schedule

First Lecture: Introduction / From material order to absolute surface

After introducing Ruyer’s life and work in general terms, this first lecture will introduce his basic methodological position and mode of argumentation. We will then consider in detail the example that he makes use of in both his 1950s book La conscience et le corps [Consciousness and the Body] and Neofinalism: first person conscious experience. This example will set the paradigm for the rest of our discussion of Ruyer’s work.

The central concept this first lecture will endeavour to explain is that of absolute survey.

Second Lecture: Ruyer’s neofinalism

In this second lecture, we will discuss the kernel of Ruyer’s position, what he calls (among other things) psychobiology, inverted epiphenomenalism, or neofinalism, the concept that will guide the lecture.

We will work through a series of elements from Neofinalism to explicate this account, making the case with Ruyer that the order of fixed material reality is a horizon projected by dynamic processes of formation, and that this formation is itself what is real, characteristing even genuine being.

The lecture will contrast his positive account with the variety of positions that Ruyer characterises as inadequate to genuine being in the closing parts of Neofinalism: emergentism (neo-materialism), neo-Darwininism, what he calls “psycho-Lamarkism”, and organicism.

Third lecture: The problematic of embryogenesis

In this lecture we will turn to what is perhaps the central motivating case study in Ruyer’s philosophy: embryogenesis. Following for the most part the argumentative trajectory of The Genesis of Living Forms, this lecture will aim to show 1) why embryogenesis is such an important case for Ruyer, and 2) the way in which it allows him to further generalise his finalist account to explain the whole range of beings, from atoms to humans, in neofinalist terms.

More pragmatically, this class will explicate the first four chapters of The Genesis of Living Forms; its central concept will be, of course, embryogenesis itself.

Fourth lecture: form and anti-Parmenidean being

After a brief parenthesis on Ruyer’s critique of cybernetics and information theory, this lecture will complete the explication of The Genesis of Living Forms, leading us from quantum physics to what he dubs a philosophy of morphogenesis.

The lecture – oriented by the concept of form – will close by discussing Ruyer’s distinction between three ranks of genuine beings: Form I, Form II and Form III. The latter category, which names human being, will lead into the material on value that will occupy us in the final class.

Fifth lecture: From a speculative anthropology to a neofinalist theology, Conclusion

The first half of this lecture will be devoted to the case of human being. We will consider three topics in particular: 1) the role of values in the formation of social life, 2) Ruyer’s related discussion of the nature of utopian fiction, and 3) the nature of human communication. This latter will involve us sketching out three forms of signals-signs that correlate with Forms I, II and III.

We will then turn (by way of summary) to the questions of cosmology and theology – questions that ultimately converge – with which Ruyer often finishes his books.

Finally, the course will conclude by weighing up the major objection to Ruyer’s position: that it reinstates a Platonic and Leibnizian form of idealism. We will motivate this critique by considering the position shared by two of Ruyer’s successors: Simondon and Deleuze.

Course Level: Intermediary. While no particular knowledge will be presupposed, the ground covered – from philosophy, but also the hard sciences – is somewhat demanding.


ws3Approaches to Marx's Capital Volume 1 - FULL

Lecturer: Dr Rory Dufficy

Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Wednesdays starting Jan 17

Location: Kathleen Syme Centre, Carlton (See Board for room details).

This course aims to introduce and explain volume one of Karl Marx’s Capital, adopting a thematic rather than linear approach in order to think of the text as not an outdated handbook or, alternatively, as a religious tome, nor yet as a work of ‘economics’, but instead as a massive attempt to account for an entirely new object of study: a mode of production. Seen this way, the frequently arcane debates about the interpretation of Marx’s work can be sidelined, and its immense theoretical achievement can be more easily explored.

This thematic approach will allow us to think, alongside Marx, about ‘capital’, or capitalism itself. It will argue that the disparate approaches indexed here – historical, theoretical, sociological, political, even literary – must remain at the centre of any attempt to grasp the contemporary world, and that it is this attempt to confront the vastness of capital with the immense bricolage of Capital that remains valuable today.

Given the limits of a five-lecture series on a book that runs to over a thousand pages, the lectures will focus on key chapters in the text that allow the book to be elucidated most thoroughly. Students are encouraged to read the full work, however, and the chapters not discussed in detail will be briefly summarised where necessary. A list of further reading will be supplied to all students. The course presupposes no particular knowledge of Karl Marx, political economy, philosophy, history, German or anything else.

Note: The translation used will be the one published by Penguin Classics, translated by Ben Fowkes. All page numbers (which are preserved in every edition) refer to this translation.

Course Schedule

Lecture One: History

Reading: Karl Marx, Capital I, Chapters 26–33 (pp. 873–942)

This lecture will attempt to address a seemingly straightforward question: what is Capital about? It will begin by situating the work within the broader contours of Marx’s writing and life, and will outline the intellectual antecedents – philosophical, political, and economic – that inform the work. In the second half of the lecture, the focus will turn to the text of Capital itself, and will begin at the end, with Marx’s account of ‘So-Called’ Primitive or Original [ursprünglich] Accumulation. The lecture will explore how Marx came to understand his object of study, and the consequences of the account for our understanding of the genesis of capitalism and what that genesis consisted of.

Lecture Two: Value

Reading: Karl Marx, Capital I, Chapters 1–3 (pp. 125–247)

Louis Althusser famously advised against reading the opening chapters of Capital, fearing them irredeemably tainted with Hegel, and to be approached only after one has armed oneself with sufficient knowledge of the system as a whole. This warning negatively adverts to the centrality of these chapters to subsequent debate about Capital. This lecture will attempt to develop a clear exposition of Marx’s understanding of the value-form, and highlight some of the ways these chapters have been read. It will then explore the reasons why these chapters appear at the opening of the text, and what this tells us about Marx’s larger project.

If time is a factor, students should focus on Chapter 1 (pp. 125–178)

Lecture Three: Capital

Reading: Karl Marx Capital I, Chapters 4–9, 12-13 (pp. 247–339; 429–454)

This lecture will elucidate some of the central categories of Marx’s critique of political economy: Constant Capital and Variable Capital on the one hand, and Absolute and Relative surplus value on the other. This lecture will also explore in more detail the relationship between Capital and earlier works of political economy, and discuss the ways in which Marx’s critique has been seen as a work of ‘economics’.

Lecture Four: Machines

Reading: Karl Marx, Capital I, Chapters 15–16 (pp. 492–654)

This lecture will explore the consequences of Marx’s understanding of surplus value, focusing in particular on what Marx sees as the immense growth in productivity necessitated by the production of relative surplus value. This lecture will broach the material transformation wrought by this growth, above all in what we would now call automation, and will look at what Marx saw as the changing nature of labour under capitalism.

If time is a factor, students should focus on parts 1–5 of Chapter 15 (pp. 492–565) and Chapter 16 (pp. 643–654)

Lecture Five: Unemployment

Reading: Karl Marx, Capital I, Chapter 25 (pp. 762–872)

Fredric Jameson has recently argued that Capital is a book about ‘unemployment’. This lecture will focus on perhaps the central chapter of the book, ‘The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation’, which in many ways serves to unite the different strands or methods of argumentation into a broader theory. It will explore the reasons why a chapter summarising the argument of Capital would spend so much time discussing not the labourer, but those excluded from labour. This chapter, and lecture, will also return to history, elucidating the ways in which Marx’s account of capital accumulation is integrated within a broader understanding of historical development.


ws4The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir - FULL

Lecturer: Dr Emma McNicol

Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Thursdays starting Jan 18

Location: Kathleen Syme Centre, Carlton (See Board for room details).

No prior knowledge of Beauvoir’s work is required, only an interest in the material. No knowledge of the French language is required. All readings are translated from French into English (and all lectures are conducted entirely in English).

Each lecture outline is accompanied by a list of recommended readings. PDFs of all readings will be made available. Wherever possible, the recommended readings are texts written by Simone de Beauvoir herself, so as to facilitate and promote engagement with Beauvoir’s original primary (yet translated) material. Nevertheless, there is no obligation that these texts are read, or studied in detail, prior to the lecture. Each lecture is intended to be comprehensible and interesting even if attendees have not had capacity to prepare in detail beforehand.

Course Schedule

Lecture One: “The Cult of Simone de Beauvoir”
Examining the life and literary-philosophical method of Simone de Beauvoir.

Recommended reading: texts by Simone de Beauvoir

  • Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. Translated by J. Kirkup. London: Penguin, 1990.
  •  “Literature and Metaphysics (1946).” Translated by Marybeth Timmermann. In Philosophical Writings, edited by Margaret A. Simons, 261-278. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004.
  • “My Experience as a Writer.” Translated by J. Debbie Mann. In The Useless Mouths and Other Literary Writings, edited by Margaret A. Simons and Marybeth Timmermann, 282-301. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011.
  • “What Can Literature Do?” Translated by Marybeth Timmermann. In The Useless Mouths and Other Literary Writings, edited by Margaret A. Simons and Marybeth Timmermann, 189-210. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011.
  • When Things of the Spirit Come First. Translated by Patrick O’Brian. New York: Knopf, 1982.

Part One: Who was Simone de Beauvoir?

This first lecture brings together the life and key philosophical concepts of writer, activist, feminist, existentialist, phenomenologist and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. Using Beauvoir’s autobiographical texts, the lecture forges connections between Beauvoir’s life and key philosophical concepts: freedom and oppression, immanence and transcendence, and self and other.

Part Two: Why was Beauvoir not viewed as a “philosopher”?

The lecture traces Beauvoir’s exclusion from the philosophical canon and explores some of the reasons the philosophical acumen of her work has been neglected and overlooked. While the obvious reasons include her gender, and the fact that she was viewed simply as the romantic partner of the “great” philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, we also explore Beauvoir’s own insistence that she was exclusively a “writer” and that Sartre was a “philosopher”. Indeed, her self-identification as a writer seems (at least partially) plausible on the basis of her body of work, only a small part of which is overtly philosophical in form. She wrote an extensive four-part autobiography, novels, short stories, theatre, reviews, articles, travel journals, political pamphlets and essays. Though her fiction clearly treats philosophical ideas (she characterised her fiction as “metaphysical”), she rarely explored philosophical ideas in recognisably “philosophical” form, with the notable exceptions Pyrrhus and Cineas and Ethics of Ambiguity.

Indeed, this lecture explores the meaning of Beauvoir’s characterisation of her fiction as metaphysical. Accordingly, we turn to her lectures “Literature and Metaphysics” and “What Can Literature Do?” to find her explanation of, and justification for, her metaphysical fiction and literary-philosophical method.

Lecture Two: “Beauvoir on Freedom”
Examining Beauvoir’s concept of freedom as an ethical responsibility.

Recommended reading: texts by Simone de Beauvoir

  • “Introduction to an Ethics of Ambiguity”. Translated by Marybeth Timmermann. In Philosophical Writings, edited by Margaret A. Simons, p 289-298. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004.
  • “Pyrrhus and Cineas” (1944). Translated by Marybeth Timmermann. In Philosophical Writings, edited by Margaret A. Simons, 77-150. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004.
  • Ethics of Ambiguity. Translated by Bernard Frechtman. New York: Citadel Press, 1948.
  • The Second Sex. Translated by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. Introduction by Sheila Rowbotham. London: Vintage Books, 2011. This lecture looks at the chapter “Maternity” p 481- 497.
  • Jean Paul Sartre Being and Nothingness. Translated by Hazel E. Barnes. Abingdon: Routledge, 2003.  

Part One: Why was freedom a priority for Beauvoir?

In Beauvoir’s 1947 essay Ethics of Ambiguity, she announces: “To will oneself free is also to will others free.[1]” For Beauvoir, freedom is an ethical responsibility we have towards others. In Pyrrhus and Cineas and Ethics of Ambiguity, Beauvoir insists that we have a responsibility to protect the freedom of others. To better understand Beauvoir’s claim that freedom is an ethical responsibility, and the relationship between freedom and oppression in her thought, we look at the historical events of France in the 1930s and 1940s.

During this lecture we also identify the key relationships between Beauvoir’s core concepts. We explore the interrelation between Beauvoir’s concepts of freedom, oppression, the project, transcendence, immanence and ambiguity.

Part Two: from Existentialism to Feminism.

This lecture also explores the difference between Beauvoir’s presentation of freedom in Pyrrhus and Cineas and Ethics of Ambiguity with Sartre’s in Being and Nothingness. We will explore how Beauvoir used existentialist terminology and concepts to produce a feminist philosophical method, concluding this lecture with an examination of Beauvoir’s transposition of Sartre’s being-in-itself and being-for-itself in her study of housework in The Second Sex. Here, Beauvoir transforms and transposes Sartre's philosophical concepts to diagnose the oppressive mechanism of the family structure.

Lecture Three: “What is Woman?”
Examining Beauvoir’s introduction of woman as a philosophical problem.

Recommended reading: texts by Simone de Beauvoir

  • The Second Sex. Translated by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. Introduction by Sheila Rowbotham. London: Vintage Books, 2011. This lecture explores the chapters “Introduction” p.3-18, “Biological Data” p. 21–49 and “Myths” (Chapter One and Two) p 163–254.
  • Hegel, G.W.F. Phenomenology of Spirit. Translated by A. V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977. This lecture explores Chapter Four.

How did Beauvoir make “being woman” a philosophical problem?

Although the 2010 English translation of The Second Sex is one large volume, the text was originally published first in segments in the literary journal Les Tempes Modernes and then ultimately as a two-volume book. Taking into account the original two-volume nature of the text, as well as its incredible historical significance, we will devote two of the five lectures to this awe-inspiring feminist treatise.

In the introductory essay to The Second Sex, Beauvoir famously asks “What is woman?” We study Beauvoir’s critical review of all essentialist responses to this question. Beauvoir dispenses with essentialism altogether, criticising the models of biological essentialism, any essentialist conception of femininity or a woman’s character (as well as a naïve social constructivist view of woman). Eschewing any impulse to define woman, Beauvoir instead transforms “woman” into a philosophical problem. As we will find, The Second Sex makes woman philosophical subject and object.

We also explore Beauvoir’s claim that patriarchal textual history has fashioned woman as an “absolute other”. We read the “Myths” chapter of The Second Sex, exploring how Beauvoir challenges GWF Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic in order to assert that woman has been transformed into a mythic object (with no potential for a reciprocal exchange). Beauvoir challenges Hegel’s claim that master and slave are always bound to some moment of reciprocal recognition and argues instead that men have instead frozen woman as an “absolute other”.

Lecture four: Beauvoir on the Oppression of Woman
Beauvoir’s examination of Woman’s Situation and curtailed potential under patriarchy.

Recommended reading: texts by Simone de Beauvoir

  • The Second Sex. Translated by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. Introduction by Sheila Rowbotham. London: Vintage Books, 2011. This lecture explores the chapters “Woman’s Situation and Character” p 653-680, “The Mother” p 537-584 and “Lesbian” p 429-448.

Part One: Woman’s Situation under patriarchy

In Volume II of The Second Sex “Lived Experience” Beauvoir summarises the possibilities for woman’s horizon: “her wings are clipped and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly”. This lecture explores Beauvoir’s analyses of woman’s Situation under patriarchy. In particular, we examine Beauvoir’s courageous expositions of the hypocrisy of abortion legislation, the humiliations of sexual initiation and the degradation of housework and maternity. We also look at Beauvoir’s absurd and degrading depiction of lesbianism in “The Lesbian”, and explore the role that her own internalised homophobia played a role here.

Part Two: How do women experience their own oppression?

In “Lived Experience”, Beauvoir explores why women have not made a reciprocal claim for freedom. Beauvoir contends that under patriarchy, woman’s character has been formed such that they are bound to submit, and seldom effectively challenge the authority of men.

Lecture five: The Coming of Age
The later years of Beauvoir’s life: the feminist activism of her later years, her reception by second and third wave feminists and her study of the ageing population

Recommended reading: texts by Simone de Beauvoir

  • Feminist Writings. Edited by Margaret A. Simons and Marybeth Timmermann. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015.
  • Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre. Translated by Patrick O’Brian. New York: Knopf, 1984.
  • The Coming of Age. Translated by Patrick O’Brian. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996.

Part One: Is Beauvoir’s work capable of an intersectional analysis? 

Beauvoir did not identify as a feminist until twenty years after writing The Second Sex. This lecture examines the development of Beauvoir’s feminist thought and her mature feminist activism. Fortunately, the recently published Feminist Writings (2015) provide us with myriad pamphlets and articles Beauvoir penned between 1950 and 1986. We look at Beauvoir’s treatment by second and third wave feminists, such as her initially warm reception within the Women’s Liberation movement and the way she was subsequently exiled by the next generation of French feminists. We focus in particular on intersectional criticisms of The Second Sex, specifically working with the (well-founded) arguments that the text is unable to think the experiences of women who are not white, middle-class and privileged.

Part Two: how did Beauvoir conceive of her own ageing, as well as ageing more generally? How does Beauvoir’s work on ageing relate to the idea of intersectionality?  

In The Coming of Age, Beauvoir illuminates how society oppresses the ageing population. As we will find, The Coming of Age reiterates the structure and literary-philosophical method operative in The Second Sex. Indeed, by illuminating the elasticity of Beauvoir’s literary-philosophical method – and how it is here applied to oppression on the basis of ageing - enables us to explore the possibility that her work and method can be applied to multiple, and even intersectional, instances of oppression.

[1]Beauvoir Ethics of Ambiguity, trans Bernard Frechtman (New York: Citadel Press, 1948) 101


ss3‘Street-Fighters and Philosophers’: Ecofeminism in the Anthropocene - FULL

Lecturer: Dr Lara Stevens

Schedule: 11am -1pm. Monday, Feb 19 – Friday, Feb 23

Location: 1888 Building, UniMelb, Grattan St., Parkville.

Ecofeminism emerges at the intersection of two progressive twentieth-century political movements: one concerned with the fight for women’s rights and the other with the ecological sustainability of the environment. The battle between the rights of the nonhuman world and the rights of corporations poses the greatest ethical challenge of our generation. This course maps the history of ecofeminism globally but offers an in-depth exploration of the ideas of key Australian ecofeminist philosophers – Val Plumwood, Freya Mathews, Ariel Salleh – who have been leaders in the international movement.

For many ecofeminists, ecofeminism is not an abstract theoretical project or scholarly exercise, rather, it has been fully integrated into their ways of living. Ariel Salleh writes that: ‘[e]cological feminists are both street-fighters and philosophers’. As such, each session, the course will also consider the activist advocacy of ecofeminists as it traces the movement’s alignment with recent social, cultural and artistic developments. It looks to some major examples where this conceptual shift was put into action such as at Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, Pine Gap Women’s Peace Camp, in the work of the Climate Guardians, in the Knitting Nannas Against Gas, in the performance art of Jill Orr and r e a, to name a few.

In the struggle for women’s liberation and environmental protection, the historical philosophical tension between idealism and materialism plays out in a new context. Ecofeminism shows that the way in which we think, speak about and engage with the natural world also has a bearing on how we conceptualise and treat the bodies of women and the labours they perform. Ecofeminists have long shown that the resourcing of women and the natural world are structurally interconnected to the long-term ideological conditions of patriarchy and exacerbated by the more recent developments of capitalism and neoliberalism and the way these have altered, for example, old agricultural practices and replaced them with factory farming or seed patenting. The effects of such practices have been shown to most acutely increase the precarity of the lives and livelihoods of women, children, the poor, the colonised and racial minorities.

Ecofeminism is a vital area of study for our contemporary moment as we face deepening environmental crises and the ongoing violence against women in all its forms.

Course Schedule

1. Ecofeminism v. deep ecology

Session 1 covers the rise of the ecofeminist movement in Europe, North America, Australia and India and its response to environmental philosophy. In particular it looks at the ecofeminist critique of the philosophies of deep ecology led by Arne Naess and Warwick Fox.

This session will situate the ecofeminist movement within what has become known as the Anthropocene – the recognition that human actions are responsible for massive environmental change to the point that it might be considered a discrete geological age.

2. Dismantling the dualisms: Ecofeminists v. Plato, Descartes and Bacon

Session 2 looks at ecofeminist responses to the work of Plato, Descartes and Bacon, pointing out the links between the ways in which these thinkers understood elements of the natural world and their tendency to align them with women or assign ‘mother nature’ feminine attributes. Key to the ecofeminist contribution is their critique of the hierarchised dualisms through which these Ancient Greek and Enlightenment philosophers characterised the world and its ‘progress’.

3. Panpsychism and the Spizonists

Session 3 considers the influence of Spinoza on the ecofeminist movement, particularly in the work of Freya Mathews and her theories on panpsychism which also engaged with and borrowed from Aboriginal Australian philosophies of care for ‘country’.

4. Embodied debt and Marxism

Session 4 explores the strong influence of Marxism and socialism on ecofeminist philosophical and activist movements. It looks particularly to women-led collective environmental struggles in parts of the developing world. It will consider how the balance of power and responsibility and the question of ecological debt and embodied debt are influencing the climate and gender politics of the twenty-first century in global negotiations such as those at United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in 2015.

5. Is ecofeminism feminist?

Session 5 reflects on the question of whether ecofeminism is feminist. It will cover what became known as the ‘essentialism debates’ of the 1980s and the ways in which concerns about the actions of women as the housekeepers to the oikos at large -- cleaning up the mess of industrial capitalism -- continue to trouble ecofeminist activism today. The final session will also contemplate the implications of the so-called ‘new materialisms’ for ecofeminism.


ws6Georges Bataille and the Intoxication of Destruction

Lecturer: Dr Erin K Stapleton

Schedule: 1.30pm - 3.30pm. Monday, Feb 19 – Friday, Feb 23

Location: 1888 Building, UniMelb, Grattan St., Parkville.

All thought is immoral. Its very essence is destruction.
- Oscar Wilde

This course explores the idea that destruction is, somewhat paradoxically, the foundational operation of culture. Beginning with the premise of entropic materiality, where the matter that cultural artefacts are formed from—and indeed all matter —is prone to deterioration: from the form (either as it appears, or the form we impose upon it) to formlessness, these lectures will map Bataille’s philosophical approaches to operations of destruction, in a mode not unlike Bataille’s own idiosyncratic and transdisciplinary approach, using a collection of cultural artefacts to illuminate each iteration. 

The course will begin by discussing Bataile’s approach to destruction and intoxication by investigating the influence of Nietzsche and other thinkers on Bataille in order to establish a theoretical framework through which to understand destructive modes in human culture. We will then discuss the relationship between architectural destruction and extinction in apocalypse narratives in the intoxicating premise of the destruction of the world. In the following session, we will discuss Bataille’s model of communication, in which the illusion of the cohesive self is put at risk for the sake of producing community, while the absence of communication produces a radical form of alienation from culture. We will then discuss Bataille’s anthropological understanding of social exchange through potlatch, sacrifice and execution, with a focus on the desire to eliminate waste in the form of execution, and in opposition, the excessive possibilities for transgression in erotic experience. The final session will focus on the archive, and the tension between the preservation of culture, and the necessary, destructive absence of that which has been excluded from the cultural record, the process of which is further complicated both by contemporary new materialist thought, and the disruption of digitalisation.

Suggested Pre-Reading:

  • Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share Vols. 1-3, The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge & Erotism: Death and Sensuality.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols
  • Paolo Cherchi Usai, The Death of Cinema: History, Cultural Memory and the Digital Dark Age
  • Claire Colebrook, Death of the Posthuman & Sex After Life

Suggested further reading for each subsequent session will be indicated in lectures.

Course Schedule

Each two-hour session is structured around a loose dialectical relation, where the second destruction reverses the position of the first in the following pairings:

Destruction 1: A Theory of Destruction

Lecture 1 - The Impulse to Immortality

Lecture 2 - The Economy of Expenditure

Destruction 2: The World

Lecture 3 - Extinction: The Last Man and the Other Island

Lecture 4 - Exploding Monuments: Architecture

Destruction 3: Identity

Lecture 5 - Self-Destruction

Lecture 6 - Radical Alienation

Destruction 4: Bodies

Lecture 7 - Execution: Death without Waste

Lecture 8 - Eroticism and Transgression

Destruction 5: Art

Lecture 9 - Art and the Archive: How not to live forever

Lecture 10 - The Destroyers: Immortality, and Art as Self-Preservation


ws2Fernando Pessoa: Three Poets and an Existentialist Bookkeeper

Lecturer: Dr Desmonda Lawrence

Schedule: 4pm - 6pm. Monday, Feb 19 – Friday, Feb 23

Location: 1888 Building, UniMelb, Grattan St., Parkville.

Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa was many authors at once – as the progenitor of numerous 'heteronyms' or personas through whom he penned very different styles of poetry and prose. His strange, and rich, literary universe represents a pinnacle of modern, and modernist, poetry as well as fiction, philosophical and satirical prose.

The interest in and importance of Pessoa lies not only in the works themselves – prodigious and various, but in Pessoa's peculiar method of authorial self-replication. This course will look at a selection of works Pessoa authored under his own name; at the poetry of the three main heteronyms  - Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Alvaro de Campos; and at the lengthy prose collection, known as The Book of Disquiet, of Lisbon bookkeeper Bernardo Soares.  Pessoa claimed to be 'a poet animated by philosophy' and it is the philosophical interest in and of his work that will be a central theme of the course. Alain Badiou says that it is a philosophical task to be contemporaries of Pessoa. Pessoa poses a uniquely modern problem for the very notion of singular or central selfhood. The heteronyms are much more than pseudonyms or literary devices. Pessoa appears to have experienced a splitting up of the self into many, a fact which he embraces but which also unsettles him. An exploration of the nature of self, and an experience of the self as essentially multiple, is a constant theme throughout his work.

Each of the three major heteronyms – Alberto Caeiro, Alvaro de Campos and Ricardo Reis clearly espouse distinct and frequently contradictory philosophies. – From the pastoral anti-metaphysics of Caeiro to the Whitmanesque futurism of De Campos and the anti-democratic paganism of Reis. Their poetic voices are so unique that it is impossible to confuse them. And then there is The Book of Disquiet, Pessoa's lifelong prose work. A disordered collection of journal passages and aphoristic reflections, its author Bernardo Soares calls it 'a fact-less autobiography'.  Having no real narrative structure, and traversing a wide array of themes, this work itself creates a complex philosophical dialogue that resists unitary interpretation. It is, I believe, a text of great philosophical importance – an unrivalled document of twentieth century consciousness and a vital phenomenological investigation of one of modernity's most important, and yet under-regarded themes – profound existential boredom.

Course Schedule

1. Introduction to Pessoa and his heteronyms as well as the prodigious and bizarre universe of his writing. What are the heteronyms? What did Pessoa think they were? How have his readers and critics understood and responded to the phenomenon? Also a look at a small selection of Pessoa's own orthonymous poems and the short-story/Socratic style dialogue The Anarchist Banker.

2. Alberto Caeiro, inventor of the anti-metaphysical 'sensationist' movement, nature poet, anti-symbolist, anti-metaphor. The Master of the other heteronyms. A very anti-modern modern poet.

3. Alvaro de Campos. Futurist, poet of technology and noise, poet for the industrial age. Whitmanesque. Also look briefly at some of the documented conversations, letters and interactions between the heteronyms and Pessoa himself.

4. Riccardo Reis – political exile, scholar, neo-classicist and pagan. His philosophy is a mixture of stoicism and Epicureanism. Also in this week we will discuss Badiou's piece on Pessoa – A Philosophical Task.

5. Bernardo Soares The Book of Disquiet. We look at this text through the lens of the Heidegger's concept of mood as 'attunement' and we use The Book of Disquiet as a way to understand the nature of boredom as a philosophical problem and also as an expression of the modern condition.


  • Fernando Pessoa, The Anarchist Banker, Translation by Richard Zenith.
  • Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, Translation by Richard Zenith. (Even if you don't read the whole text, spend some time with it if you can before the final week's class.)

Participants may also want to familiarise themselves with a selection of the poems of Pessoa's three main heteronyms Ricardo Reis, Alviro de Campos and Alberto Caeiro. These will be found in any edition of Pessoa's selected poetry, of which there are several available. I will be using a mixture of translations, so I have no specific recommendation. (I will advise which particular poems we will be reading as the course gets underway and make those specific versions available on the web.)

  • Alain Badiou's essay on Pessoa: 'A Philosophical Task: To Be Contemporaries of Pessoa', in his Handbook of Inaesthetics.

Also recommended:

  • Martin Heidegger: The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics.
  • Lars Svendsen: A Philosophy of Boredom.


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Course Descriptions