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How have conceptions of earthly paradises served to legitimize colonial violence, to develop gendered geographies, and to promote music festivals and all-inclusive resorts? In what way do our conceptions of contemplative paradises within influence futuristic conceptions of cloud consciousness?
We will consider the foundational tropes that underlie and generate such spaces from the biblical account of Eden, across contemplative traditions, through medieval and renaissance conceptions of the earthly paradise, and in contemporary/futuristic reconfigurations. We will examine how such ideas have been instrumental in shaping gendered visions of the earthly paradise, and in turn, the extended impact that such visions have had on the horrors of Western colonialism, on paradisal prisons in chivalric literature, and on philosophical discussions of contemplation as paradise within. We will consider the future of such ideas through an examination of problems concerning cloud consciousness, uploaded minds, and digital afterlives. The module will also feature a critical examination of how such ideas are articulated today in organised sports (Cricket/Baseball), department stores, exotic getaways, and music festivals.
The module will allow students to develop and refine their multidisciplinary analytical skills by engaging with complex problems that resist simple solutions.
N.B. This module is complemented by ‘Posthumous Geographies I: Underworlds’, which explores similar problems but focuses instead on underworlds. Students may take either module individually or both in succession.
Principal Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this module, students will be able to:
- Identify the central narratives of paradisal journeys in Western culture and their reception from the classical world to present day.
- Critically analyse the dynamic between how such narratives have been inherited, reconfigured, and reshaped according to changing cultural concerns and how they, in turn, influence and often justify such cultural values.
- Critically apply spatial theory to the paradises we will examine.
- Engage in weekly critical reflection on how narratives of paradises are articulated and marketed today as part of the ‘experience economy’.
- Apply advanced cognitive skills to build transdisciplinary knowledge that fosters transformative dialogue between the humanities, the social sciences, and business studies.
- Implement meta-cognitive skills in approaching complex contemporary problems, such as the debates concerning our digital afterlives and cloud consciousness.
- Collaboratively create their own culturally-conscious versions of contemporary paradises, along with a plan for potential social/architectural implementations.
The module progresses via a problem-based exploration of paradises, which begins with the biblical account of Eden and pseudepigraphical accounts of the fall. We then move to late medieval depictions of Eden as either healing spaces or deceptive erotic gardens, seeing how these ideas spurred changes in cartography, influenced the development of orientalism, and impacted upon colonial endeavours. The module then moves to a discussion of paradise within the self, looking at philosophical and contemplative texts from several traditions, before considering transhuman digital afterlives. The final problem focusses on paradise in the modern world: the packaging and selling of the idea of Eden and hopes for transhuman digital afterlives..
Introduction: Problems in the Nest of Humanity
a. Legends of the Fall
b. “I Want it All:” Ambition and Hubris
c. “Run to the Water:” Healing and Weeping in Eden
Problem I. Paradise, Empire, and Colonialism
a. Sex, Orientalism, and Paradise as Prison
b. Paradisal Geography and Colonial Violence
Problem II. Paradise as a State of Mind
a. Mysticism and the Fetish of Contemplation
b. Transhumanism and Uploaded Consciousness: Paradise in the Cloud
Problem III. ‘Two Tickets to Paradise’: Selling Eden in Sport, Retail, and Travel Packages
a. Innings: Baseball, National Identity, and Returning Home
b. Paradise and Capitalism: Retail, Travel, and Music Festivals
Week 10: Conclusions and Group Presentations
1x 3,000 word essay (45%)
1x Reflection Diary (15%)
1x Creative Group Presentation (15%)
1x 24-hour Take-Home Test (25%)
Illustrative Reading List
Selections from the following primary sources, monographs and edited collections may be assigned. An updated bibliography may be found on Talis Aspire.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
Bachelard, G. The Poetics of Space (1958)
Bartlett Giammatti, A. Taking Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games (1989)
—, The Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic (1966)
Brazeau, B. ‘Take me Down to the Paradise City: An Ecocritical Approach to Paradise Spaces in Italian
Butterworth, M. L. 'Ritual in the Church of Baseball': Performing Patriotism at the Ballpark," in
Baseball and Rhetorics of Purity: The National Pastime and American Identity During the War on
Terror. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2010, 29-50
Charlesworth, James H. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha [selections] (2 vols.) (1985)
Columbus, C. The Four Voyages (1492-1504) (ed. Cohen)
Dante, Divine Comedy (Hollander Trans.)
del Castillo, Bernal Díaz, The Conquest of New Spain (1576) (ed. Cohen)
Foucault, M. ‘Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias’ (1967/1984)
Kozinets, R. ‘Can Consumers Escape the Market? Emancipatory Illuminations from Burning Man,’ Journal
Lancaster, W. The Department Store: A Social History (1995)
Malcolm, D. Globalizing Cricket (2012)
Milton, J. Paradise Lost
Laine, T. Bodies in Pain: Emotion and the Cinema of Darren Aronofsky (2015)
O’Neill, K. Internet Afterlife: Virtual Salvation in the 21st Century (2016)
Petrarca, F. Petrarch’s Lyric Poems (trans. Durling)
Pseudo Dionysius, ‘Mystical Theology,’ trans. Colm Luibheid (1987)
Salazar, N. Envisioning Eden: Mobilizing Imaginaries in Tourism and Beyond (2013).
Said, E. Orientalism (1978)
Scafi, A. Mapping Paradise: A History of Heaven on Earth (2006)
Tasso, T. The Liberation of Jerusalem (1581) (trans. Wickert)
Thorn, J. Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game (2011)
Wilkes, K. ‘From the Landscape to the White Female Body: Representations of Postcolonial Luxury in
Encounters, ed. Jo-Anne Lester and Caroline Scarles (2016), 33-56.
Wright, Louis B. The Colonial Search for a Southern Eden (2006)
Žižek, S. ‘From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism,’ Cabinet 2 (2001)
Films and Television:
Aronofsky, D. The Fountain (2006)
Brooker, C. Black Mirror:’San Junipero’ [TV Series] (2016)
Additional texts, specific book chapters and articles may be set for additional reading.