Climbing Down: 4-Week Intensives

What is an “intensive”? Not quite a writing workshop, not quite a philosophy or literature course, but some other, third thing.

For the past few years, I’ve looked for ways to combine my love of teaching, shared inquiry, and collective commitment to writing projects with my interest in strange, “hard to teach” books. Philosophy and creative writing should not be locked away in the ivory tower, they should not be kept separate if/when they want to mingle, and above all, they are pursuits (only sometimes professions).

My years of teaching have shown me that while I probably can’t teach you how to write, I can help you sharpen your mind and your senses through close textual analysis—if that’s what you want—and the writing you produce will be informed by this in unpredictable and exciting ways.

For every writer we read (or artist, or thinker—whatever you want to call them), I’ll bring in a guest for one of our Zoom sessions. Think of it like an informal guest lecture to expand and strengthen what we build together.

 What we’ll do:

  • read some books by a particular writer, especially the kinds of books that benefit from close reading and collective analysis and discussion
  • think about the books, talk about the books, write about them if we’re moved to do so

What you’ll get:

  • 1 3-hour Zoom session per week (that’s 4 meetings), for analysis, Q&A, guided discussion
  • 1 1-hour one-on-one Zoom call or phone call with me, during which I’ll give you detailed feedback on your writing, and talk about burning writing-related issues
  • the chance to read, think, and write alongside people with similar interests, curiosities, and motivations
  • depending on who we’re reading, all kinds of supplementary materials from me

Session 1

The Search for Lost Intimacy: reading Georges Bataille

Together, we’ll read Theory of Religion and selected essays from Visions of Excess. We’ll examine Bataille’s claims about religion as the search for lost intimacy; the relation between humanity and animality; violence and destruction; the origins of capitalism; gnosticism and some mystics; and the nature of writing and other forms of communication.

This session will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the month of April. Zoom meetings will be recorded and shared with everyone in the course. Because participants live in many time zones, one weekly session will take place in the morning (EST), and one will take place in the evening (EST).

Our guest for this session will be Stuart Kendall. Stuart is the single most prolific translator of Bataille’s writing. He is a writer, editor, and independent scholar. His extraordinary work has made the (anglophone) study of Bataille, Blanchot, Éluard, Debord, Baudrillard, and René Char possible.

Session 2

Disgust, Despair, Courage: reading Clarice Lispector

Focusing on Near to the Wild Heart and The Passion According to G.H., we’ll think and feel our way through questions related to authorship, subjectivity, love, death, knowledge, and transcendence. We will also read selections from Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing by Hélène Cixous. 

This session will meet over Zoom on Sundays for the month of November. All meetings will be recorded and shared with everyone in the course. Because participants live in many time zones, all sessions will take place in the evening, Central European Time (midday if you’re EST, morning if you’re PST).

Additionally, for those on the continent (or looking for an excuse to travel), we’ll meet in person in Berlin late November or early December. Details to come.

Our guest for this session will be Canadian poet, philosopher, and master gardener Karen Houle. She specializes in issues of animality, plant ontology, micropolitics, friendship, copyright, and reproductive technology. She is the author of three critically-acclaimed books of poetry, numerous essays on art, philosophy, and literature, and a singular work of theory: Toward a New Image of Thought: Responsibility, Complexity, and Abortion (Lexington 2013). She is also a translator. She runs The Art of Soil Collective in Guelph, Ontario.