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Faculty Reading Lists: Dr. Nathan Carroll

The favorite & most influential books of some your favorite & most influential faculty!

Dr. Nathan Carroll (February 2012)

Dr. Carroll is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, Theatre and Art.

Favorite or most influential books.

1. Critique of Judgment by Immanuel Kant.
The entire project of Kant comes down to this book of genius –and arguably fails.  This is his attempt to deal with problems in his critiques of moral and pure reason by using aesthetics.  The brilliance here is tied to the admittedly dry, but meticulous rendering of our faculties of perception.  How do we cognitively perceive the world and make aesthetic judgments through reason and experience; what happens when they conflict?  How do we judge nature and art as beautiful and sublime and what do we really mean by those designations?  Do those aesthetic judgments imply something universally deeper about human nature or is it all down to individual taste?  The stakes for Kant are nothing less than the birth of the Enlightenment and whether it is finally feasible to rule our lives and governments based on logic and common principles of reason.  How do we make sense of those experiences which most resist reason? 

2. The Final Foucault: Interviews with Michel Foucault.
Not only is he my favorite philosopher, he was also a great lecturer and interviewee. Foucault’s Post-Structuralist approach aimed to formally undo Kant by exposing the underlying social structures of abusive acts of power that constrain the production of knowledge far beyond any unique capacity to reason.  Foucault (in the Nietzschean tradition) pointed his finger at institutions and individuals who marginalize others for the sake of their control of power, the fundamental human dynamic for Foucault, the negotiation of which forms the basis for all interaction.  Power is not a noun you own for Foucault, but something used only as a verb, and then, inherently subject to abuse.  So Foucault has a political philosophy linked to the liberation of the body from ideological constraints of language that stereotype, limit, legislate against, and imprison bodies deemed outlaw to dominant institutional culture.  Foucault showed that our categories of identity and sexuality that we too often hold as immutable in everyday life are historically in flux with regimes of shifting power and political attitudes. 

3.  The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe
Poe is all about perfect pre-cinematic word choices and the sublime poetry of horror.

4.  Studies in Ethnomethodology by Harold Garfinkel.
Inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein, once you see where Garfinkel was going with this, you’ll never view the world the same.  Make sure to read the appendices.

5.  The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare. 
Well if I had to pick just one, it would be this one.  Although  if you need a good DVD interpretation post-reading, I would recommend Trevor Nunn’s BBC version with Ian McKellen and the recent PBS adaptation with Patrick Stewart.

What are you reading now? 

A Life in Movies by Michael Powell. 
One of my favorite directors, I’ll be teaching a course on him and writing partner Emeric Pressburger in the fall of 2012.  An early silent film apprentice and then master director of wartime British cinema, Powell made a string of unrivaled cinematic masterpieces that went against the dominant attitude of British film realism.  Making both war propaganda films and sly satires of figures like Churchill, his work with Pressburger under the name The Archers also produced some of the most gorgeous art film ever made.  A master of other worlds and cinematic illusion, Powell aimed for a ‘total film’ aesthetic that would ideally balance composition from all artistic input in the service of a greater artistic and specifically cinematic product.  While beautiful, his films also have psychological depth as seen in films like The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, and A Matter of Life and Death.

Desert Island Pick (this is your bonus title--the book that you can take along to the island for sheer reading pleasure)

Kinski Uncut: The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski