Psychedelic Aesthetics, Literature, and the Crisis in Liberalism: A Public Service Course

April 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Sundays June 8-July 20, 4:00pm-6:00pm, at Deer Pile (above City O’ City) Summer 2014 with Dr. Roger K. Green, free or suggested donation of $10.


Since the end of the Cold War, and especially since the 9/11 attacks, scholars and theorists have increasingly turned toward critiques of the narrative of secularization that have played a deep role in the foundations of liberalism and nation state projects of the European Enlightenment in order to make sense of the increasing liberal crises – from human rights issues related to citizenship to war, economic, technological, and legal crises. The scholarly work being done is often obscured by both the gargantuan nature of universities and public institutions as well as a general anti-intellectualism among American publics who feel alienated from such knowledge centers because of issues of accessibility and perceived relevance.


As an effort to bridge that divide and to give historical context to these issues, this interdisciplinary course on Psychedelic Aesthetics and Liberal Crises will look at the aesthetic issues surrounding subjectivity as it emerged in a European social imaginary and how the use of narcotics, eventually called psychedelics, came to thematize liberal crises in the mid twentieth century and set the stage for states of emergency and exception in the early twenty-first century.  The course will be framed from the start by looking at the contemporary discourse of Political Theology and The Coming Insurrection, a DIY manifesto written in 2007 and associated with French intellectuals of the Tarnac Nine, arrested on charges of “criminal association for the purposes of terrorist activity.”  The book was then translated and published in English by the small academic press, semiotext(e) in 2008, causing a major stir among right-wing pundits.

We will then move to political foundations of liberalism narratives of secularization, with particular focus on Romantic aesthetics in the poetry of Blake, Wordsworth, Baudelaire, De Quincey & co.

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean to look at theosophy, spiritualism and enchantment via transcendentalists and Helena Blavatsky in the United States, we will explore how enchantment in the U.S. eventually comes to interact with the European imaginary in surrealism, Antonin Artaud, phenomenology, and the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft in the emerging globalization of the 20th century.

We will look at how English and European Continental Philosophy came to shape the psychedelic explosions of the 1950s and 1960s in the work of Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Arthur C. Clarke, Hannah Arendt and Herbert Marcuse.

Drawing on Political Theology, we will look at the CIA’s role in creating the psychedelic movement and create a commercial spread of liberalism through William Burroughs, Harry Mathews, Robert Duncan, rock and roll, psychedelic music, new journalism (Wolfe, Thompson, Didion) and avant-garde jazz and critique nostalgic efforts to return to a state of nature and the pre-political.

We will address the complexity of mythology, sacrifice, shamanism and the enchantment in psychedelic protest rhetoric of Abbie Hoffman, The Fugs, and Anne Waldman, as it interacts with Figures like Carlos Castaneda, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, and Maria Sabina, particularly in the context of a broad critique of European subjectivities.

Arriving back in the present, we will see how American scholars have used psychedelic research to advance both the good and bad aspects of liberalism, the rhetoric of science in the promotion of psychedelics, the “spiritual” versus the “religious,” and how American aesthetics code a theology of what Simon Critchley calls a “faith of the faithless.”


We will journey and return.

All the while we shall participate in our own fellowship of artificial paradises offered by wine and drink to induce lively intellectual conversation.


Individual courses are a $10 suggested donation to the professor (he generously will accept larger donations as well). Deer Pile will offer drinks for purchase. Potluck food is encouraged, but we may also retire to City O’ City for further fellowshipping. Courses will generally be one 40-60 minute talk by the professor followed by one hour of group discussion on the reading for the week. We reserve the right to kick out know-it-alls who have not done the reading but monopolize conversation. For syllabus, readings and more info, contact Roger at


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