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Sterling Knox

Audre Lorde - Poetry Is Not A Luxury

grad student

Kendrick Lamar - How Much a Dollar Cost (on the afterlife, ethics of care)

Death Cab for Cutie - What Sarah Said (on death)


Marcus: to address disability, you could present to the students and discuss in class
Frida Kahlo’s “The Broken Column”. It is available here:


To discuss racism (particularly, in the US), I would use Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America be America again” or one of the performances of “Strange fruit” (either that of Billie Hoiday or that of Nina Simone).


And, if you want a non-western perspective on death, this Totonac poem from Manuel Espinosa Sainos might be useful:


The Ghost of Ian Curtis

I must know ... what Joy Division do you include on the syllabus?

Marcus Arvan

Ghost: Actually now there are two. I've decided to pair 'Love will tear us apart' and 'Control' on the philosophy of love.

Justin W.

Regarding God, divine hiddeness, and related issues, there is no better song than Tim Minchin's "Thank You God for Fixing the Cataracts of Sam's Mum." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JipYDDXo5C0

There's also, of course, XTC's "Dear God."



grad student

The Roots - Dear God 2.0 (on the problem of evil)


If I can plug the opposite approach for a minute (where you assign readings on pop culture, rather than looking for philosophy in pop culture), then I'd suggest considering papers like:

*"Appreciating Bad Art," John Dyck & Matt Johnson,
Journal of Value Inquiry 51 (2):279-292 (2017). A paper on why some movies are so bad they're good.

*"Is Dumbledore gay? Who's to Say?: Truth in Fiction and Authorial Authority," Tamar Szabó Gendler, The Philosophers' Magazine (52):94-97 (2011). A piece of popular philosophy on the power of authorial say-so.

*"The Paradox of Junk Fiction," Noël Carroll, Philosophy and Literature 18 (2):225-241 (1994). A paper on why we like page-turners, even though they're pretty formulaic.)

*"Profound offense and cultural appropriation," James O. Young, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 63 (2):135–146 (2005). A paper on whether and when cultural appropriation is offensive.

*"'Anything But Heavy Metal': Symbolic Exclusion and Musical Dislikes," Bethany Bryson, American Sociological Review Vol. 61, No. 5 (Oct., 1996), pp. 884-899. A paper on the influence of musical education and political tolerance on appreciation for heavy metal, country, gospel, and rap.

Marcus Arvan

Thanks for the recommendations everyone, and thanks Michel. That’s not the direction I’m approaching the course this time around—but it’s one I’ll consider in future iterations!

syllabusing also

This sounds like a great course! Hope it goes well. A few examples came to mind...

On Racism: Parker Bright's protest against Dana Schutz' Emmett Till painting (so much to unpack here!!)

Art installation dealing with sexual violence/trauma recovery:


Gender/Feminism: Spoken poem, "Shrinking Women"

On the nature of reality, poems by Wallace Stevens:
"Six Significant Landscapes" or "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" (or pretty much any of his other poems!!)


syllabusing also

ALSO, on God/meaning, there is Wilco's "I Can't Stand it"
I don't know if it has enough in it to unpack, but "No love's as random as god's love" could totally be the name of a whole unit on God and meaning in my opinion. Other great Wilco lines from other songs include "Theologians, they don't know nothing about my soul" and " I wonder why we listen to poets when nobody gives a &@*!"

syllabusing also

OK, I will really stop blowing up this thread soon, this post got me really excited apparently.

It sounds like you are good on popular essays, but just wanted to make sure you've seen Ken Chung's blog. I've used his posts "My Fear of Dying" and "Is Dying a Transformative Experience" in classes before and students responded well to them. (I think I learned about him on Daily Nous, but if it was here, then nevermind!)



Recent PHD and Hip Hop Head

I think that there is a lot of interesting philosophical material to draw from hip hop, especially when it comes to political philosophy and philosophy of race.

I'd suggest listening to the new Tribe Called Quest Album "We Got it From Here" especially the track "We the People"

Mos Def's Black on Both Sides, especially the track "Mathematics" and "Fear not of Man"

Brother Ali's Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, especially the track "Letter to my Countrymen"

Lupe Fiasco's Food and Liquor, especially the track "Hurt Me Soul"

Best of luck!

Recent PHD and Hip Hop Head

Also Kendrick Lamar's "Hiii Power"

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