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ISU 2008: The Mantle of the Prophet - Demons, Saints, and Terrorists

July 2 - August 18

Following the success of ISU 2007's theme on terrorism, ECLA decided to have a second installment of "The Mantle of the Prophet: Demons, Saints, and Terrorists".

Based on a real case of political murder, the so-called "Nechaev Affair", Demons, more than any other of Dostoyevsky's novels, probably deserves to be characterized as "prophetic". During the six-week programme of the summer university, students and faculty explored some of its numerous moral, religious and political implications as, for example, the historical and metaphysical roots of terrorism, its various embodiments from state terror to individual violence and, more generally, the "death of God", the "deification of man", nihilism and existentialism.

Students and faculty tackled a variety of philosophical, literary and historical texts, including such authors as Albert Camus (The Stranger), Heinrich von Kleist (Michael Kohlhaas), Carl Schmitt (Theory of the Partisan), and Friedrich Nietzsche (On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense). The text-based core component of the curriculum was complemented by the visual (films, museum visits, art history) and component visits in and around Berlin.

ECLA also introduced a Performance elective for the students, taught by David Levine. This elective performance course examined and staged, Venise Sauvee, an unfinished play by the mid-20th century French political philosopher Simone Weil. Concerning a 17th-century attempt to overthrow the Venetian Republic, the play engages many of the ISU's broader themes, as well as Weil's own writings on terror, allegiance and statecraft. The class culminated in a performance that engaged both the text and its broader implications.