Centre for Women’s and Gender Research

Graduate Course: Absolute Apology, Absolute Forgiveness

Centre for Women’s and Gender Research offers the graduate course, Absolute Apology, Absolute Forgiveness, 7 – 9 May, 2012.

Lecturer: Professor David Eng, Adjunct Professor at SKOK and Professor at the Department of English, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Register before April 16 to tone.lund-olsen@uib.no

Participation without essay will give 3 ECTS credits.
Participation and essay will give 10 ECTS credits.

The course is free, but participants will have to arrange and pay for the travel and accommodation themselves.

Please notice that May is a busy month in Bergen so we recommend you to book accommodation as soon as possible.

Course description

If the contemporary emergence of human rights has sought to curtail strong Westphalian notions of state power, how might we respond to injury outside structures of state sovereignty and political calculation? We will consider this question by investigating two interrelated concepts: absolute apology and absolute forgiveness. Beginning with Derrida’s notion of forgiving the unforgivable, we will proceed to a number of legal, literary, and cinematic texts that explore difficult political, ethical, and intersubjective aspects regarding questions of apology, forgiveness, responsibility, and reparation.

Required texts

  • Elazar Barkan and Alexander Karn, “Group Apology as an Ethical Imperative,” in Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliation, eds. Elazar Barkan and Alexander Karn (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 3-30.
  • Moira Buffini, Welcome to Thebes (London: Faber and Faber, 2010)
  • Richard M. Buxbaum“A Legal History of International Reparations,” Berkeley Journal of International Law 23.2 (2005): 314-346.
  • Jacques Derrida, “On Forgiveness,” in On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness (New York:Routledge, 1991), 25-60.
  • Charles L. Griswold, “Prologue,” in Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration (New York:Cambridge University Press, 2007), xii-xxvi.
  • John Hersey, “Hiroshima,”The New Yorker (31 August 1946): 15-68.
  • Marilyn Ivy, “Trauma’s Two Times: Japanese Wars and Postwars,” position: east asia cultures critique 16.1 (Spring 2008): 165-188.
  • Emmanuel Levinas, “The Shoah and the Unforgivable,” in Conversations with Emmanuel Levinas, 1983-1993, ed. Michaël de Saint Cheron (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2010), 149-161.
  • Harry N. Scheiber, “Taking Responsibility: Moral and Historical Perspectives on the Japanese War-Reparations Issues,”Berkeley Journal of International Law 20 (2002):233-249.
  • Lee Taft, “Apology Subverted: The Commodification of Apology,” Yale Law Journal 108 (March 2000): 1135- 1160.
  • Nicholas Tavuchis, “Meanings, Nature, and Functions of Apology,” in Mea Culpa: A Sociology of Apology and Reconcilliation (Stanford: Standford University Press, 1991), 15-44.


Films & Website

Course outline

7 May Introduction: Absolute Apology, Absolute Forgiveness

Barkan and Karn, “Group Apology”
Taft, “Apology Subverted”
Tavuchis, “Meanings, Nature, and Functions of Apology”

Derrida, “On Forgiveness”
Griswold, “Prologue”
Levinas, “The Shoah and the Unforgivable”

8 May  Antigone

Buffini, Welcome to Thebes

Screening of History and Memory and Village of Widows

9 May Hiroshima

Hersey, “Hiroshima”
Buxbaum, “A Legal History of International Reparations”
Ivy, “Trauma’s Two Times”
Scheiber, “Taking Responsibility”

Blow, Village of Widows
Tajiri, History and Memory