nl en

Language, Subjectivity and the Agon


Admission requirements

Two years of study in philosophy completed, or equivalent.


In his early essay ‘Homer’s Wettkampf’ (1872), Nietzsche undertakes a historical analysis of the Ancient Greek notion of the agon or ‘contest’ in order to rebut the modern day prejudice that envy, ambition and competition are ‘evil’ and ought to be supressed. Indeed, Nietzsche argues that if conflict is harnessed correctly, it can be transformed from a self-, and socially, destructive force into one that promotes individual and collective excellence. This course examines the way in which this agonistic theory of conflict informs Nietzsche’s philosophies of language and the self.

Parallel to this study of Nietzsche, the course will also take a comparative look at Lyotard’s own conflict-based theories of language and subjectivity. The aim of this is to bring into relief the postmodern misinterpretation of Nietzsche’s understanding of the agon . The final lectures and seminars of the course then explore the political implications of Nietzsche’s and Lyotard’s respective philosophies of conflict.

Course objectives

Course objectives will be posted on Blackboard by the start of the course.


Zie Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2012-2013, BA Wijsbegeerte, derde jaar.
See Timetables Philosophy 2012-2013 , Undergraduate Courses in English

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

Assessment method

  • participation in the seminars and oral presentations (20%);

  • a 5,000 word research paper (80%).


Blackboard will be used for posting of messages and information regarding readings and presentations.

Reading list

The key text that students must obtain and which will contain the reading for many of the
lectures/seminars is:

  • Ansell-Pearson, Keith and D. Large (eds.), The Nietzsche Reader , (London: Blackwell, 2006).

Although the majority of Nietzsche’s texts that we will be studying can be found in The
Nietzsche Reader, there are nonetheless many that are not. Students should therefore also
obtain the following editions of Nietzsche’s texts:

  • Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil , ed. by Rolf-Peter Horstmann and J. Norman, trans. by Judith Norman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

  • Nietzsche, Daybreak , ed. by Maudemarie Clark and Brian Leiter, trans. by R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

  • Nietzsche, The Gay Science , ed. by Bernard Williams, trans. by Josefine Nauckhoff (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

  • Nietzsche, The Will to Power , trans. by Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage Books, 1968).

Students are then required to obtain the following texts by Lyotard:

  • The Differend: Phrases in Dispute , trans. by Georges Van Den Abbeele (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1988).

  • The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge , trans. by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986).

  • Just Gaming, trans. by Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996).


Please register for this course on uSis.
See Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply. See also Registration for courses and examinations

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Aanmelden voor Contractonderwijs via:
Na aanmelding ook inschrijven voor cursus en tentamen via uSis

Contact information

J.S. Pearson, MA