How is juggling like being a good person? What can the trapeze tell us about truth? What does circus have to do with the self?
In 2017, I started a novel project of combing physical movement, performance, and the circus arts with philosophical study with the creation of my course PHI 193 Circus and Philosophy. Intended for the philosophical novice who is also cirque-curious, this course uses circus as a springboard for philosophical inquiry.
This innovative course is FULLY participatory. Students don’t just learn about the circus, they learn how to circus. Each full week is divided into two classes: one in which students learn a specific circus skill, such as aerial arts, juggling, or acro-balancing, and another in which students investigate various philosophical topics in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and more.
Don’t know how to juggle? Don’t know who Descartes is or what he said? No worries. No background in either circus arts or philosophy is required. A sense of wonder, a healthy curiosity about the world, and an appetite for adventure are strongly encouraged.
Recently, a large gym space on campus has been structurally upgraded to include 6 aerial dropline points ready for use with various aerial apparatuses – silks, trapeze, lyra, rope, etc., as well as ground and other circus equipment. This “Circus Lab” will allow UK students greater room for movement and artistic exploration. It will also be the hub for future interdisciplinary research and educational projects involving the circus arts.
PHI 193: Circus and Philosophy class will next run fall 2021 in the Circus Lab (Barker 104).
You can read a bit more about the class here.