Northwestern Events Calendar


Graduate Political Theory Workshop: Charlotte Mencke 'To Kill the Sons of Brutus'

When: Friday, March 11, 2022
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM Central

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Stephen Monteiro   (847) 491-7451

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Global & Civic Engagement


Please join us for our final workshop of the quarter. Charlotte Mencke will be presenting her paper 'To Kill the Sons of Brutus': Foundings, Filicides, and Biblical Reference in Machiavelli's Discourses." Shawn Dean will act as discussant. This will be a hybrid workshop taking place in Scott Hall 212 and on Zoom.

ABSTRACT This paper argues that Machiavelli advances a political pedagogy that explicitly includes allusions to scripture and religious symbolism in order to communicate through political violence. Through a close reading of Machiavelli’s usage of the filicides of Lucius Junius Brutus and Manlius Torquatus, Mencke seeks to demonstrate that political violence, so central to Machiavellian politics in general and foundings, in particular, is in these cases religiously inflected, involving clear allusions to the biblical killing of Jesus Christ. Mencke does not contend that this is the only communicative intent of the scenes in question, but rather that it supplements their already multilayered purpose. It is Mencke's further claim that Machiavelli did not intend to advance a political theology through these scriptural references, but rather to suggest that political violence, while interpretively open-ended, benefits both from the meaning-making potential of religious metaphor and its reaches toward the numinous. In crafting his case for a founding that is both political and religious, then, Machiavelli is keenly aware that any founder would be ill-advised to forego the religious passions, practices, and preoccupations already present in a people. The scenes Mencke investigates in this paper stand in a twofold relation to Christianity: on the one hand, they draw attention to the spectacular violence of its origin story. On the other hand, Christianity is a powerful tool for a political pedagogy that centers citizens as collaborators in the interpretation of a theatrical founding scene.

Charlotte Mencke is a PhD student in the Political Science Department at Northwestern University with special interests in Ancient Greek Political Thought, Democratic Theory, Hannah Arendt, among other subjects. 

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