Fall 2018

Core Courses

The following courses satisfy Critical Theory Designated Emphasis core course requirements.

Comparative Literature 221.1
Aesthetics as Critique: Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory

Robert Kaufman
Wednesdays, 2-5pm, 4104 Dwinelle
Class #: 30819

This seminar is not an introduction to Theodor W. Adorno’s work; rather, it will involve sustained reading and discussion of Adorno’s last major text, which he was still finishing at the time of his 1969 death: Aesthetic Theory (1970). We will be reading Robert Hullot-Kentor’s English translation of Ästhetische Theorie; though we will sometimes briefly consider the original German text, knowledge of German is not required (though it would of course prove very helpful).

What makes possible such sustained reading of a dense, famously difficult work, is at least some familiarity with figures, texts, and artistic, aesthetic, and political movements that Aesthetic Theory  assumes its readers to have had some acquaintance with, including—among many others—Kant, Hegel, Marx and Engels, Lukács, the French Revolutions of 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1871, Lenin, the Bolshevik Revolution, Marxism-Leninism, Romanticism,  Realism, Symbolism,  Naturalism, Modernism, Dada, Surrealism, Avant-Gardism,  Social and Socialist Realism,  Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Postmodernism!!!

It’s worth knowing that Adorno’s final text is written with the expectation—though it won’t be our expectation or prerequisite—that its readers will have previously encountered, for example, the following exts:  Kant’s Critique of Judgment; Hegel’s Lectures on the Fine Arts and Phenomenology of Spirit; Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach, Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, and Das Kapital (esp. the chapter-section “The Secret of Commodity Fetishism”); Marx and Engels’ The German Ideology and The Communist Manifesto; Walter Benjamin’s “One-Way Street,” “The Storyteller,” “Surrealism,” “The Author as Producer,” “Conversations with Brecht,” “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility [Mechanical Reproduction],” “The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire,” “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire,” “On the Concept of History [Theses on the Philosophy of History],”  The Origins of the German Play of Mourning, and The Arcades Project; as well as Adorno and/or Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, “On Lyric Poetry and Society,” “Cultural Criticism and Society,” “Commitment [Engagement],” “The Essay as Form,” “Parataxis”,  Minima Moralia, and Negative Dialectics. (Take a deep breath, and then realize that, depending on how you feel at any given moment, it gets better–-or worse: that is, what you’ve just read has been, incredibly enough, a very minimal listing!)

Meanwhile, Aesthetic Theory offers sustained and repeated yet often extraordinarily compressed responses to some celebrated political and aesthetic/critical-theory debates, and does so on yet another assumption: that Aesthetic Theory’s readers are aware not only of these debates, but of the histories of  key concepts and phenomena at issue within them, such as: the status of objectivist conceptuality vs. aesthetic quasi- or extra-conceptuality; the notions, in art and critical theory, of the constellation and force-field; the concepts of use-value, exchange value, and reflective-judgment value; mechanical/technical/technological reproduction’s value, over/against aesthetic value; art’s political commitment (or engagement) vs. its aesthetic/artistic autonomy;  mass, popular, and conceptually undetermined culture; relations among subjectivity, critical agency, and class consciousness.

And finally, Aesthetic Theory presumes that among the artists we as readers will know include Cervantes, Shakespeare,Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Hölderlin, Shelley, Byron, Dickens, Robert Browning, Swinburne, Mörike, Rilke, Stefan George, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Zola, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Ibsen, Strindberg, Eliot, Pound, William Carlos Williams, the Surrealists,Brecht, Lorca, Sartre, Joyce, Beckett, Celan, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wagner, Berg, Webern, Schönberg, Weill, Eisler, Boulez, Cage, Stockhausen, Goya, David, Ingres, Delacroix, Gericault, Courbet, Manet, Cezanne, Monet, Picasso, Braque, Grosz, Gris, Léger, Pollock, Kline, Rothko, Guston….

Our first four sessions or so will be devoted to an extremely brisk sketching and discussion of the earlier texts, figures, political/artistic/critical movements, and concepts mentioned above (starting with the Kant and continuing through writings by Adorno and his Frankfurt School colleagues). The major part of the semester’s undertakings—our close, careful reading of Aesthetic Theory—will then seek, starting probably in our fifth session, to understand, interpret, and respond to the text’s treatments of modern art’s development on its own terms, and in relation to mostly Kantian, Hegelian, Marxian, and earlier Frankfurt Critical-Theory traditions of aesthetics and critique. We’ll pay ongoing attention to how and why the imaginative, potentially intersubjective activity traditionally understood to be at the heart of aesthetic experience turns out, with various twists, to be crucial too to Adorno’s overall analyses of modernity, mechanical/technical/technological reproduction and reproducibility (in both the economic and artistic-aesthetic spheres), and critical agency. We’ll also consider how Aesthetic Theory’s concerns and legacies might engage the changed sociopolitical circumstances—and the changed artistic-aesthetic, critical-theoretical tendencies­—of the last four decades.  Among the seminar’s emphases will be an ongoing inquiry into how attention to artworks’ formal, stylistic, and philosophical-theoretical dynamics (the relation of artistic technique to aesthetic form and aesthetic experience) may offer stimulus toward, and insight into, historical, sociopolitical, and ethical understanding and engagement.

This instance of Comparative Literature 221 counts towards Critical Theory DE students’ Critical Theory 205 requirement.

Gender and Women’s Studies 235.1*
Capitalism, Gender and the Present Moment

Leslie Lane Salzinger
Wednesdays, 2-5pm, 602 Barrows
Class #: 21666

Capitalism is often seen as a system that overrides everything in its path. However, a closer look at its development suggests that it emerged and still operates within and in relation to gender and racial domination, reconstituting those meanings and systems in turn. In this seminar, we will investigate that imbrication, exploring the role and constitution of gender and race in ongoing primitive accumulation, in the labor of social reproduction, and in the unfolding of the neoliberal present. Over the course of the semester, we will explore exploitation’s ongoing operations amid a broad terrain of appropriation by other means. We will investigate the myriad ways in which social reproduction is accomplished through heteronormative family structures that are simultaneously utilized and denied. And we will delineate the reshaping and intensification of all these processes under neoliberalism, as well as the challenges these new capitalist discourses pose to feminism itself.

*Might also appear as GWS 210.1 in the schedule of classes. Please verify instructor information, meeting time, and class number prior to enrollment.

This instance of Gender and Women’s Studies 235 counts towards Critical Theory DE students’ Critical Theory 240 requirement.

Rhetoric 240G.2
Ethics without Morals: Nietzsche and Adorno

James Porter
Thursdays, 2-5pm, 7415 Dwinelle
Class #: 32789

Can you live ethically without following moral norms—norms that are given institutionally and reinforced by culture and convention? The question is at least as old as the Cynics, and it remains a vital problem today. This seminar will examine the issues through a close study (a slow reading) of two works: Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals and Adorno’s Minima Moralia. Supplementary materials will include selections from Kant, Freud, Foucault, Deleuze, and Bernard Williams, additional selections from both Nietzsche and Adorno, and more recent theory (Rose, Butler, Balibar). This is not a course in philosophy (although philosophy majors are welcome). It is a course in radical thought and radical writing.

No prerequisites.

Seminar format. Weekly blog posts; in-class presentations; final research paper.

This instance of Rhetoric 240G counts towards Critical Theory DE students’ Critical Theory 240 requirement.

Elective Courses

The following courses satisfy Critical Theory Designated Emphasis elective requirements.

Critical Theory 290.1 | Law 267.4
American Legal History

Christopher Tomlins
Mondays, 2-5pm, 2240 Piedmont Avenue
Class #: 21042 | 32271

American Legal History is a reading and discussion seminar. It is the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program’s Foundation Seminar in Law and History. It is open to all JSP graduate students, Berkeley Law JD, LLM and JSD students, graduate students from History, Critical Theory, and other campus programs, and from other Bay Area institutions.

As a field of study, legal history is as much history as it is law, and history is primarily a discipline of the book. This course focuses on books, particularly books about the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will achieve a thorough grounding in American legal history’s formative literatures by reading a wide selection of the field’s best work, ranging from classics that have structured the field (like James Willard Hurst’s Law and the Conditions of Freedom and Morton Horwitz’s Transformation of American Law), to the best work of the current generation (like Laura Edwards’ The People and their Peace and Michael Willrich’s City of Courts), to notable recent work by younger scholars (like Karen Tani’s States of Dependency and Ken Mack’s Representing the Race). We will acquaint ourselves with the main currents of American legal history while also exploring the methodological and theoretical possibilities for innovation that exist at the conjunction between history and other social science and humanities disciplines. The course concentrates on the United States, but to set our discussion of theory and method off with a bang, we will begin (literally) in the dark undergrowth of a forest in eighteenth century England.

The course is offered in a 3-unit format that is standard for all JD students, and a 3+1 unit format required for graduate students that gives an additional unit of credit for additional work within the course framework. Each format has its own reading and assessment requirement. For further information on this matter, see the course syllabus.

Education 280A.1
Proseminar: Sociocultural Critique of Education

Zeus Leonardo
Tuesdays, 1-4pm, Berkeley Way West Building
Class #: 28415

These interdisciplinary seminars address a series of questions. In what ways can philosophical, sociological, anthropological, historical, and psychological forms of inquiry be brought together to bear on the analysis of learning, on schooling, and on education more generally? What do we mean by critical and interpretive theories, and what are their relations with social practice? How can education come to constitute itself otherwise than in its current form?

Film 240.2 | German 265.1
Cinema of Crisis

Tony Kaes
Mondays, 1-6pm, 226 Dwinelle
Class #: 32378 | 32379

The seminar looks at German cinema between 1929 and 1934 through the lens of philosophical writings about crisis — economic, political, and cultural.  We will analyze selected films from the pivotal years before and after the ascent of Hitler and ask how culture registered the gradual transition from a democratic to an autocratic system of government.  Our interrogation will also address larger conceptual questions, such as the entanglement of aesthetics and politics, modernity and myth, proletariat and populism, as well as the very definition of crisis and state of exception.  In addition, we will examine the media-technological shift from silent to sound cinema and radio. We will screen films by Bert Brecht, Fritz Lang, G.W. Pabst, Max Ophüls, Leni Riefenstahl, and lesser-known documentary and avant-garde works.  Most importantly, we will discuss critical interventions by Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Ernst Jünger, Siegfried Kracauer, and Carl Schmitt, as well as retrospective readings of the period by Theodor W. Adorno, Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Jacques Rancière, Peter Sloterdijk, and Jürgen Habermas.