Spring 2019

Core Courses

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

German 256
Problems of Literary Theory

Karen Feldman
Mondays, 4-7pm, Dwinelle 282
Class #: 30071

This course will focus on the themes of Enlightenment, critique and freedom, centering on readings of Kant and Hegel. We will begin with Kant’s “What is Enlightenment?” and then turn to his aesthetic theory and his attempt to ground a moral theory. Our study of Hegel begins with his criticisms of Kant’s moral philosophy. We will then move on to Hegel’s formulations of how philosophy works, and ultimately, we will spend several weeks studying selected sections of the Phenomenology of Spirit. Most weeks will include short commentaries, aphorisms and criticisms from other prominent authors in the history of critical theory, most notably Marx, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Adorno and Arendt. The goal is for students to understand not only some of the basic concepts and gestures in Kant and Hegel, but also to place those within the context of 19th – and 20th -century Critical Theory.

This instance of German 256 counts towards Critical Theory DE students’ Critical Theory 200 requirement.

Film 240/Gender and Women’s Studies 210
Queer Aesthetics

Damon R Young
Tuesdays 2-5 pm, Barrows 602
Class #: 25473/26793

This course explores the encounter between queer theory and aesthetics. Moving away from the recent social scientific turn in queer studies, it seeks to unearth and advance approaches that focus on questions of reading, emphasize aesthetic experience, and pay close attention to “cultural objects,” understood as both aesthetic artifacts and sites of ideological and political tension. Three perspectives, formulated as questions, guide our inquiries: (1) What kinds of queer thought about the arts and “the aesthetic” as a category have emerged in recent critical theory (in works by, for example, Fred Moten, David Getsy, and Jennifer Doyle)? Here queer is understood in the largest sense, as a troubling of the categories of the “normal”; (2) Is it possible to track a history of specifically queer (now in the sense of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or gender nonnormative) aesthetics — that would pass through categories like camp, the fabulous, the melodramatic, etc? We will consider this question in relation to specific films, performances, and works of art by, for example, Langston Hughes, Jean Genet, Andy Warhol, Ming Wong, and Narcissister; (3) How has queer theory — in its now-canonical disciplinary sense — been shaped from the outset by the critical encounter with aesthetic objects, from Eve Sedgwick’s Between Men and Epistemology of the Closet to Stephen Best’s None Like Us and Tavia Nyong’o’s Afro-Fabulations? For students with no background in queer theory, this course will serve as an introduction to some of its key texts and debates; for students interested in aesthetics, visual art, performance, film, or literature, this course will challenge you to put your reading practices into a critical theoretical frame through the lens of queerness. We will read foundational texts of queer and aesthetic theory, and spend a significant amount of time on recent developments in the field, especially in its intersections with Black, trans, and disability studies.

This instance of Film 240/Gender and Women’s Studies 210 counts towards Critical Theory DE students’ Critical Theory 240 requirement.

French 274
Traditions of Critical Thought: French Theories and Their Aftermaths

Eglantine L. Colon
Fridays 1-4pm, Dwinelle 4226
Class #: 30771

In this course, students will be introduced to the theoretical problems that have emerged in France in the wake of “French Theory.” We will consider the extent to which the questions and epistemological methods of structuralism, post-structuralism and deconstruction have been reshaped through the political urgencies of the 1980s and 1990s, in particular, the emergence of neo-liberalism and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Reading Derrida, Malabou, Blanchot, Nancy, Rancière, Foucault and Mbembé, we will explore how recent critical theory written in French has negotiated the enabling and foreclosing effects of these phenomena, as well as the intellectual traditions there carry with them, on the very procedures of critique—especially when critique aiming at social emancipation. Derrida’s late engagement with Marx through the notion of “spectrality” will be our first case study, followed by Malabou’s conceptualization of “plasticity” in the wake of Derrida’s “écriture.” We will then will move to three of the fundamental theoretical gestures of the last three decades: the conceptualization of the “community,” alongside literary creation and at a critical distance from communism (Nancy, Blanchot, Rancière); the redefinition of the political, against the police order, as a disruptive redistribution of the sensible (Rancière); and the re-articulation of power as differentially exerted upon life (Foucault, Mbembé). In their oral presentations and papers, students will be encouraged to bring in the materials in dialogue with their areas of specialization. Seminars will conducted in English. Readings in French.

This instance of French 274 counts towards Critical Theory DE students’ Critical Theory 240 requirement.

Rhetoric 240G
Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Rhetorical Theory – On War and Revolution: Legal and Political Histories

Samera Esmeir
Mondays 3-6pm, Dwinelle 7415
Class #: 26496

In her introduction to On Revolution, Hannah Arendt notes the interrelationship between war and revolution with regards to questions of freedom and violence, and adds: “whatever the outcome of our present predicaments may be, if we don’t perish together, it seems more than likely that revolution, in distinction to war, will stay with us into the foreseeable future. Even if we should succeed in changing the physiognomy of this century to the point where it would no longer be a century of wars, it most certainly will remain a century of revolutions.” Meanwhile, in the second half of the twentieth century, national liberation movements successfully argued that their anti-colonial revolutions should be classified as international armed conflicts (that is, inter-state wars). How national liberation movements understood the distinction between international and non-international armed conflicts differed from how Arendt understood the relationship between war and revolution. Still, the two itineraries of the relationship between war and revolution, in the legal and the political fields, demand inquiry. This seminar explores these relationships and their modern histories. We will read early modern writings about rebellion and war in the natural legal tradition. We will also investigate the uniquely modern meanings of revolution and its relationship to war from the nineteenth century through decolonization. Our readings will primarily consist of political and legal theoretical texts, with a few additions from intellectual history and anthropology. Our objective is to better appreciate the vexed relationship between two concepts—war and revolution—so that to think through what remains of political struggle in the present.

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

Sociology 202B
Advanced Study in Sociology Theory: Marxist Theories of Politics

Dylan Riley
Thursdays 12-2pm, Barrows 402
Class #: 24633

This course introduces the Marxist tradition of political thought. This might seem like a surprising topic since it is common in academic discussions to dismiss Marxist theories of politics as “reductionist” or “economistic”. But as we will see over the course, this is a very misleading interpretation of the tradition. Indeed, many fundamental political issues of the modern world such as the nature of the relationship of the state to major social forces, the dynamics of political struggle in capitalist society, and the strategic options available to, and pitfalls facing, social forces aiming to implement radical change, have been most clearly posed and sharply discussed within this tradition. The course follows a broadly chronological organization. It begins by reviewing the strategic debates within Marxism among such major figures as: Bernstein, Engels, Gramsci, Kautsky, Lenin, Luxemburg, Marx and Trotsky. The class then traces these discussions forward to the high period of neo-Marxist political theorizing in the seventies (Miliband, Poulantzas and Therborn) before examining some more contemporary Marxist strategic discussions (Anderson, Brenner, Przeworski and Wright). Students are expected to have a basic grasp of classical social theory as a pre-requisite for attending the seminar.

This instance of Sociology 202B counts towards Critical Theory DE students’ Critical Theory 240 requirement.

Elective Courses

The following courses satisfy Critical Theory Designated Emphasis elective requirements.

City and Regional Planning 291.2 | Rhetoric 240G.1
The City, Arts, and Public Space

Teresa Caldeira and Shannon Jackson
Tuesdays 1-4pm, Wurster 214B
Class #: 32432 | 26495

Local urban practices and artistic interventions are recreating public spaces in metropolises around the world. This graduate seminar draws from different methods across the humanities and environmental design to explore some of these interventions and to theorize about the public character of the transformations that they provoke. This course is part of an initiative that aims to connect different disciplines to produce new knowledge, methods, and pedagogies for the understanding of metropolises worldwide.

We will juxtapose different methodological and theoretical debates to address questions such as: how can we conceive of the public in cities connected globally by communication technologies? What are the spaces and mechanisms for contesting and reconfiguring these publics? What are the assumptions behind terms such as “global city,” “megacity,” and “world city”? How are cities branded, made into spectacles, and represented? What are the potentials and what are the limits of the “creative class” discourse in arts-based urban planning? How is civic inequality reproduced locally and transnationally? How do new urban practices and artistic interventions affect configurations of gender, race, and the representation of violence? How is precarity reproduced and aestheticized? These questions will be addressed through readings and the investigation of selected cases both in the Bay Area and internationally.

Throughout, students will be exposed to and critically consider different kinds of methodologies, including interview methods, observation, discourse analysis, formal analysis, archival research, and photography.

Comparative Literature 202C
The Novel and Sociological Forms of Knowledge

Michael Lucey
Mondays 2-5pm, 4125A Dwinelle
Class #: 30581

What is sociological knowledge? How do certain novels acquire the resources to produce sociological forms of knowledge?  In particular, what aesthetic practices and what features of novelistic form contribute to this kind of knowledge production? What critical frameworks allow us to perceive this aspect of the conceptual or representational work that novels do?  We will use a series of American, French, and English novels to pursue these questions, reading in tandem with them a variety of classic sociological works, including work by Durkheim, Weber, Du Bois, Simmel, Bourdieu, and a few others, as well as some recent literary criticism.

Novels:  Balzac, Old Man Goriot; Eliot, Felix Holt: The Radical, Trollope, Phineas Finn,  Proust, The Guermantes Way;  Ellison, Invisible Man

Comparative Literature 250
Studies in Literary Theory: Kafka and His Commentators

Judith Butler
Wednesdays 2-5pm, 425 Doe Library
Class #: 26545

This course will undertake a close reading of Kafka’s parables, letters, and short stories as well as The Trial to understand the relationship between literature, law, and justice.  We will consider as well some key commentators on his work, including Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, and Jacques Derrida.

To gain permission for this course, you must be a graduate student enrolled in UC Berkeley and write a letter of application to complitga@berkeley.edu by November 20th.  That letter should be one page single-spaced and include your background in literary studies, your proficiency in German (not required), and your own reasons for wishing to take this course.

Enrollment will be restricted to 18 students.

English 250
Philosophical Idealizations of Art and Modernist Practices

Charles F. Altieri
Thursdays, 12:30-3:30pm, Wheeler 305
Class #: 30001

This course stems from my fascination with how often major philosophers idealized art by attributing to it powers that could promise versions of redemption from practical life. I want to read Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Pater, Bergson, Heidegger, and an anthology of statements by modernist paintings to get clear on what was argued and why people could believe or at least engage those arguments, as indeed most of the major modernist painters and poets did. Then we will look at some paintings and essays by Picasso and Malevich along with the poetry of at least Yeats, Pound, and Marianne Moore. In one sense I think teachers in the arts need to know well the best possible accounts of the powers that they can mediate in their professional lives. In another I am amazed by agreement about the roles of art in cultural life of these philosophers coming at the questions from many perspectives. What cultural conditions led to their developing those perspectives? And does knowledge of the cultural conditions breed skepticism for us or tilt us toward sympathy with such projects? How can we make plausible counter arguments? How do twentieth-century writers manage to elaborate and defend similar idealizations in an age usually seen as deeply ironic? And can these perspectives make materialist arguments about the arts more difficult to make, even perhaps as they make them more necessary?teaches why art was so idealized in the 19th century and how Yeats and Pound tried to realize in poetry those ideals. We read Kant, Hegel, perhaps Schiller and Schopenauer, certainly Nietzsche, Pater, Heidegger and Bergson.

French 251
Fictional Writings of History in Post-Colonial Maghribi Literature

Soraya Tlatli
Wednesdays, 2-5pm, Dwinelle 4125A
Class #: 22405

In this seminar, we will first explore the various meanings of writing History from a fictional point of view. According to this perspective, we will explore literary works by Assia Djebar, Kateb Yacine, and Tahar Djaout. On a theoretical level, we will analyze essays by Michel de Certeau, Jacques Rancière, and Ibn Khaldun.

In the second part of the seminar, we will analyze the contemporary transformations that have affected the Muslim world, and more specifically the Maghreb, in its relation to death, violence, and sacrifice in post-colonial times. To explore these questions, we will read essays by Freud, Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, Achille Mbembé, Talal Asad, and Veena Das. The course is taught in French, and discussions will be held in English or French.

Italian 248 | Spanish 280.2
Decentering the Early Modern: Utopian Texts in the Atlantic World

Diego Pirillo and Ivonne del Valle
Tuesdays, 4-7pm, Dwinelle 6331
Class #: 22747 | 32223

Whether or not the Renaissance truly was “the first genuinely global movement in the history of ideas,” (Burke, Clossey, Fernández-Armesto, 2017) it is certain that the “global turn” in historical studies has transformed our understanding of this epoch in Western history marked by the recovery of classical antiquity. A growing body of scholarship reminds us of the many debts the Renaissance owed to the Mediterranean and the Islamic worlds while also examining the different ways in which Renaissance culture spread beyond Europe, and the responses it produced from Mexico to China. This scholarship also pays attention to Europe’s response to the challenges posed by other civilizations and religions. To decenter the early modern world this seminar moves beyond the rigid and traditional Eurocentric vision of the period by recovering the transfer of people, ideas, and knowledge that existed during the ‘first globalization’, especially as it materialized in the Atlantic world starting in 1492.

The seminar will introduce students to the most recent historiographical and theoretical trends in the field of Renaissance and early modern/colonial studies that present alternative viewing positions from which to understand what this epoch meant for those living in it, and for the future. A strong component of the seminar will be early modern utopias (More, Quiroga, Bruno, Campanella, Sahagún, Bacon, Harrington, Winthrop, Penn and others), especially as they are carried out in the Americas, and in the desire to undo the many political and religious wrongs of the moment.

Music 249
Interpretive Theories and Music: Future Trends in Ethnomusicological Research 

Jocelyne M. Guibault
Tuesdays, 2-5pm, Morrison 242
Class #: 31102

The course will look at theoretical trends in social sciences, humanities, and cultural studies influencing the reshaping of ethnomusicology, the cultural study of music and sound. How is the vocabulary of ethnomusicology changing? Who is being read and why? What are the key words and key concepts emerging in this moment in contemporary academic discourse? In this seminar, we will explore the genealogies and evaluate the intellectual utility of new theoretical perspectives for planning research in ethnomusicology. The areas of critical investigation will include subjectivity and personhood, affect and emotion, body and the senses, and violence, trauma, and social memory.

Philosophy 290-3
Michel Foucault: The Order of Things

Hans Sluga, Paolo Mancosu
Tuesdays, 4-6pm, Moses 234
Class #: 18122

An in-depth reading of Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things within the context of his early work.

Political Science 212C
Modern Political Theory

Wendy Brown
Tuesdays, 4-6pm, Barrows 749
Class #: 32174

A weekly seminar on political thought in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Modern political theorists, typically including Tocqueville, Hegel, Marx, Mill, Nietzsche, and Weber.

Rhetoric 108
Introduction to Nietzsche

James Porter
Tuesdays/Thursdays 5-6:30pm, Valley Life Sciences 2011
Class #: 30804

An introduction to the writings of Nietzsche over the full length of his career. Themes to be covered will include cultural history (temporality, historical consciousness, genealogy, and the interrelations between antiquity, modernity, and the present); cultural critique; science; religion; ethics; art; the art of writing; and the art of “voicing” (posing, posturing, theatricalizing). Works to be read, many of these in selections, will include early notes, essays, and fragments, The Birth of TragedyOn the Uses and Disadvantages of History for LifeZarathustraBeyond Good and EvilOn the Genealogy of MoralityTwilight of the Idols and Ecce Homo, with a accompanying secondary materials from Diderot, Foucault, Nehamas, Reginster, and others.

Rhetoric 250
Rhetoric of the Image

Winnie Won Yin Wong, Nasser Zakariya
Wednesdays 2-5pm, Dwinelle 7415
Class #: 32349

What is art? What is science? And are distinctions—whether imagined, philosophical, historical, or practical—between the two critical to any productive conception of them? This course probes literature from and about both art and science in order interrogate this operative distinction, in turn questioning how both histories and practices of “art” and “science” implicitly or explicitly stake out their limits. To do so, we examine a vocabulary that has forced itself into the texts of art and science—Life, Self, Future, Universal, Vision, Globes, Genius, Ugliness, Shock, and Big. We examine such “formations of meaning” across space and time, and across domains of practice. We look to the play of these terms in artistic and scientific discourse and practice in order to gain a sense of how the relationship between art and science has been imagined and enacted.