Critical Theory 200
Critique, Recognition, and Laughter
Fridays, 2-5 pm, 4226 Dwinelle
This course will introduce key concepts of foundational texts in 19th century philosophy that serve as a basis for subsequent elaborations in critical theory and in French theory. We will, as much as possible, derive these concepts from readings of selections of the primary texts that present them. We will begin with an introduction to Kant’s notion of critical philosophy (his Copernican Revolution) as this pertains to issues of epistemology, ethics and esthetics by reading extracts from each of Kant’s three major Critiques (the Critique of Pure Reason, the Critique of Practical Reason and the Critique of Judgment). We will then turn to Hegel, examining first the logical basis for his dialectical philosophy (reading the preface to his Science of Logic and extracts from it) and then key aspects of his Phenomenology of the Spirit, with special emphasis on the sections “The Unhappy Consciousness” and “Lord and Bondage” (or the scene of recognition, which introduces issues of inter-subjectivity); we will take a brief detour through Alexander Kojève’s interpretation of the Hegelian recognition scene that was influential to subsequent French philosophy. This will lead us into an examination of Marx’s critique of Hegel and an examination of key concepts from Marx’s Capital. We will end with a brief examination of George Bataille’s response to Hegel in Eroticism and two texts of Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals and Untimely Meditations: On the Use and Abuse of History.
Readings will include selections from the following: Adorno, Hegel, Three Studies (tr. Shierry Weber, MIT Press, 1994); Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason (selections), The Critique of Practical Reason (selections), The Critique of Judgment (selections) Hegel, Science of Logic (preface and selections), The Phenomenology of Spirit (selections); Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit (CUP, 1980); Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Early Writings, tr. Rodney Livingston and Gregor Benton (Harmondsworth: Pengui, 1992), Capital I: A Critique of Political Economy (selections); Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, ed. Keith Ansell-Pearson (Cambridge UP, 2007); Untimely Meditations: On the Use and Abuse of History for Life (1873), tr. Ian C. Johnston; Bataille, Eroticism. Suggested Readings: Surya Michel, De l’argent. La ruine de la politique (Editions payot et Rivages, 2009 – if English text available). David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital.
Critical Theory 205/German 265/Film 240
Cinema and the Politics of Crisis
Mondays, 2-6 pm, 282 Dwinelle
The seminar investigates German cinema of the late Weimar Republic and its complex relationship to the growing social and political unrest of the period. Special attention will be paid to the transition from silent cinema to sound after 1929 and the transition from a democratic to a fascist system after 1933. We will analyze selected films between 1929, the year of the stock market crash, and 1936, the year of the Berlin Olympics and Hitler’s greatest triumph. Our theoretical guide will be the political, economic, and cultural writings of the Frankfurt School during that time period. Larger questions will include the tension between aesthetics and politics, the role of the intellectual, and the very concept of crisis. Films by Bert Brecht, Fritz Lang, G.W. Pabst, Max Ophüls, and Leni Riefenstahl, among others. Texts by Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse, Leo Löwenthal, et al.
Critical Theory 240/English 203:4
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 12:30-2 pm, 121 Wheeler
This course will explore the literary and cultural significance of philosophies of life. To set the course in motion, we shall begin with two provocative works: Terry Eagleton’s The Meaning of Life and Elizabeth Grosz’s The Nick of Time. In exploring the meaning of life, Eagleton takes us on a tour of the many meanings of life. In readings of Darwin, Nietzsche, Bergson and Deleuze, Grosz identifies life with temporality or a way of holding the past, present and future together. The course will then be divided into four major sections, combining literary and philosophical works: Romanticism, Nietzscheanism, Bergsonism, and Bio-power. In our discussion of Romanticism we shall focus on what M. H. Abrams long ago determined to be its core concept—life. We shall explore the significance of the Romantics’ interest in the scientific attempts to understand life, monstrous life forms and life’s interconnectedness. Our study of Nietzscheanism will culminate in a reading of Mann’s Dr. Faustus whose protagonist embodies the temptations and dangers of Nietzschean Lebensphilosophie, but we shall begin with Nietzsche’s own affirmation of life against asceticism. We shall also study the interpretation of his philosophy developed by Georg Simmel whose influence on cultural studies and philosophy is still underestimated. Anticipating Martin Heidegger, and in response to The Great War, Simmel registers the cultural shift from the affirmation of life to the authentic facing of death. We shall then move to the study of Bergsonism. We shall read Bergson’s most culturally influential work, not his more strictly philosophical works. We shall investigate the fear of mechanical inelasticity and becoming automaton, his critiques of limits of mechanistic thinking about life, and his valorization of intuition and process as the epistemology and ontology suited to life, respectively. We shall then discuss how these ideas are thematized in works by D.H. Lawrence, Aimé Césaire and Leopold Senghor. But we will also attend to the visual arts to explore how vitalist themes were played out. On the one hand, Bergsonism provided a language with which to appreciate African art; on the other hand, the vitalist themes of Bergson and Georges Sorel were appropriated by the European fascist avant-garde. The course will conclude with the recent discussion of the nature of life in the theorization of biopower, biopolitics and the homo sacer.
Required readings (the reading will be composed of both selections and whole texts from the following books): Introduction – Terry Eagleton, The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction; Elizabeth Grosz, The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution and the Untimely; The Romantics – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus; M. H. Abrams, “The World’s Song of Life and Joy”; Denise Gigante, Life: Organic Form and Romanticism; Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature; Nietzscheanism – Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morals; Georg Simmel, The View of Life: Four Metaphysical Essays with Journal Applications; Thomas Mann, Dr. Faustus: The Life of the Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend; Bergsonism – Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution; Henri Bergson, Comedy; D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love; Aimé Césaire, Cahier d’un Retour Au Pays Natal (English and French edition), ed. Abiola Irele; Souleymane Bachir Diagne, African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson and the Idea of Négritude; Mark Antliff, Avant-garde Fascism: The Mobilization of Myth, Art and Culture in France, 1909-1939; Biopower and Biopolitics – Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended; Thomas Lemke, Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction; Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go.
Political Science 212C
History of Political Thought: Modern (French Revolution through World War II)
Tuesdays, 10 am-12 pm, 791 Barrows
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.
Comp Lit 298:2
Reading Hegel Now (2.0 units)
This two-credit seminar will meet 6 times throughout the semester and each meeting will be devoted to one of the following questions: Why read Hegel now? How do we read Hegel now? Why is reading the Phenomenology different from reading other Hegelian texts? Why is Hegel so difficult? What is the relation between Hegel and contemporary critical theory? A final session will be arranged for student presentations. Students will be asked to write a 9-10 page paper. Texts: Hegel, Early Theological Writings; Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit; sections from Hegel’s The Philosophy of Right and the Logic. A course reader will be available in late August that will include various critical essays.
Class Days and Location (all begin at 5 pm):
Thurs, Sept 1: 3335 Dwinelle Hall
Thurs, Sept 15: 370 Dwinelle Hall
Tues, Sept 27: 370 Dwinelle Hall
Tues, Oct 18: 370 Dwinelle Hall
Thurs, Nov 3: 370 Dwinelle Hall
Thurs, Dec 8: 370 Dwinelle Hall
Habermas: Critical Debates
Fridays 10 am-12 pm, 2227 Dwinelle
No intellectual of our time has generated as many productive controversies as the leading figure of the second generation of the Frankfurt School, Jürgen Habermas. Embodying in his own practice the principles of communicative rationality he so avidly defends on the level of theory, Habermas has responded to an extraordinary number of interlocutors, and in so doing raised the level of intellectual discourse in several different contexts. This course will combine readings of several of his own seminal texts with an examination of the rebuttals and counter-rebuttals they have engendered.
Readings: Matthew Specter, Habermas: An Intellectual Biography (Cambridge, 978-0-521-73831); Martin Beck Matustik, Jürgen Habermas: A Philosophical-Political Profile (Rowman and Littlefield, 0-7425-0797-1); Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (MIT; 0-262-58108-6); Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (MIT: 0-262-08163-6); Jürgen Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society (Beacon: 0-8070-1513-x); Jürgen Habermas, Legitimation Crisis (Beacon: 0-8070-1521-0); Jürgen Habermas, Postmetaphysical Thinking (MIT 0-262-08209-8); Craig Calhoun, ed., Habermas and the Public Sphere (MIT: 0-262-53114-3); Lasse Thomassen, ed., The Derrida-Habermas Reader (Chicago, 0-226-79684-1); John Thompson and David Held, Habermas: Critical Debates (MIT: 0-262-70023-9); Richard Bernstein, ed., Habermas and Modernity (MIT 0-262-52102-4); Axel Honneth and Hans Joas, eds., Communicative Action (Polity: 0-7456-055540) Peter Dews, ed., Habermas: Autonomy and Solidarity (Verso, 0-86091 8521).
Socio-cultural Critique of Education
Mondays 1-4 pm, 5509 Tolman
This course is designed to introduce students to a social and cultural critique of education and society. As a survey course, it examines the theoretical and practical nature of a critical theory of education. Additionally, the nature of power will be examined and the way that social groups position themselves in such relations. This understanding will be instructive for our ability to confront the contours of inequality and the everyday effects of “privilege.”