Critical Theory 200/History 280B
The Idea of Reason
Fridays 10 am–12 pm, 3205 Dwinelle
This course will follow the fortunes of the idea of “reason” in the work of Kant, Hegel and Marx. We will also examine several 20th-century assessments of their legacy, including work by Frankfurt School theorists.
Critical Theory 205/Comparative Literature 225
Modern Poetry and Frankfurt School Aesthetics
Tuesdays 2-5 pm, 225 Dwinelle
Readings in modern, and above all modern lyric, poetry (much of it from the U.S., but also from Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Near East) in relation to major Frankfurt-School texts on aesthetics, criticism, and social theory that emphasize the significance of literature (as well as the other arts) and especially poetry. Focused concentration on the writings of Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno, and on their development of Kantian, Hegelian, and Marxian traditions of aesthetics and critical theory. Sustained attention to how and why poetry turns out to be so crucial to the Frankfurters’ (and, in particular, to Benjamin’s and Adorno’s) overall analyses of modernity, mechanical-technical-technological reproduction and reproducibility, and critical agency. Consideration of how Frankfurt-School concerns and legacies might engage the changed sociopolitical circumstances and artistic-aesthetic tendencies—and the changed poetry—of the last three decades; analysis in turn of how later-modernist and contemporary poets’ work may challenge Frankfurt analyses of and assumptions about poetry, aesthetic experience, and critical agency themselves. Readings of poetry throughout the course will tend to emphasize formal, stylistic, and philosophical-theoretical matters in order to highlight the question of how—and to what degree—artistic technique, in relation to aesthetic form and aesthetic experience, may offer stimulus toward and insight into historical, sociopolitical, and ethical understanding and engagement. Some treatment of Romantic and nineteenth-century poetry, and of 21st-century poetry, but the seminar will focus primarily on twentieth-century, modernist poetry (including modernist poetry written and published during the apparently postmodern period).
Critical Theory 240/English 250, Sec. 1
Critical and Peripheral Realisms
Tuesdays 3:30–6:30 pm, 180 Barrows Hall
Book List: Bloch, Ernst, ed., Aesthetics and Politics; Jameson, Fredric, The Political Unconscious; Lukacs, Georg, The Historical Novel; Schwarz, Roberto, A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism; Morrison, Toni, Home; Adiga, Aravind, White Tiger; Park, Ed, Personal Days
We will also read essays and book chapter selections from Eric Auerbach, Theodor Adorno, Raymond Williams, Roland Barthes, Edward Said, Franco Moretti, T.J. Clark, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Gayatri Spivak, Hal Foster, David Palumbo-Liu, Bruce Robbins, Alex Woloch, Madhu Dubey, Ulka Anjaria, Sanjay Krishnan, Stephen Best, Yoon Sun Lee, Marcial Gonzalez, and others.
To what extent has our tendency to measure aesthetic achievement within the terms set by the historical modernisms of 1890-1920 blocked our perception of twentieth century peripheral literatures? This course will entertain historical diagnoses of this tendency and an accounting of some of its costs. As a result of the institutionalization of postcolonial and ethnic studies in the 1980s under a regime of reading for modernism, the magical realism of Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García-Márquez has been celebrated for its subversive antimimeticism; likewise, ethnic studies have tended to value minority literatures by vesting in a melancholic critique of History’s myths, as exemplified by dominant approaches to Toni Morrison and Maxine Hong Kingston. More recently, however, a realist turn in both literature and criticism suggests that we may now be inhabiting a different moment, one that approaches the capitalist world system as partially, potentially describable in its concrete reality rather than one that stylizes, or even heroicizes, the impossibility of mapping it.
We will look at some recent literary trends exemplified by: Morrison’s departure from her signature style; the forgetting of Salman Rushdie in the era of Aravind Adiga’s adaptation of Native Son to contemporary India; and Ed Park’s experimentation with an Asian American novel without Asian American characters. The class will then move to familiarize students with foundational theoretical works in a Marxist tradition of critical realism, including: the aesthetics and politics debates within the Frankfurt School; the British cultural studies tradition represented by Raymond Williams; and the submerged presence of critical realism even within French (semiotic) theory. What are the portable legacies of European Marxism for postcolonial and ethnic projects, given that both attempt to grapple with the literary representation of non-bourgeois European subjects (whether mass proletarian, subaltern, racialized or minoritized)? The last third of the course will examine literary criticism and theory relating to race, historical transition in the postcolony, and combined and uneven development in the world system. For their final papers, students will be asked to select a novel of their choice to research and analyze, using the tools gained from the course. This course should be useful for students wishing to gain a background in Marxist criticism and world-systems theory; in postcolonial and ethnic studies; and in novel theory as it bears upon the political questions central to the former.
Note: Those interested in attending this class should email the instructor a week in advance of the start of the semester for the reading assignment required of the first meeting.
Freud and Lacan
Mary Ann Doane
Wednesdays 2-5 pm, 226 Dwinelle
Readings of major texts by Freud and Lacan will stress the relations between language, subjectivity and sexuality and the feminist use and/or critique of psychoanalytic concepts. We will also look at texts by other theorists (e.g. Melanie Klein, Heinz Kohut) and investigate the clinical implications of various approaches. Familiarity with semiotic and poststructuralist theory required.
Ethnic Studies 250
On Edward Said
Keith P. Feldman
Thursdays 2-5 pm, 129 Barrows Hall
This graduate seminar will focus on the work of Edward W. Said (1935-2003). To think alongside Said is to invite a contrapuntal engagement with some of the most influential arguments animating the interdisciplinary humanities at present. Said’s heterodox oeuvre will invite us to ask, among many things, how we might historicize and intervene in the dynamics of power/knowledge and the state and scholarly institutions that are animated by them; to read closely the presences and absences sedimented in imperial culture’s fields of representation; to contend with humanism’s shifting grounds in the face of modernity’s constitutive violence, expressed via Critical Theory on the one hand and the decolonizing world’s critique of Eurocentrism on the other. Reading Said at present will invite us to think about the practice of theorizing and how theory travels, about an ethics of exile in the face of catastrophe; about where, when, how, and for whom we do the work we do.
Selections from Said’s own publications will serve as the core of our readings, from Beginnings: Intention and Method (1975) to the posthumous On Late Style: Music and Literature against the Grain (2007).
Alongside these will be an array of selections drawn from a variety of interlocutors, including: Anouar Abdel-Malek, Theodor Adorno, Aijaz Ahmad, Emily Apter, Erich Auerbach, Judith Butler, James Clifford, Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Antonio Gramsci, Moustafa Marrouchi, Aamir Mufti, Benita Parry, R. Radhakrishnan, Jacqueline Rose, Ella Shohat, Giambattista Vico, and Raymond Williams.
Social and Cultural Critique of Education
Monday 1-4 pm, 5527 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.”
History and Theory of Curriculum
Tuesdays 1-4 pm, 5509 Tolman
This course explores the development of curriculum theory and the role of the curriculum specialist in the United States since the Progressive Period. Emphasizing a survey of classic texts and key figures, the course covers the development of three schools of thought: social efficiency approaches, child-centered approaches, and social reconstructionist approaches. It concludes with a study of curriculum theory since the Reconceptualists.
Violence and Subjectivity: On Trauma and History
Mondays 10am-1pm, 221 Kroeber
We know well – in the midst of American wars and in the aftermath of massive uprisings in the Middle East and the violent repression and struggles that ensued, that we inhabit a world of wars, occupations, revolutions, destruction, insurgency, and survival that affect collective existence as well as the most intimate dimensions of personal life. Traumatic experience is at once ever present as a contemporary dimension of life and death, and it is normalized as a strategy of global power and an instrumental economy of claims. On the one hand the individualized, biographical and visual representation of violent and traumatic events have become central pieces in the construction of juridical evidence and of cultural and political reality. On the other hand the coming of death to the fore in our historical time, in the lives of subjects and collectivities, shatters a linear reckoning of history, and forces us to think otherwise – taking seriously Freud’s insight in Beyond the Pleasure Principle that trauma points to a confrontation with the limits and the outside of life and human history. It requires us to reflect, once again, and as S. Freud and W. Benjamin had done half a century ago, on the enigmatic nature of traumatic loss for subjects and collectivities, beyond the logic of clinical and juridical operations, and on related concepts of history and crisis, as Koselleck’s reflections on time and modernity suggest for us.
Drawing on readings from critical and psychoanalytic theories of memory, history, and trauma, but also attempting to think trauma, history, and crisis from anthropological and historical accounts emerging from traditions other than the critical Euro-American this seminar attempts to find a ground for the re-thinking of the relationship of catastrophic loss, subjectivity, and historical transmission. What are the possibilities, limits, and what the implications, configurations and histories of power in such translation of concepts? This is a classical question in contemporary anthropology (-as-critique) and postcolonial studies. We will however address it here in a different sense here, towards a regeneration of concepts.
Readings will include a collection of articles and chapters on b-space, and the following books (also available on reserve in the Anthropology Library, and partially as pdfs): Reinhardt Koselleck, Future Pasts: On the Semantics of Historical Time; Ibn Khaldun The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History: Ruth Leys, Trauma: A Genealogy: Michael Taussig, Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man; Hannah Arendt, Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics, Civil Disobedience, On Violence, Thought on Politics and Revolution, Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle; and Eric Santner, The Royal Remains: The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty.
Contemporary Sociological Theory: Marxist and Post-Marxist Theories of Politics
Prof. Dylan Riley
Thursday 10am-12pm, 402 Barrows
This course is a review of the Marxist tradition of political thought. It focuses on the strategic debates within and outside of Marxism among such major figures as: Bakunin, Kautsky, Lenin, Luxemburg, Marx and Trotsky. The class then discusses the implications of these debates for contemporary state theory focusing on Perry Anderson, Michael Mann, Göran Therborn, and Erik Olin Wright. Students are expected to have a basic grasp of classical social theory as a prerequisite for attending the seminar.