Fall 2014

Core Courses

Critical Theory 200 / Comparative Literature 250
Versions of Critique: Kant, Hegel, Marx

Judith Butler
Thursday 2-5 pm, 425 Doe

CT 200 will consider how different versions of critique are developed within some major figures in Critical Theory. We will consider how Kant formulates the notion of critique in some of his essays and in sections of the Critique of Pure Reason, especially as it seeks to delimit the phenomenal world in which certain kinds of knowledge are restricted. We will then ask in what forms critique reemerges within Hegel’s writings, focusing on the opening chapters of The Phenomenology of Spirit and some of his early essays on sensuous understanding and property. The course will end with a consideration of the early Marx, focusing on his own critique of German Idealism, abstraction, and the importance of sensuous and embodied action and thought. One task of the course will be to understand the grounds and objects of critique in these thinkers, underscoring points of convergence and divergence.

*By Instructor-permission only. Contact critical_theory@berkeley.edu with questions.

Critical Theory 205 / History 280B
Critical Theory Writ Small

Martin Jay
Friday 10 am-12 pm, 3205 Dwinelle

This seminar will be devoted to exploring various exemplars of the small forms, literary as much as philosophical, employed by Critical Theorists in their attempt to make sense of the modern world: aphorisms, Denkbilder, dialectical images, miniatures, etc. We will read works by Walter Benjamin (One-Way Street), Ernst Bloch (Traces), Horkheimer (Dawn and Decline) and Adorno (Minima Moralia), as well as such secondary texts as Gerhard Richter, Thought-Images. We will consider comparable examples in the work of Lichtenberg, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Kraus and Kracauer.

*Priority registration for History graduate students and Critical Theory DEs.

Critical Theory 240 / Ethnic Studies 250
Race, War, Culture

Keith Feldman
Tuesday 2-5 pm, Gianinni 332

In the seemingly quiet winter of 1976, a quiet marked by a global economic downturn that would transform the terrain of global capitalism, a retooling of U.S. militarism from the “quagmire” of war in Southeast Asia to the “law and order” policing of domestic space, and the emergent linking between the crises of resources and terrorism, French philosopher Michel Foucault took up the vital questions of the day with typical broad strokes: “If we look beneath peace, order, wealth, and authority, beneath the calm order of subordinations, beneath the State and State apparatuses, beneath the laws, and so on, will we hear and discover a sort of primitive and permanent war?” While this was a critical turning point in the trajectory of his thinking, Foucault was approaching a question that had long been articulated in various other domains. Indeed, racialized, marginalized, and colonized communities had been posing precisely such a question in various iterations across the broad sweep of modernity. This course opens up precisely such a genealogy.

This course investigates cultural interventions into processes of comparative racialization that have both utilized and contested the analytical concept of war in its many social iterations. In doing so, the course will advance comparative approaches to what appear in the contemporary moment as new forms of racialization. Students will engage social, cultural, and political theory alongside critical culture work, treating both as methods for analysis and objects of analysis. Readings will be drawn from a range of authors, including: Theodor Adorno, Hishaam Aidi, Gloria Anzaldua, Hannah Arendt, Michael Banton, Moustafa Bayoumi, Walter Benjamin, Ned Blackhawk, Mike Davis, Zillah Eisenstein, Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Paul Gilroy, David Theo Goldberg, Antonio Gramsci, Stuart Hall, Suheir Hammad, Grace Hong, George Lipsitz, Mahmood Mamdani, Achille Mbembe, Cherrie Moraga, Vijay Prashad, Laura Pudilo, Adrienne Rich, Steven Salaita, David Scott, Shu-Mei Shih, Susan Sontag, Loïc Wacquant, and Robert Warrior.

Elective Courses

Critical Theory 290.1 / History of Art 290.1
Feminist and Queer Theories in Art

Julia Bryan-Wilson
Monday 2-5 pm, 425 Doe

This course proposes that recent art objects and artistic actions have helped catalyze and shape advanced feminist and queer thought, and asks how recent practices in the visual arts have been understood within theories about desire, activism, affect, loss, and world-making. What happens when we understand art as an active producer of theory, rather than as an object to which theory might be “applied?” We will focus our efforts around a series of case studies to think about how feminist and queer knowledge is embodied and performed within works, acts, and objects themselves. Artists/artist’s groups might include Hélio Oiticica, Yvonne Rainer, Gran Fury, Félix González-Torres, Asco, Kara Walker, Yasumasa Morimura, Zanele Muholi, and others.

Critical Theory 290.2 / Rhetoric 240G
Visions of the World: Politics, Nature and Law

Samera Esmeir
Thursday 11 am-2 pm, 7415 Dwinelle

Numerous traditions articulate visions of the world and its communities, reflections on the world’s natural, human and divine layers, the bind that connects these layers and communities, as well as ways of governing the world. This seminar explores visions of the world from multiple historical traditions as they have been articulated in travel accounts, theological inquiries, political philosophical investigations, legal expositions, and oceanic studies. The contemporary vision of the world as an “international” site of state actors is juxtaposed to other visions. While most of our readings will consist in theoretical texts, the guiding questions are primarily political and ethical. We are concerned with how particular visions shape “local” and “worldly” political struggle, possibilities for living together with or without conflict, the forces (natural, human, divine) that bring communities and geographies together or separate them, and ultimately, what it means to “share a world.”

Critical Theory 290.3 / Education 280A
Sociocultural Critique of Education

Zeus Leonardo
Monday 1-4 pm, 5527 Tolman

A seminar course 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 social theory of education. Some of the thinkers we engage include Marx, Volosinov, Fanon, and Gramsci. The nature of power will be examined and the way that social groups position themselves in such relations. We gain an appreciation of the pervasiveness of politics in the educational process. We learn the different frameworks for thinking about social and cultural relations of power, from material power, knowledge power, to discursive power. We differentiate between schooling as a formal state institution and education, which is more dispersed and informal.

Critical Theory 290.4 / Political Science 212C
Modern Political Theory

Wendy Brown
Tuesday 10 am-12 pm, 706 Barrows

This is a survey of 19th and early 20th Century political theory. Thinkers studied are Tocqueville, Marx, Bentham, Mill, Nietzsche, Weber and Freud.

Critical Theory 290.5 / Comparative Literature 202B / English 250.3
Poetry and the Fate of the Senses

Anne-Lise Francois
Monday 3-6 pm, 258 Dwinelle

This comparative seminar in lyric poetry borrows its title from Susan Stewart’s Poetry and the Fate of the Senses (University of Chicago Press, 2002), to ask about the relation between poetry and sensory deprivation (or plenitude) and prosthesis. We will focus on early modern to twentieth-century poetry written in English, French, German, Italian and Japanese, in the age of print culture or what will later become, in Walter Benjamin’s terms, the “age of mechanical reproducibility.” From the emergence of “haiku” out of haikai no renga (comic linked verse) to modernism’s fascination with isolated images, the course will give some attention to the “lyricization” of poetry—the privileging of isolated, individual, brief forms abstracted from once collective practices—as well as to the changing roles—messianic, consolatory, critical, representative—assigned the figure of the “solitary” poet and “autonomous” work of art in the context of industrial capitalism, the rationalization of time and space, and European colonialism. We will also ask about “the fate of the senses” in relation to contemporary ecological crisis and, in particular, to the paradox of simultaneous sensory impoverishment and perpetual stimulation.

Most crucially, however, we will want to ask what happens when we read poetry as a series of substitutions (touch for sight, and sound for touch) and read together poets who, pushing the limits of language as an expressive medium, interrogate the relations of the verbal to the visual and musical arts, of visionary experience to sensory perception, of memory to imagination, and of language to the natural world and/or phenomenal experience. Tracing the meeting of stone and flesh, of the carnal and the transcendent, the transient and eternal, we will compare recurring figures of poetry as the only remaining sign of otherwise irrecoverable, lost, fugitive experiences.

Poems by Petrarch, Shakespeare, Herbert, Milton, Bashō, Buson, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Dickinson, Hardy, Rilke, Valéry, Stevens, Niedecker, Rankine; primary readings will also be determined by special interests of students. Secondary readings by Adorno, Benjamin, Culler, Jackson, Barbara Johnson, Lessing, Krieger, Prins, Stewart, among others.

Rhetoric 240 G
What is a World?

Prof. Pheng Cheah
Tuesday 2-5pm, 7415 Dwinelle

Fields of study in the social sciences and the humanities that have attracted recent widespread interest such as cosmopolitanism, world literature and human rights presuppose as their fundamental concept the idea of world. However, the term is often taken for granted in contemporary discourse and its meaning is generally unclear. More often then not, world is defined in opposition to nation and is taken to be a synonym for globe. Careful reflection on its philosophical meaning is almost never undertaken. As Heidegger observed, “elucidation of the world-concept [des Welt-begriffs] is one of the most central tasks of philosophy. The concept of world, or the phenomenon thus designated, is what has hitherto not yet been recognized in philosophy”. In this seminar, we will examine different philosophical understandings of the world from late eighteenth/early nineteenth century European philosophy to contemporary Continental thought. The three parts of the seminar focus respectively on spiritualist and idealist conceptualizations of the world (Kant and Hegel), the materialist account of the world (Marx, world-systems theory and critical geography), and phenomenological and post-phenomenological theories of the world (Heidegger, Arendt and Derrida). The broad aim of the course is to examine the ethico-political implications of a fuller understanding of the world and how it may lead to the envisioning of alternatives to the world made by contemporary global capitalism. Themes and issues to be discussed include the following: the limits of understanding the world as a spatial category; the normative dimension of world and its connection to temporality in the idea of world history; the relation between the world and humanity; phenomenological critiques of the “vulgar” conception of the world and understanding the world in terms of intersubjective intercourse; the role of action, storytelling and narrative in the opening and making of worlds; and the unworlding of the world in modernity and capitalist globalization. Time permitting, we will also consider accounts of the world from non-European philosophical traditions such as the Chinese idea of tianxia (all under heaven).

Note: Critical Theory students should enroll in Rhetoric 240 G.

English 246K
The Modernist Novel

Catherine Flynn
Monday and Wednesday, 12:00 – 1:30, 305 Wheeler

In this seminar we will read ten modernist novels. We will consider the strangeness of their modes of narrative and characterization as they respond to challenges such as the destabilizing of traditional social hierarchies and gender roles, the forces of empire and global capitalism, and the demands of the city as a site of consumer capitalism. As part of foregrounding the innovative nature of these texts, we will ask how each of them constructs—or refuses to construct—the boundaries of a person. What textual features establish or undo these boundaries? What makes these characters and, or, unmakes them? What forms of subjectivity result?

Novels by Beckett, Conrad, Ford, Forster, James, Joyce, Lewis, Rhys, Stein, and Woolf. Secondary readings by Adorno, Jameson, Lucretius, Nietzsche, Moretti, Winfried Menninghaus, Serres, and Stanford Friedman.

Note: There is no Critical Theory course number for this class, so please register through the English department.