Fall 2015

Core Courses

CT 200 / History 280B
The Idea of Reason

Professor Martin Jay
Wednesday, 12 pm-2 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.

CT 205 / German 256
Benjamin and Adorno

Professor Karen Feldman
Wednesday, 1-4 pm, 282 Dwinelle

This course will examine 1930s Frankfurt-School thought. Topics will include the exchanges between Adorno and Benjamin on the autonomy of art and the philosophy of history.

CT 240.1 / Ethnic Studies 250.3
Race, War, and Culture

Professor Keith Feldman
Wednesday, 2-5 pm, 204 Wheeler

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. “Race, War, Culture” 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 critical and historical approaches to what appear in the contemporary moment as new forms of racialization. Students will engage social, cultural, and political theory as offering methods for analysis and objects of analysis.

The course’s infrastructure is arrayed around three overlapping lines of critical inquiry:

– Frantz Fanon’s entanglement of anti-blackness, colonialism, and decolonization

– Michel Foucault’s investigations of sovereignty and biopower

– Stuart Hall’s Gramscian theorizations of race

CT 240.2 / Education 290B.6
Critical Pedagogy: From Paulo Freire and Beyond

Professor Zeus Leonardo
Tuesday, 1-4 pm, 5527 Tolman

Critical Pedagogy arrived on the educational scene in 1970 with the publication of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. There were precursors to Freire, such as George Counts, Harold Rugg, and John Dewey, but Freire’s work marks the beginning of a critical theory-informed education program. In short, we might consider that Freire’s work is when education theory first becomes “critical.” It was made possible by intellectual currents from Sartre’s existentialism, Fanon and Memmi’s anti-colonialism, Fromm’s psychoanalysis, and Lukacs’ Hegelian Marxism, to name a few. As a phrase, “critical pedagogy” became popularized in the 1980s primarily through Giroux’s writings.   This new innovation responded to international developments involving the role that education plays in the institutionalization of power relations but also as a way to ameliorate their effects. Several decades have since passed and Critical Pedagogy develops from its foundations in Freirean pedagogy rooted in Brazil to include Giroux’s cultural studies, McLaren’s global anti-capitalism, Apple’s neo-Gramscian sociology, Lather’s feminist poststructuralism, Leonardo’s critical social theory of race, bell hooks’ practice of freedom, Villenas’ decolonial Chicana feminism, and Biesta’s postmodern theory of the political subject. This course is a survey of the different iterations of Critical Pedagogy to pose the possibilities of what Giroux calls an education made political and the political made educational.

Elective Courses

CT 290.1 / Rhetoric 240F
Legal Rhetoric and Philosophy: Nietzsche, Heidegger and Law

Professor Marianne Constable
Thursday, 2-5 pm, 7415 Dwinelle

Beginning with a reading of the “History of an Error” (or of reason or of metaphysics) in Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols as a history of jurisprudence, the seminar will examine how legal scholars have engaged with Nietzsche’s corpus and Heidegger’s critique of it.  Every attempt will be made to bring students needing background in law or in Continental philosophy to a point of productive engagement across both fields!

Required and recommended readings will be selected from Nietzsche’s major works, Heidegger’s volumes on Nietzsche, and 21st-century books and articles by critical legal scholars. Active participation and paper required.

CT 290.2 / Spanish 280.2
Colonial Technologies

Professor Ivonne del Valle
Wednesday, 3-6 pm, 211 Dwinelle

Recent work of environmental historians has demonstrated how Spanish America underwent drastic changes during the colonial period. From the desertification of 20% of what is now Mexico to the traces of pollution found in the ice caps of the Andes due to mining, it would appear that, since the 16th century, the relationship between technology and economic activity had a detrimental impact on the “New World” natural environment which is only now beginning to be studied. By the same token, it could be argued that entire populations underwent equally drastic changes, some of them related to technological and economic enterprises (such as mining), others related to more subtle interventions (religious conversion, the learning of Spanish and alphabetic writing, etc.). If, as in the latter case, new methods (evangelization, training in alphabetic writing, etc.) were devised as means to particular ends (conversion, transformation), we could consider that the whole colonial enterprise became a moment in which technology was potentialized, radicalized.

In this course, we will undertake two tasks:

1. A theoretical exploration of what technology is: how it was conceived of at different times, by different cultures and different thinkers (Aristotle, Lucretius, Heidegger, Serres, Nancy, among others), and its “explosion” as a field of interest after World War II, and above all, recently.

2. A reading of pre-Hispanic and colonial sources (mainly from Peru and Mexico; in Spanish) on what colonial technology was and the impact it had on natural environments, urban centers, and the populations that inhabited them.

CT 290.3 / Film 240.1
The Idea of a Medium

Professor Mary Ann Doane
Seminar, Wed 10 am-1 pm, 226 Dwinelle
Lab, Tues 7-9 pm, 226 Dwinelle

The concept of a “medium“ (painting, poetry, photography, film, etc.) and medium specificity have been central concepts in aesthetic theory and have a long history.   But that concept seems to have become increasingly fragile with the advent of digital media, not only due to the notion of convergence (the idea that all media will be subsumed by the digital—photography, television, film, literature, etc.) but also by the seemingly accelerating dematerialization of the media. From painting to photography, we already witness a move from the concept of a materially grounded original to infinite reproducibility and the loss of the location or verifiability of the original. However, one can still touch a photograph as one views it. With the advent of projection in film, there is an apparent increase in dematerialization and the digital sometimes strikes us as doing away with materiality altogether (this is the “fantasy of immateriality” associated with the digital—a repression of the hardware).

We sometimes forget that the concept of a medium is not that old. The emergence of an interest in differentiating media by their special and unique properties is usually traced to Lessing’s Laocoon, written in 1766. This text is a benchmark in discussion of aesthetics and medium specificity and leads to an increasing philosophical/critical interest in the boundaries of the arts and their separate teleologies. Art History is perhaps the discipline that has historically had the greatest stake in the concept of a medium. (the labeling of paintings, art works in museums—identified through medium, artist, date). The notoriety of Clement Greenberg is linked to his insistence on the association of value in aesthetics with fidelity to the medium of the work of art, to its materiality and the limitations of that materiality. The medium is often associated with classic concepts in aesthetics including form, value, beauty, limits. In the first part of the course, we will examine some of these classic texts and the debates surrounding these issues. As many have noted, the concept of a medium cannot be reduced to materiality, but neither can it be divorced from some notion of materiality and the restraint/constraint/limits of the real.

Photography seems to throw a monkey wrench into the midst of these debates and definitively change their terms. By undermining the concept and importance of the notion of the material object in its uniqueness and originality, by the ambivalence surrounding its acceptance or rejection as an “art,” by the question of its place in the museum. Hence, much of the theoretical work on the concept of a medium takes place in the context of a discussion of photography. After photography, with the advent of multi-media, intermedia, etc., the concept of a medium undergoes further problematization. One of the questions we will be asking is whether or not the concept of the medium continues to have relevance and usefulness, or whether we indeed inhabit, as many have claimed, “a postmedium age.”   There will be readings in Lessing, Greenberg, Panofsky, Fried, Cavell, Bolter and Grusin (Remediation), Didi-Huberman, Rosalind Krauss, McLuhan, Jameson, Galloway and others. Screenings of films by Godard, Bresson, McCall, Resnais, Jarman, etc. Installations by David Claerbout, Broodthaers, Joe Campbell, Acconci.

CT 290.4 / Rhetoric 240G.2
Itineraries of Dissent: Treason, Rebellion, Revolution

Professor Samera Esmeir
Thursday, 11 am-2 pm, 7415 Dwinelle

What is the relationship between treason, rebellion and revolution? Some suggest that a revolution is an event that succeeds to overthrow the political order whereas a rebellion is an outburst that does not culminate in changing the prevailing order. Related are a number of approaches that emphasize the illegitimacy of rebellion and treason as compared to revolutions that aim to regenerate political communities. In this seminar, we will explore other ways of articulating the relationship between treason, rebellion and revolution beyond questions of success and failure, or in other words, beyond the politics of ends. We will pursue two distinct itineraries of revolution and rebellion, and trace their blending in the anti-colonial struggles of the twentieth century. With the first itinerary, we will explore the consolidation of the term in writings about the motion of heavenly spheres (Nicolaus Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres [1542]) and the acquiring of the term, half a century later, of modern political resonance indicating the overthrowing of a political regime. In this context, we will read John Locke’s “Right to Revolution” and continue to examine the reconfiguration of the term and its life in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The second itinerary explores the history of rebellion in relation to treason, as the two terms were closely related. The focus in this itinerary will be on the figure of the rebel and the treasonous/rebellious act/practice, starting with Renaissance England and culminating in contemporary treason. Finally, we will consider the intersection of these two itineraries in decolonization struggles, while assessing recent interventions concerning the collapse of revolutionary futures.

In addition to the books below, we will read selections from C.L.R James and Albert Camus, John Locke as well as articles on rebellion and treason in English law.

Nicolaus Copernicus, On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres
George Huntston William, The Radical Reformation
Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution
Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
Lenin, Revolution at the Gates
Carl Schmitt, A Theory of the Partisan
Hannah Arendt, On Revolution
Koselleck, Critique and Crisis
Michel Foucault, Society Must be Defended
Rebecca Lemon, Treason by Words: Literature, Law and Rebellion in Shakespeare’s England
Giorgio Agamben, Civil War as a Political Paradigm
James Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia
David Scott, Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice

Critical Theory 290.5 / Film Studies 240 / German 214

Professor Tony Kaes
Monday, 1-6 pm, 282 Dwinelle

This seminar will focus on the emergence of a new visual language in film and photography in the 1920s.  We will analyze works and manifestoes of avant-garde movements (Dada, Bauhaus, New Objectivity, Surrealism) and explore the entanglement of modernist aesthetics with political thought and praxis. Writings by Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno, Siegfried Kracauer, Roland Barthes and Jacques Rancière will help us discuss theories and concepts of the historical avant-garde that still resonate in contemporary art.  All texts will be in English.