Fall 2019

Core Courses

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

Frankfurt School, New York School: Critical Aesthetics & Modern Poetry

Robert Kaufman
Wednesdays 2-5pm, 4125A Dwinelle
Class #: 31350

Critical Theory 205/Comparative Literature 225

[Note: Although this Comparative-Literature Department seminar emphasizes the importance of 19th and 20th-century poetry and poetics to the development of Frankfurt School aesthetics, criticism, and theory, and likewise considers more recent dialogues between later 20th and  21st-century poetry/poetics and Frankfurt-oriented criticism, the seminar is also “co-listed” as a Critical Theory 205 “Frankfurt School” Core-Curriculum Course (for students enrolled in the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory). Whether enrolled through Comparative Literature, or through the Critical Theory Program, students are welcome to take the seminar as a survey of some major texts in Frankfurt aesthetic, literary, and cultural theory more generally, provided they are willing actively to study and engage with the modern poetry and poetics that will be treated as the seminar’s primary literary materials.]

Why NOT put those two schools together: Frankfurt, New York? Especially since a very significant portion of the Frankfurt School’s exile from Germany, during the National Socialist regime, was spent in New York (where, though independent, it established a relationship with Columbia University)?  Not to mention that the New York School poets and their poet interlocutors/addressees whom this seminar will pay most attention to–John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Frank O’Hara, Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Octavio Paz, Aimé Césaire–unsurprisingly shared the Frankfurters’ sense of how important experimental French, German, Anglo-American, and Hispanophone poetry were in the development of modern Left critical aesthetic and sociopolitical thought. In any case, this seminar won’t attempt any sustained investigations of the case for deep structural affinity–nor, on the other hand, for the irreconcilability–of Frankfurt School critical aesthetics and New York School later-modernist and postmodernist poetics.  Instead, we’ll consider the value of putting New York School (and related) poetries, and Frankfurt critical theory, into mutual dialogue and cross-critique.  In addition to considering poetic texts of the experimental and avant-gardist traditions that both Schools had internalized (starting with the signal case of Baudelaire, and continuing until early 1950s poetry and poetics), bringing the New York School into the discussion will allow us to consider an extremely influential formation within early postmodern art, as we ask if, and how well–or not!–the assumptions, values, and modes of modernist-identified Frankfurt Critical Theory can illuminate postmodern (and, today, post-postmodern!) art and sociopolitical history.

That said, the seminar will feature extensive additional 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 (in both the socioeconomic and artistic-aesthetic spheres), 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. Tracing of the poetry, aesthetics, critical theory, and sociopolitical histories leading to Adorno’s controversial statements from the late 1940s through 1969 about “Poetry After Auschwitz” (including the ceaseless, prominent international debates those statements caused and have continued to occasion in the poetry world, the other arts, criticism, and the cultural sphere more generally). 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 (especially lyric 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). As noted above, there’ll be more sustained attention to Baudelaire and to the New York School poets than to any other body of poetic work.  For most of our class sessions, students and/or the instructor will have distributed ahead of time Xeroxed and/or PDF texts of work by Baudelaire, New York School, or other poets (which they have will have chosen to present to, and discuss with, the rest of the class).

[ Additional Note: Texts of critical theory, philosophy, aesthetics, and/or criticism will be presented in English translation, though, with texts not initially written in English, we will frequently consider the German, French, Spanish, etc., originals.  Poetry not originally composed in English will be read and discussed primarily in English translation, though we will almost always also consult a poem’s facing-page (or at-hand-Xeroxed) original language–most often German, French, or Spanish (as well as other languages, depending on students’ poetry selections). Knowledge of other languages–especially German, French, and/or Spanish—-is not required, though it will prove helpful.]

Freud and Lacan

Mary Ann Doane
Wednesdays 1-4 pm, 226 Dwinelle
Class #: 31549

Critical Theory 240/Film 240

Readings of major texts by Freud and Lacan will stress the relations between language, subjectivity, sexuality and the feminist use and/or critique of psychoanalytic concepts.  This course will analyze psychoanalysis from three perspectives: 1. as a theory of subjectivity; 2. as a mode of reading/interpretation; and 3. as a text.  We will stress Freud’s metapsychological texts and later writings by Lacan that attempt to construct a theory of the psychical apparatus.  This theory raises questions about subjects and their relations to language, issues of intersubjectivity, memory, history and subjectivity, sexuality and sexual difference, race and the limits of psychoanalysis.  We will also look at the continuing attempts to articulate a relation between psychoanalysis and Marxism.  To address psychoanalysis as a theory means to explore its coherencies and incoherencies, contradictions, relations to other theoretical discourses and the way in which the concept of the unconscious fractures knowledge.  Secondly, Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis will be attended to as modes of reading, as providing a hermeneutics or methodology for analyzing film, literature or other forms of representation.  This means interrogating the idea of a psychoanalytic reading, how one might produce such a thing.  What are the assumptions psychoanalysis makes about the existence of a depth (the latent text vs. the manifest text) or about a form of textual unconscious that is accessible only through the reading of symptoms of a text (its excesses or contradictions which reveal unacknowledged tensions about sexuality, power, racial difference or modernity)?  Finally, we will approach the works of Freud and Lacan as themselves texts, subjecting their writing to close analysis in order to isolate avatars, impasses and contradictions that point to the unconscious of psychoanalysis.  Throughout, we will circle back to some pivotal questions:  What is a subject? What is a symptom?  What is the relation between language and the unconscious?  What is the difference between memory and history?

Although the course will focus primarily on works by Freud and Lacan, we will also read other relevant texts by Jean Laplanche, Jaqueline Rose, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida and Jean-Paul Sartre.  This is not a film or literature course per se but an attempt to grapple with psychoanalysis on its own terms.  Familiarity with semiotic, structuralist and post-structuralist theory is required.  Students should read or review Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics before the course begins.

Critical Ethnic Studies without Guarantees: Thinking with Stuart Hall

Keith Feldman
Fridays 2-5pm, Barrows 129
Class #: 25839

Ethnic Studies 250/Critical Theory 240

This course takes up the work of Stuart Hall, among the most influential scholars in the fields of cultural studies and ethnic studies. Preferring contingency and complexity over the limited guarantees of analytical reductionism, Hall’s extensive engagement with culture, politics, and theory has informed contemporary debates about: identity and difference; race and capitalism; Marxism and deconstruction; nationalism, migration, and diaspora; popular culture and cinema; authoritarianism, post-colonialism, and neoliberalism. Students are invited to think through the detour of Hall’s theorizing as a way to animate, reconsider, and refresh their own intellectual projects.

Elective Courses

The following courses satisfy Critical Theory Designated Emphasis elective requirements.

Arts of the Self

Damon Young
Mondays 2-5pm, Dwinelle 226
Class #:

French 265B

What is it to have (or be) a self? How do different media technologies (writing, photography, digital media) generate different forms of selfhood? Is what Freud called the “bodily ego” differently oriented in relation to its written and photographic supports? In the era of networks, algorithms, cognitive behavioral therapy, neuroscience, and neoliberal economics, what is left of the opaque and displaced self described by psychoanalysis? In this course we will examine several historically situated paradigms of selfhood, also asking how the experience of having a self gives rise to artistic practices in different media. We will read Foucault’s late seminars on governmentality and technologies of the self from antiquity to modernity, as well as Freud (The Ego and the Id) and some of his French commentators. We will then turn to recent work in continental philosophy and science studies on the brain, cognition, and neuroscience, as well as digital media theory (works by Catherine Malabou, Katherine Hayles, Steven Shaviro, Wendy Chun, Mark Hansen). Alongside this theoretical investigation, we will consider the aesthetic investigations of selfhood by authors, artists, and film-makers that might include Agnès Varda, Orlan, Sophie Calle, Roland Barthes, Ming Wong, Tracey Moffatt, Adrian Piper, Narcissister, Cindy Sherman, Lyle Ashton Harris, Ryan Trecartin, and Paul Preciado. Course taught in English.

Nineteenth-Century Literature – The Nineteenth Century and ways of reading: Literature, social history, hermenueutics 

Michael Lucey
Thursdays, 1-4pm Dwinelle 4125A
Class #:

French 250B


Balzac, Le cousin Pons; Barbey d’Aurevilly, “La vengeance d’une femme”; Baudelaire, selected poems; Desbordes-Valmore, selected poems; Flaubert, Madame Bovary; Sand, Le compagnon du tour de France, Zola, Le ventre de Paris

Pierre Bourdieu once commented that “the physical object that a book is only turns into a social object when it meets its other half, the incorporated half that is the reader or, more exactly, the social subject or the social agent endowed with the dispositions that prompt them to read and that give them the capacity to decipher it.” In this seminar, we will be interested both in works as social objects and in the different capacities to decipher them that have developed over time (and that we are developing in ourselves). To that end, we will accompany our reading of nineteenth-century literary texts with a reading of thinkers who write critically about different kinds of interpretative acts (hermeneutical, anti-hermeneutical, and other) and about their histories. (Critical readings by Auerbach, Bourdieu, Chambers, Chartier, Jameson, Johnson, Lukács, Lyon-Caen, Rancière, Skinner, and others.)

Image and Power

Anton Kaes
Thursdays, 1-4pm Dwinelle 226
Class #: 31547

Film 240/German 265

This seminar explores the changing status and function of the image from the invention of photography to present-day Instagram culture. Focusing on photography as the paradigmatic medium of technical image production, the seminar will examine theoretical questions that are central for any analysis of modern visual culture, including film, television, and the Internet.  How do we define an image, and how do images define us? What kind of work do images do within a specific media-historical milieu? How do images produce or challenge power relations in society? We will examine concepts such as indexicality and representation; identity, ideology, and affect; memory and trauma, as well as new powers of manipulation in the age of digital image-making and artificial intelligence.  Our discussions will be guided by media-theoretical writings of Giorgio Agamben, Ariella Azulay, Walter Benjamin, Hans Belting, Roland Barthes, Judith Butler, Gilles Deleuze, James Elkins, Vilém Flusser, Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, Siegfried Kracauer, J.T. Mitchell, Jacques Rancière, and Susan Sontag, among others.  There will be guest lectures by scholars from Berkeley’s School of Information and the Center for New Media

Post-War Materialisms and the Concrete

Nathaniel Wolfson
Thursdays 3-6pm, Barrows 129
Class #: 31181

Spanish & Portuguese 275

Much of global post-war aesthetics is marked by its attention to “concrete” experience, taking as its theoretical focus the materiality and meaning of its formal investigations. This seminar will inquire into the ways in which global aesthetic production from the post-World War II years was impacted by contemporary materialist directions in philosophy—cybernetic, object-oriented and post-hermeneutic, among others—as it engaged the concept of the “concrete.” How does the problematic of the concrete recast discussions of historical materialism (Hegel, Marx, Lukács), formalist-materialist aesthetic theory (Benjamin, Adorno, the New Critics, Jameson) and cybernetics and information theory (Weiner, Shannon, Moles, Bense)? Furthermore, do the visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, etc.) and literature (poetry, novel, hyper-text, etc.) configure concreteness as a productive mode of reference to history and politics? These are some of the questions this seminar aims to engage. Its range of objects is transnational but special attention will be given to Latin America, and especially Brazil, including works by Mira Schendel, Lygia Clark, Emmett Williams, Waldemar Cordeiro, Joaquín Torres-Garcia, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Ulises Carrión, Paulo Bruscky, Dieter Roth, Nanni Balestrini, Oscar Niemeyer, Eugen Gomringer, Dick Higgins, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Ana Hatherly, and the de Campos brothers.

Proseminar: Sociocultural Critique of Education

Zeus Leonardo
Tuesdays, 1-4pm Berkeley Way West 4244
Class #: 28979

EDU 280A

These interdisciplinary seminars address a series of questions. In what ways can philosophical, sociological, anthropological, historical, and psychological forms of inquiry be brought together to bear on the analysis of learning, on schooling, and on education more generally? What do we mean by critical and interpretive theories, and what are their relations with social practice? How can education come to constitute itself otherwise than in its current form.

Law & History Foundation Seminar

Christopher Tomlins
Tuesdays, 2:10-5pm, 2240 Piedmont Avenue, 102
Class #:32446

Berkeley Law 267.4

The Law & History Foundation Seminar is a reading and discussion seminar in American legal history. It is the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program’s Foundation Seminar in Law and History. It is open to all JSP graduate students, Berkeley Law JD, LLM and JSD students, and graduate students. This is a shared course with History and Critical Theory, students from those departments should register in their department’s course accordingly.

Legal history is as much history as law, and history is primarily a discipline of the book. This course focuses on books, particularly books about the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will achieve a thorough grounding in American legal history by reading a wide selection of the field’s best work: classics that have structured the field (like James Willard Hurst’s *Law and the Conditions of Freedom* and Morton Horwitz’s *Transformation of American Law*); the best work of the current generation (like Laura Edwards’ *The People and their Peace* and Michael Willrich’s *City of Courts*); and notable recent work by younger scholars (like Karen Tani’s *States of Dependency* and Ken Mack’s *Representing the Race*). We will also explore the methodological and theoretical possibilities for innovation that exist at the conjunction between history and other social science and humanities disciplines. The course concentrates on the United States, but to set our discussion of theory and method off with a bang, we will begin (literally) in the dark undergrowth of a forest in eighteenth-century England.

In the American law curriculum, a course like American Legal History is usually considered an “enrichment” or “perspective” course because it does not offer instruction in doctrine or skills directly oriented to law practice. One might consider the absence of a clear instrumental function liberating. Law school is likely to be the last extended period in a budding lawyer’s life when s/he can explore general ideas about law, probe theories, think about large issues of justice or policy, and develop skills in research and analysis.

Still, lack of direct relevance may not seem very sensible to students with crowded schedules. Why read all this stuff if it has no direct instrumental take-away?

There are two answers to this sensible question. The first is the enrichment/perspective answer: to study the history of law is to study the culture and practice of one’s chosen profession. Historical knowledge supplies both “deep background” on what one is doing in the present, and also a fund of examples and parallels that help one understand why one is doing it. The second answer is that how one studies in a course like this can be of real practical benefit. Lawyers (particularly young lawyers) are required to assimilate large amounts of information efficiently in a short period of time, grasp the essentials, and analyze them. This course requires that you develop an ability to assimilate and analyze large quantities of information. Each week we will read a book, in whole or in part. Class participants will come to class prepared and willing to talk about what they have read. To prime discussion, each participant will circulate (via bCourses) brief and informal impressions/questions about the week’s reading to every other participant and to the instructor.

For detailed information on readings and assessment, see the course syllabus (on bCourses or obtainable from the instructor).

Students enroll in this course for 3 units. JSP students are required to take an additional 1 unit in conjunction with this course through enrolling in Law 602. The additional unit of credit requires additional work within the course framework. To enroll in Law 602, JSP students must complete an Add Form by the add deadline and submit the completed form to the Registrar’s Office. Graduate students from campus units outside Law/JSP are also required to take the additional 1 unit so that they will earn the 4 units of credit customary in non-law graduate courses.

Attendance at the first class is mandatory for all enrolled students; any enrolled students who are not present at the first day of class without prior permission of the instructor will be dropped from the class.

History of Political Economy

David Grewel
Thursdays, 10am-12:40pm, 2240 Piedmont Avenue, 102
Class #:34073

Political Science 211, Sec 002

This course will consider the history of political economy as a history of economic and political discourses from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. It will situate what it takes to be an early modern innovation with reference to ancient precedents, which will be briefly examined. Given this long span, it will obviously be highly selective in treating discursive and theoretical issues of major importance. The focus will be on three themes: the transformation of the ancient vocabulary of polis and oikos into the modern vocabulary of civil society (or economy) and state; the emergence of the concept of the self-equilibrating economy in the eighteenth century, and subsequent controversies over its normative underpinnings; the rise and fall of classical political economy and its relation to its successor schools, nineteenth-century marginalism and twenty-century welfare economics. Readings will consist mainly of original works by central figures in this historical tradition.

This is a cross-listed/room-shared course with the Law and Political Science Departments. Students may enroll through Law (Law 217.1) or Political Science (PS 211 Sec 002). The first class will meet on Thursday, August 22. Note, this course follows the Law School’s Academic Calendar. (https://www.law.berkeley.edu/php-programs/courses/academic_calendars.php)

Theories of International Law

David Grewel
Tuesdays, 3:35-5:25pm, Boalt 111
Class #:33510

Berkeley Law 261.62

The question of what international law is and its relation to domestic law has been central to a variety of debates in legal and political thought. This seminar will begin with a brief historical survey of the problem before turning to works by contemporary legal scholars concerning the status and role of international law, including Antony Anghie, Upendra Baxi, David Kennedy, Martti Koskenniemi, Susan Marks, Samuel Moyn, Anne Orford, and others. The materials will be highly interdisciplinary and consider a range of methodological approaches, including sociology, Marxism, critical theory, and indigenous and post-colonial perspectives. Specific topics that will be discussed include state sovereignty, human rights, humanitarian intervention, and international economic integration, including the project of European integration.

Students should welcome the opportunity to engage critical and controversial perspectives that may challenge their previously held views. Respectful, prepared, and open-minded class participation is a must for making sense of these materials. In terms of prerequisites, some prior exposure to international law is required of all students, whether an introductory international law class or equivalent.

The course will be taught by David Singh Grewal, who will be joining the Berkeley Law faculty as Professor of Law in Fall 2019. Grewal was previously Professor of Law at Yale Law School and held a secondary appointment in the Yale department of Political Science. He was earlier a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows. He has a PhD in Political Science from Harvard University and a JD from Yale Law School. He is one of the co-founders of the “Law and Political Economy Blog” (lpeblog.org) and has published widely in scholarly and popular venues. For more information, please see his Berkeley faculty webpage.

Attendance at the first class is mandatory for all enrolled students; any enrolled students who are not present at the first day of class without prior permission of the instructor will be dropped from the class.

Some prior exposure to international law is strongly recommended of all students, whether an introductory international law class or its equivalent. Equally important, students must welcome the opportunity to engage critical and controversial perspectives that may challenge their previously held views. The reading load will be substantial, as befits a serious course. Respectful, prepared, and open-minded class participation is a must for making sense of these materials.

Graduate Readings: On Interpretation

C.D. Blanton
MW, 12-2pm, Wheeler 305
Class #:21687

English 203

The last several decades have heard repeated, even rhythmic, calls to dispense with ‘interpretation’ as the model and indispensable methodological instrument of reading and critical reason, even within intellectual disciplines seemingly constituted by a history of interpretive practice. But the fact that such calls find themselves so regularly renewed again might also suggest the tenacity of the problem of interpretation as such, even a certain difficulty in avoiding interpretation in the name of avoiding interpretation. This course will seek to approach this apparent contradiction from two directions. From one angle, we will survey a few of the more pitched battles over interpretation and interpretability, scattered across the intellectual history of the postwar period. From another, we will track a much longer history, sampling a series of hermeneutic systems and traditions that insist on reading behind, beyond, before, and beside—from traditional modes of scriptural exegesis to modern practices of dialectical and psychoanalytic encryption and decryption. To concentrate our reading, each student will be asked to designate one object (textual, aesthetic, philosophical, or otherwise) to which interpretation itself might return over the course of the term. See also https://english.berkeley.edu/courses/6157 for more information.

The syllabus for Prof. Blanton’s course may be found here.