The following courses satisfy Critical Theory Designated Emphasis core course requirements.
Comparative Literature 225 (Critical Theory 205)
Critical Art, Critical Theory: Modern Poetry and Frankfurt School Aesthetics
Wednesdays 2-5 pm / 4125A – Dwinelle
Class #: 30337
[Note: Although this 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 Comparative Literature 225 seminar. 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 to study and engage actively with the modern poetry and poetics that will be treated as the seminar’s primary literary field, along with the seminar’s related critical-theoretical and philosophical-aesthetics materials.] Seminar Description: 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 a shared project throughout the semester, the class will read and continue discussing together in a sustained manner a facing-page, French-English volume containing Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal / The Flowers of Evil  and Le Spleen de Paris/Petits Poèmes en Prose ; and also poetry by a number of contemporary poets, likely including Nathaniel Mackey, Claudia Rankine, Barbara Guest, Michael Palmer, Emmy Pérez, Myung Mi Kim, D.S. Marriottt, Roberto Tejada, and others (e.g.: Vallejo, Duncan, Brecht, Lorca, Mayakovsky, Ponge, Éluard, Rilke, Neruda, Ginsberg, Hansberry, Zurita, Celan, various Surrealists and Objectivists, W.C. Williams, Moore, Bishop, Stevens, Paz, Olson, Levertov, Creeley, Ashbery, Paz, O’Hara, Adonis, Monchoachi, Rich, Darwish, Avidan, Morejón, Césaire, Pizarnik, Bachmann, Castellanos, Daive, Albiach, Pasolini, et al.). [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, but 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 very helpful.]
Rhetoric 240G (Critical Theory 240) Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Rhetorical Theory
Wednesdays 2-5pm / Dwinelle 7415
Class #: 25754
In the Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt provocatively criticized natural law accounts of human rights for reducing humanity to an animal biological species. Because modern human rights discourse derives universal rights from the natural fact of being human, it determines humanity as “the abstract nakedness of being human and nothing but human”. Ironically, the gesture that endows us with naturally given, inalienable human rights simultaneously violates us by depriving us of our humanity. Arendt’s subsequent distinction between the bios of human existence, life in its non-biological and political sense, and the “mere zōē” or natural biological life suggests that the latter cannot be the site of politics and the source of rights. In contrast, Foucault’s concept of biopower is part of a radical questioning of human life as a privileged ground of freedom. Forces of resistance since the nineteenth century, he noted, have “relied for support…on life and man as a living being” when such life is precisely the product of biopolitical technologies. This course explores how the radical questioning of anthropocentric conceptions of political life can lead to an alternative politics of life and a new conception of the rights of life as distinguished from the traditional right to life. The first part of the course will focus on Arendt and Marx as representative theorists of anthropocentric conceptions of political and economic life and their respective accounts of human rights. The second part of the course examines the alternative philosophical understanding of life offered by Michel Foucault’s account of bio-power and its radical critique of anthropologism. Before turning to Foucault, we will examine some intellectual sources of Foucault’s new vitalism, especially the writings of Spinoza and Georges Canguilhem so that we can assess the sociopoliticalaims and implications of some of vitalistic concepts and analytical categories. Foucault explicitly addressed, although to different degrees, issues of racial oppression and sexual oppression. The final part of the course will examine the implications of his alternative philosophy of life and the living for understanding different regimes of human rights in contemporary globalization. We will focus on “second and third generation” human rights (economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development), which are associated with socialist countries and countries of the postcolonial South, the human rights dimension of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. Readings will include the theory of human capital by the Chicago School economists, Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach, critical analyses of Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights and and environmental rights as an extension of human rights. Issues to be explored in the course include: the limits of understanding life in terms of the form of the subject; the critique of juridical rights and the philosophy of recognition; the connection between human capital and human rights; and the implications of a biopolitical analysis for movements for women’s rights, racial justice and sexual diversity rights, and environmental issues. Required Texts: Karl Marx, Early Writings, trans. Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992) Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993) Benedictus de Spinoza, Political Treatise, trans. Samuel Shirley (Hackett, 2005) Georges Canguilhem, The Normal and the Pathological (NY: Zone, 1991) Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (NY: Vintage, 1990) — Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the College de France 1975-1976 (NY: Picador, 2003) — Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the College de France 1977-1978 (NY: Picador, 2007) — The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-1979 (NY: Palgrave, 2008) Elizabeth Povinelli, Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016)
Elective Courses (Critical Theory 290)
The following courses satisfy Critical Theory Designated Emphasis elective requirements.
Rhetoric 200 (Critical Theory 290)
Classical Rhetorical Theory and Practice: History and Theory of Rhetoric
Tuesdays 2-5pm / Dwinelle 7415
Class #: 25753
This seminar offers an introduction to classical rhetorical theory from Homer to Augustine. Secondary readings will be drawn from scholarship in Classics (Vernant, Loraux, Svenbro) and from modern philology, philosophy, and theory (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Adorno, S. Weil, R. Bespaloff, Arendt, R. Jakobson, J. L. Austin, Foucault, Rancière, Blumenberg, Balibar, J. Butler, Latour). Topics will include speech and writing; rhetoric and philosophy; language and reality; persuasion, seduction, and epistemological critique; literal and figurative meaning; agency and responsibility; aesthetics, politics, and religion. More details will be made available on bCourses. The final syllabus will be determined at the first session to reflect student preferences. No prerequisites. Open to graduate students from all departments including Critical Theory DE students. Classics students will be encouraged to read texts in the original. Requirements: bi-weekly blog post responses; one to two in-class presentations or responses (depending on the class size); a final research paper geared towards the participants’ own research fields.
Rhetoric 240F (Critical Theory 290)
Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Legal Rhetoric and Philosophy
Mondays, 2-5pm / Dwinelle 7415
Class #: 31405
The seminar this semester returns to issues in the “foundations” of (Western) law (though comparativists are also welcome). Philosophy of law is often framed as a debate between “natural law” (or higher law) and manmade or “positive” law. Other fields often distinguish a “rule of law” from an “order of custom.” Legal scholars often privilege judicial decisions over legislation while political scientists prioritize non-judicial “branches” of government as law-makers. In this course, we will consider not only disciplinary frames, but how various claims as to the justice or injustice of law aim to ground law, as right action, in polity, God, morality, efficiency, rules, or human institutions. We will ask what such claims involve and we will also ask, with Nietzsche, what it means to presume that there are foundations of law at all.
Italian 235 (Critical Theory 290)
Decolonizing the Republic of Letters: Literature and Violence from Columbus to Vico
Tuesdays 2-5 pm / Dwinelle 6331
Class #: 32512
In dialogue with post-colonial theory, indigenous studies and global history, this seminar interrogates literary and philosophical texts in light of the current debate on the decolonization of knowledge and education. After tracing the Renaissance discourse about conquest and empire triggered by Columbus and the Iberian globalization, we’ll focus on the controversy around slavery and the dispossession of Indigenous people, considering how the Republic of Letters enabled and was at the same time produced by the violence of Euro-American colonialism. Readings will include both early modern authors (such as Columbus, Ariosto, Montaigne, Vico) as well as classics from critical theory (such as Arendt, Fanon, Said, Trouillot, Greenblatt, Subrahmanyam).
History 280D (Law 267.4) (Critical Theory 290)
Law & History Foundation Seminar: American Legal History
Mondays 2:10-5 pm / 2240 Piedmont Avenue, Room 102
(first class is Monday, August 22)
Class #: 25753
Instructor Consent Required for Enrollment
As in previous years, Law 267.4 will explore the central themes of American legal development, while also investigating the way legal history has matured as a field of study or “discipline.” But we are living in interesting times, in which the varied exploitations of colonialism, racism, and capitalism have been made the subject of intense examination and argument. So this semester I want to give explicit attention to the question of how history – as theory, as philosophy, as method, or simply as narrative – can help us understand the role that law has played, and plays, in the construction of our times. The course will concentrate on the legal history of the United States, but it will begin and end with pointed glances at two other Anglophone common law jurisdictions – England and Australia. And, to set our discussion of theory and method in legal history off with a bang, we will begin with work by Louis Althusser, one of the most famous Marxist philosophers of the twentieth century, which poses the issue of how we should think about law as a phenomenon. In other words, what is law? Considered as a field of study, legal history is as much history as it is law, and history is primarily a discipline of the book. For this reason, I have chosen to make Law 267.4 a course that focuses on books. Over the course of the semester our goal will be to develop a thorough grounding in American legal history’s formative literatures by reading a wide selection of the field’s best work, ranging from classics that have structured the field, stirred controversy, and inspired generations of scholars (like James Willard Hurst’s Law and the Conditions of Freedom and Morton Horwitz’s Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860), to the best work of the current generation of field leaders (like Laura Edwards’ The People and their Peace and Kunal Parker’s Legal Thought Before Modernism), to notable recent work by rising scholars (like Karen Tani’s States of Dependency and Ken Mack’s Representing the Race). We will accumulate considerable knowledge of the empirical substance of American legal history, but we will also give close critical attention to the very different ways in which scholars have chosen to write the history of American law (and the very different subjects about which they have considered it appropriate to write).
Anthropology 250X (Critical Theory 290)
Wittgenstein and Anthropology
Wednesdays 12-2 pm / Anthropology/Art Practice Bldg 221
Class #: 30232
In this class, we will explore some of the writings and ideas of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. It has often been noted that Wittgenstein’s style of philosophy, in his later writings, relies on a highly anthropological sensibility for what he calls the “grammar” of specific forms of life. What does a Wittgensteinianism sensibility contribute to our understanding of the practice and potentials of ethnographic description? What did he mean by the claim that he couldn’t “help seeing every problem from a religious point of view,” and how might this claim allow us to better grasp (practice) this sensibility? How might an engagement with the work of this philosopher afford us a unique perspective on contemporary or longstanding debates within the discipline of anthropology? We will explore these and other questions through a close reading of some sections of the Philosophical Investigations, the Remarks on Frazer, and some of the Reflections on Aesthetics and Religious Belief, as well as works by other commentators.
English 203 (Critical Theory 290)
Graduate Readings: Modernism and the Public Sphere
Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-5 pm / 337 Wheeler
Class #: 33713
A series of works in the last twenty years has complicated the notion that modernism is characterized by a preoccupation with interiority, arguing for public culture as a crucial space for the construction of modernism. This course asks how modernist interiority and technologies of dissemination affect one another and how this changes our understanding of the politics of the movement. We will consider modernist works with Jürgen Habermas’s concept of the public sphere, in which multiple registers and perspectives encounter one another in an open and democratic realm of discourse. How can an investigation of modernists’ staging and undermining of normative or ideal speech situations inform our understanding of modernist language and of the political capacities of the movement? Our discussion will address novels, plays, poems, manifestos, little magazines, newspaper columns, radio plays and addresses, cartoons, and films by figures including Samuel Beckett, André Breton, Alfred Jarry, James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Flann O’Brien, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, H. G. Wells, and W. B. Yeats.