Critical Theory 200/History 280
Reason and Critique
This seminar will explore the interaction between critique and rationality since the Enlightenment. Among the topics we will address are the theological origins of modern thought and the relation between religion and critique, the legacy of German Idealism, the Frankfurt School’s distinction between traditional and critical theory, the hermeneutic and phenomenological critique of reason, the feminist response to the communicative rationalism of Habermas, and the relationship between philosophical rationalism and social rationalization. In addition to a number of secondary sources, we will read primary texts by Kant, Hegel, Weber, Horkheimer, Heidegger, Habermas and Gadamer.
Critical Theory 205/Comparative Literature 221/Rhetoric 221
Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory
Mondays, 2-5 pm, 211 Dwinelle
About 2/3 or 3/4 of this seminar will involve sustained reading and discussion of Theodor W. Adorno’s last major work, which he was still finishing at the time of his 1969 death: Aesthetic Theory (1970).
Prerequisites for Enrollment: Significant familiarity with the following major texts of philosophy, aesthetics, sociopolitical and/or critical theory (for the longer texts, familiarity with at least key excerpts is sufficient) to which Aesthetic Theory offers sustained and repeated yet often extraordinarily compressed responses, on the assumption that Aesthetic Theory‘s readers are aware not only of these earlier texts (and key concepts and phenomena at issue within them, such as: the status of objective conceptuality and aesthetic non- or quasi-conceptuality; the constellation and force-field; use-value, exchange value, mechanical/technical/technological reproduction’s values over against aesthetic value; determinant and reflective judgment; commitment/engagement; mass, popular, and conceptually undetermined culture; relations among subjectivity, critical agency, class consciousness; etc.), but are also aware of something of the texts’ complicated reception histories.
Major Texts with which enrollees should be familiar: Kant, Critique of Judgment; Hegel, Lectures on the Fine Arts; Phenomenology of Spirit; Marx, Theses on Feuerbach; The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte; Das Kapital (esp. chapter-section “The Secret of Commodity Fetishism”); Marx and Engels, The German Ideology; The Communist Manifesto; Walter Benjamin, “One-Way Street,” “The Storyteller,” “Surrealism,” “The Author as Producer,” “Conversations with Brecht,” “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility [Mechanical Reproduction]”; “The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire”; “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire”; “On the Concept of History [Theses on the Philosophy of History]”; Adorno and/or Adorno and Horkheimer: Dialectic of Enlightenment; “On Lyric Poetry and Society”; “Cultural Criticism and Society”; “Commitment [Engagement]”; “The Essay as Form”; “Parataxis”; Minima Moralia. Finally, those wishing to enroll, while not needing to feel themselves already well-versed in the following artistic movements and artists, should nonetheless have some working sense of their importance and sequencing for and within the 19th and 20th-century history of literature (poetry, prose fiction, theatre, criticism), visual art (painting, engraving and print-making, sculpture, criticism), music (chamber, symphonic, operatic, music hall and music theater, jazz, pop; music criticism, etc.), photography and cinema (and their criticism): Movements/currents/styles/periods including Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, Symbolism, Impressionism, Modernism, Dada, Avant-Gardism, New Objectivity; Surrealism, Expressionism, Constructivism, Social/Socialist Realism, Existentialism; Postmodernism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism; Artists including Cervantes, Shakespeare, Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Hölderlin, Shelley, Byron, Dickens, Robert Browning, Swinburne, Mörike, Rilke, George, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Zola, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Ibsen, Strindberg, Eliot, Pound, Williams, the Surrealist poets, novelists, and playwrights, Brecht, Lorca, Sartre, Joyce, Beckett, Celan, Bach, Haydn,. Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wagner, Berg, Webern, Schönberg, Weill, Eisler, Boulez, Cage, Stockhausen, Goya, David, Ingres, Delacroix, Gericault, Courbet, Manet, Cezanne, Monet, Picasso, Braque, Grosz, Gris, Léger, Pollock, Kline, Rothko, Guston.’
Course Proceedings: About the first 1/4 or possibly 1/3 of the seminar will be devoted to very brisk review of the earlier texts mentioned above (starting with the Kant and going all the way through writings by Adorno and his Frankfurt School colleagues) including both their conceptual and historical arguments and contributions, and to rapid recounting of the aesthetic, political, and social tensions they stage and rehearse about movements, artists, critics, philosophers and theorists. This review, which will assume enrolled students’ previous (prior to this seminar) encounters with the texts concerned, will not take time for close reading. The major part of the seminar–our close, careful reading of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory (1970)—will then seek to understand, interpret, and respond to the text’s treatments of modern art’s development in relation to mostly Kantian, Hegelian, Marxian, and earlier Frankfurt Critical Theory traditions of aesthetics and critical theory. We’ll pay ongoing attention to how and why the imaginative, potentially intersubjective activity traditionally understood to be at the heart of aesthetic experience turns out, with various twists, to be crucial to Adorno’s overall analyses of modernity, mechanical/technical/technological reproduction and reproducibility (in both the economic and artistic-aesthetic spheres), and critical agency. We’ll also consider how Aesthetic Theory’s concerns and legacies might engage the changed sociopolitical circumstances–and the changed artistic-aesthetic, critical-theoretical tendencies-of the last three decades. Among the seminar’s emphases will be an ongoing inquiry into how attention to artworks’ formal, stylistic, and philosophical-theoretical dynamics (that is, 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.
Political Science 212B
Early Modern Political Theory
Seminar: Thursdays, 2-4 pm, 111 Kroeber.
Lecture: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 11 am-12:30 pm, 126 Barrows
A weekly seminar on political thought from the Renaissance to the French Revolution. Early modern political theorists, typically including Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Burke.
Please note: Students who take 212B are required to attend the lecture for 112B, which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:00am-12:30 pm in 126 Barrows.
“Civilization” and Beyond
(where questions of life and information enter in)
Tuesdays, 2-5 pm, 201 Wheeler
*Please note: All readings will be in the original French*
Taking advantage of the rubric “Modern French Thought”, which enables us to work across centuries, we will undertake to analyze discourses from the “sciences humaines” that emerge in the 19th c. in France, become authoritative in the 20th c. and are put into question in the 21st. The topics we will address can be provisionally broken down in the following way: Step 1) Examine the notion of civilization as it gets constructed in the wake of the French Revolution and becomes altered in relation to the colonial project, as “civilization” becomes one term in the opposition between the “civilized” and the “primitive” in early twentieth century social theory. Step 2) Examine discourses of humanité and humanism and how they finesse exclusions based on race, religion, etc. and what would be at stake in universalizing them. Step 3) Examine notions of “life,” considering how the limits of the human have recently been put into question in terms of the boundaries between the human and the animal on the one hand and between the human and the artificial (or information machines) on the other. (For Bruno Latour, for example the concept of the human subject is to be replaced by a notion of “humans and nonhumans.”) Without trying to accomplish a history of ideas we will follow a number of threads such as the thread from “public opinion” in the early 19th C to “information” in the 21st, or from discourses of emancipation (human rights) to discourses of sustainability. Although we may include some literary works in our readings (depending on time and interest) our main focus will be to trace fundamental conceptual shifts and tensions in relation to changing historical and political situations. I welcome input from interested students concerning final selection of readings (student projects that concern gender studies or literary works would be welcome but because of time constraints, this will not be the focus of our readings). Readings will includes works (or selections of works) by authors such as Mme de Staël (Comment terminer la Révolution?), Guizot (La Civilisation en Europe), Hyppolite Taine (De l’Intelligence), Renan (L’Avenir de la science) Gobineau (Essai sur l’inegalité des races), Drumont (La France Juive), Durkheim (L’Education Morale; Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse), Gabriel Tarde (De l’imitation), Bergson (Les Deux Sources de la Morale et de la Religion), Bruno Latour (La Politique de la Nature), Derrida (L’animal que donc je suis), and essays by people like Deleuze, Peter Sloterdijk, and Luciano Floridi (on the philosophy of information).
“Birth” & “Death” in Neo-slave and Jim Crow Feminist Narratives
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 2-3:30 pm, 51 Evans
Building on O. Patterson’s notion of “social death” and my own definition of the “death-bound-subject,” this course will examine black feminist (mostly neo-slave and Jim Crow) narratives that are concerned with the “birthing” of the death- bound-subject, with the aporetic predicament of the black (slave) mother whose “gift of life” can be immediately appropriated via the threat of death. Methodologically, we will approach these issues from Marxian, psychoanalytic, phenomenological, and feminist viewpoints. Theoretically, I am particularly interested in interrogating Marxian concepts such as “reproduction of the relations of production” and “primitive accumulation” from psychoanalytic and feminist viewpoints. These novels, however, are extremely rich and their articulation of the coercions and resistances that attend the slave maternal subject position can be read/critiqued from any number of vantage points.
Book list: Morrison, T.: Beloved; Walker, A.: Third Life of Grange Copeland; Butler, O.: Kindred; Jones, G.: Corregidora; Petry, A.: The Street; Larsen, N.: Quicksand and Passing; Williams, S. A.: Dessa Rose; Recommended: Butler, O.: Bloodchild and Other Stories; JanMohamed, A.: The Death-Bound-Subject.
Comp Lit 258:1
Early Modern/Late Modern: Political Theology, Secularism, Literature
Tuesdays, 2-5 pm, 102 Latimer
What do we mean by “early modern?” How has the concept of the early modern been constructed? How have twentieth-century theorists and philosophers read early modern texts and with what consequences for contemporary theory? In this course, we will focus on a group of twentieth-century European critics who turned to early modern texts to make sense of the crisis of modernity during the interwar period. Rather than exploring how the early modern period anticipated modern ideas of liberalism, rights, and scientific progress (one standard reading of the period), these critics focused instead on the ways in which the early modern period contributed to a crisis of historicism and secular reason that in turn fueled new forms of political theology, including fascism and totalitarianism, in the twentieth century. Of particular concern to the modern theorists was a constellation of issues that are directly relevant to critical debates today: the meaning of political theology, the relationship between secularism and historicism, and the role of literary culture in the newly secular European nation-states. The moderns we will consider include Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, Alexandre Kojève, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Kantorowicz, Hannah Arendt, Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar. The early moderns include Machiavelli, Hobbes, Shakespeare, and Spinoza.
Socio-cultural Critique of Education
Wednesdays, 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.”
Law and Literature
Thursdays, 3-5 pm, 282 Dwinelle
“Law and Literature” has emerged as one of the most vibrant interdisciplinary fields during the past two decades. This research seminar probes the potential of this field by reading some key texts of modern German literature from the 18th to the 20th century. Readings include Goethe, Schiller, Hegel, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Kleist, Buechner, Wagner, Kafka, Brecht, Benjamin, Carl Schmitt and Peter Weiss. Readings in German or English, discussions in English.