Critical Theory 240/Comparative Literature 221/Rhetoric 221
Marxian Aesthetics, Literary Theory & Criticism: Some Classic Texts
Tuesdays 2-5pm, 210 Dwinelle
This Ph.D. seminar will reconsider some classic/canonical, highly influential texts within Marxian thought that virtually take for granted—or at least take extraordinarily seriously—the existence, and the importance to critical thought and agency—of a distinct mode of human experience and activity usually called aesthetic. Though our readings will engage various arts and cultural practices, they will emphasize literary art. The classic texts we’ll read will include writings by Kant, Hegel, Marx and Engels, Luxemburg, Lukács, Du Bois, Brecht, Benjamin, Adorno, Horkheimer, Sartre, Beauvoir, Raymond Williams, and Jameson. Time permitting, we’ll also try to look briefly at (or at least gesture toward) aesthetics- focused texts by Percy Shelley, Heine, Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci, Korsch, Mariátegui, Kracauer, Bloch, Marcuse, and Althusser.
History of Art 290 or 292
Art and Labor
Wednesdays 9 am-12 pm, 308B Doe
Recent artists and theorists alike understand art making as a form of labor—that is, as purposeful effort structured by specific class relations and economic imperatives. However, at the same time, art is often explicitly contrasted to work—the “free” and “unproductive” counterpoint to the grind of alienated wage labor under capitalism. This seminar will examine a range of writings that variously assert that art is labor and that it as leisure. Artistic production has also been theorized as a paradigm for what is called “postwork,” given its emphasis on flexible labor and creative knowledge production. What work do these theorists ask art to do? And how do various conceptions of labor lead to starkly opposing opinions about the relationship between art, autonomy, the culture industry, and elitism?
Problems of Literary Theory
Wednesdays 12-2 pm, 282 Dwinelle
This course will consider various literary-theoretical approaches to the question of how textual interpretation is mediated by reception. Thus it will investigate to what degree formal and aesthetic textual analysis is conditioned by historical factors, and also how historical interpretation is conditioned by assumptions about literary form. We will read authors in the German tradition of reception theory (e.g. Iser, Jauss); literary formalism (e.g. Shklovsky); and deconstruction (e.g. de Man); as well as some classic authors of German literary and historical thought (e.g. Koselleck, Staiger, Blumenberg).
Frankfurt School and Media
Seminar: Mondays 1-4 pm
Screenings: Mondays 4-6 pm, 282 Dwinelle
The seminar will focus on the critical writings on film and photography by Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, and Theodor W. Adorno from the 1920s to the 1960s. We shall engage in close readings of their major works on media theory and illustrate (as well as complicate) our readings with pertinent examples from film history. We contextualize their arguments by relating them to the contemporaneous theories of Georg Simmel, Bert Brecht, Sergei Eisenstein, et al. We shall also address the legacy of critical media theory in Guy Debord, Jean-Luc Godard, Alexander Kluge, and Friedrich Kittler. All texts are in English translation.
Sociocultural Critique of Education
Mondays 1-4 pm, 5527 Tolman
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?