Spring 2017

Core Courses

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

Critical Theory 200
What is Critique? Kant, Hegel, Marx

Judith Butler
Tuesdays, 12-3 pm, Doe Library 308B

This course will consider the meanings of “critique” and critical thought in Kant, Hegel, and Marx, laying the groundwork for 20th century forms of critical theory.  Readings will be drawn from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Practical Reason, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, and Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts.  The course will require close readings of the assigned portions of these texts.  A class presentation will be required.

Enrollment in Critical Theory 200 requires departmental approval. Priority will be given to Critical Theory Designated Emphasis students, especially those requiring the course to complete their DE requirements. To apply for admission to CT 200, email a 1-page application no later than November 20, 2016 to critical_theory@berkeley.edu, using the subject line “Application for CT 200 [Your Name].” In the 1-page application (Word document attachment), state your reasons for wanting to take the course, including any pertinent background experience or information. In the body of the email, include your name, year in the DE program (if relevant), and anticipated QE date. If applicable, please also attach your up-to-date “DE in Critical Theory Requirements Checklist.

Ethnic Studies 250.3
Structures of Feeling: The Politics and Histories of Affect

Raúl Coronado
Thursdays, 2-5 pm, 80 Barrows

The language of affect is everywhere around us. We talk about our feelings as things that are ours, that we own; we describe how works of art (music, film, literature, art, etc.) create a sense of wonder that make us feel closer to the sublime, a feeling of fullness, of transcendence; and we are often inspired and called to act in reaction to political events. Have emotions always been felt so keenly within the body, within the self or can they be contained in other types of structures? Do feelings have histories? And what work does affect do? We’ll begin with the assumption that feelings are both embodied emotions experienced by individuals and that they are historically situated constructs that emerge out of local conditions. This is to say that affect is both historical and political. Our seminar will take an interdisciplinary approach to affect studies by drawing on history, philosophy, literary criticism, and social science literature. We’ll want to pay close careful attention to the power of affect while situating it within the larger historical, epistemic framework that has allowed for affect to emerge in a variety of forms. Readings may include Foucault, Charles Taylor, Marx, Raymond Williams, Sara Ahmed, William Reddy, Amit Rai, Ann Stoler, Vivasvani Soni, Eli Zaretsky.

This instance of Ethnic Studies 250 counts towards Critical Theory DE students’ Critical Theory 240 requirement.

English 203.1
Worlds Systems Theory and the Asian Anglophone Novel

Colleen Lye
Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:30-11 am, B-40 Hearst Field Annex

World literature theories that have borrowed from the work of Immanuel Wallerstein on early capitalism to conceptualize the dynamics of literary centers and peripheries have difficulty accounting for the Asian Anglophone novel, an ascendant form of late capitalism. Since the early 1970s, the prominent manufacturing role played by Asian economies within the capitalist world system has led scholars to argue either that the center of global hegemony has now shifted East or that the reliance on a floating dollar as the world’s currency has ensnared Asia in a new kind of financialized, structural dependency. This same period sees the rise of the Asian Anglophone novel as a medium through which Asian writers have experimented with diverse fictional modes of representing problems of sovereignty, identity and alternative modernity in a globalized economy. We’ll immerse ourselves in world systems theory debates about the nature of the “long downturn” since the early 70s (Arrighi, Harvey, Brenner, Wallerstein, Radhika Desai, Richard Duncan, etc.), and bring these to bear on the various positions held by world literature and anti-world literature theorists (Casanova, Moretti, Schwartz, Spivak, Jameson, the Warwick Collective, Mufti, Orsini, Cheah, etc.). Further readings on the temporal implications of today’s credit economy, debates between proponents of immaterial labor versus those of Value Form Marxism, the reemergence of social reproduction feminism, theories of race and surplus populations, and the question of “anthropocene or capitalocene?” will be assigned as needed, depending on the interests of the group and the course’s eventual literary foci. The course’s literary component will consist of one work chosen from among 3-4 major novelists each (Amitav Ghosh, Han Ong, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ha Jin, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amit Chaudhuri, Chang Rae Lee, Xu Xi, Ninotchka Rosca are likely contenders for the final 3-4). Besides graduate students who may be specifically interested in the field of Asian Anglophone literature, this course would be useful to those interested in histories and theories of transnational capitalism since the 1970s and in historical materialist approaches to race, gender, empire and ecology. If you are a literature student who wants to get a grip on political economy and how to think about economic mediations of culture, this is a good course for you.

This instance of English 203 counts towards Critical Theory DE students’ Critical Theory 240 requirement.

Elective Courses

The following courses satisfy Critical Theory Designated Emphasis elective requirements.

Education 240D.1
Foundations of Curriculum Theory in the United States

Zeus Leonardo
Tuesdays, 1-4 pm, 5527 Tolman

This course explores the development of curriculum theory and the role of the curriculum specialist in the United States since the Progressive Period. Emphasizing a survey of classic texts and key figures, the course covers the development of three schools of thought: social efficiency approaches, child-centered approaches, and social reconstructionist approaches. It concludes with a study of curriculum theory since the Reconceptualists.

Education 280B.1
Sociocultural Critique of Education

Zeus Leonardo
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?

English 203.2
The Political Economy of Life and Death in African American Literature and Culture

Abdul R. JanMohamed
Wednesdays, 3-6 pm, 104 Dwinelle

Using psychoanalytic, phenomenological, and economic theorization of death and life, this course will examine instances of the political economy of life (and birthing) and death in African American literature. We will read the (Euro-American) exegetic theorization of life and death against the grain of the diegetic theorization of birthing, life, and death that is embedded in African American literary texts, in particular in some of the post-civil rights black feminist texts that focus on birthing and death.

The relation between life and death can be seen as binary or as dialectical, or one can map it as a matrix of exchange, in which, like Marx’s articulation of use and exchange values, life and death function as mutually constitutive and, at the same time, mutually exclusive.  Slavery can be seen as being constituted around a “death contract” (mostly implicit, at times explicit): the vast bulk of the slave’s labor and erotic energies (i.e., his/her “life”) are “exchanged” for the postponement of his/her death, a postponement that is instantly and arbitrarily revocable.  The threat/fear of death functions as the exchange mechanism enabling the transformation of erotic energies into surplus value.

I am particularly interested in the contradiction of the slave mother who is forced to birth a child into death-bound subjectivity, to give life to a socially dead subject. These tensions of the constitutive-exclusive relation between life and death are brilliantly articulated and theorized in novels such as Beloved.

A list of the theoretical texts and a reader will be posted on bCourses.  Mary O’Brien’s The Politics of Reproduction is a required text; it is out of print but inexpensive copies are available online bookstores.

Possible literary texts:  A Lesson Before Dying, Beloved, Bluest Eye, Corregidora, Kindred (and “Blood Child”), The Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man, The Lynchers, Third Life of Grange Copeland, Unconfessed.

English 250
Research Seminar: Modernism in Poetry and Art

Charles F. Altieri
Thursdays, 3:30-6:30 pm, 115 Barrows

This course is still a work in progress.  The basic idea is to develop the possibility that new developments in materialism offer tremendous possibilities for appreciating Impressionist art and Imagist writing.  But they also make it imperative to appreciate why the Modernist painters totally rejected Impressionism and why the Modernist poets soon utterly rejected Imagism.  I want to explore why these rejections also involved judgments on materialism and how those rejections might influence our own thinking — both about specific works of art and about how Modernist art might be even more important for our cultural situation than it was for the culture in which it was developed.  We will begin with some readings in vitalist materialisms as we work for at least two weeks on Impressionist art and Cézanne, as well as Merleau-Ponty on Cézanne.  Then we will spend three weeks on Modernist reactions, along with some readings in Hegel’s aesthetics and much reading in Art in Theory 1900-2000.  Participants will be asked to make fairly short presentations on single paintings from the epoch 1863-1930.  Then we will study how Modernist writing stages the dynamics of self-consciousness as a counter vitality to vitalist materialism.  We will begin with how Pound and Moore reject Imagism, how Eliot’s theological poems reject what he thought to be the limitations of Modernism, and how Stevens kept reframing what self-consciousness might involve, and how Ashbery reframes Stevens, in accord with how Jackson Pollock reinterprets surrealism.  We will read widely in these poets’ writings on poetics but try to focus our conversation in extended discussion of particular poems presented by the participants. If we have time we will also look at why some younger contemporaries utterly reject the role of image and epiphanic narrative in their work.

There should be elaborate readings on space and exemplary paintings.  Papers can pursue any materials discussed in the course.

French 265B
Modern Studies – Precarity and the (Post-)Modern City

Églantine Colon
Thursdays, 1:00-4:00pm, Dwinelle 4226

In this “Modern Studies” seminar, we will trace the genealogy of a seemingly contemporary question—that of urban precarity—from the vantage point of its literary and cinematic figurations. To elaborate such genealogy of our precarious present, we will study films and read literary texts written between the 1850s and the 2000s that allow us to comprehend the major landmarks in a spatial history of precarity. To articulate the relations these works create between their aesthetic logics and the social instabilities to which they give form, we will place them in critical dialogue with analyses coming from a variety of other disciplines: urban theory and town planning (Le Corbusier, Lefebvre, Harvey, Wright), colonial and post-colonial studies (Fanon, Mbembe), sociology (Wacquant, Bourdieu), critical theory (Balibar, Rancière, Butler, Agamben) and theories of labor (Moullier-Boutang, Castel). Central to our materials and discussions will be the social and figurative tensions between Paris and “its” banlieues, from the 19th century to the present moment. We will notably study these tensions through the dis/continuities we can identify between the governmental production of French banlieues and the colonial city (especially Algiers) in the 19th century, which will lead us to interrogate the status of the contemporary peripheries vis-à-vis the history of colonialism. By articulating these spaces as “precarious” we will finally explore their most recent iterations and study the political potentials opened up in sites such as the “Zones à Défendre” and the refugee camps. Across the semester, we will conceptualize the notion of “precarious spaces” in its spatial, economic, temporal, (bio)political and ecological dimensions, while also taking it as a locus for the encounter between aesthetic practices and major events in the history of urban planning and social movements (from the Commune to the 2005 uprisings in the banlieues).

This seminar will be taught in English. Readings will be in French.

French 275
Proust, Speech Act Theory, and Language-in-Use

Michael Lucey
Wednesdays, 2-5 pm, 4125A Dwinelle

We will read simultaneously, in somewhat experimental fashion, from three different currents of writing. First, we will read long sections from Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu (dipping into all seven volumes at one point or another). We will be focusing on sections of the novel that have to do with the exchange of language. Second, we will read widely in and around what is called “Speech Act Theory,” a current within philosophy that has also been taken up in literary and cultural studies (readings will be drawn from some of the following authors: Austin, Grice, Searle, Quine, Putnam, Hornsby, Langton, Brandom, Butler, Sedgwick). Finally, we will pursue a set of readings related to the concept of language-in-use as developed in present-day linguistic anthropology. This will include some precursor texts in literary criticism, philosophy, and sociology (readings will be drawn from some of the following authors: Bakhtin, Bourdieu, Peirce, Goffman, Jakobson, Silverstein, Ochs, Agha). There is, we will find, a productive friction between the way language and language use are viewed in speech act theory and in linguistic anthropology, and we will be exploring how that friction can help us to see ways in which a novel like Proust’s explores what language is, and what it does when we use it. This may lead us to some speculations about what kind of an analytic instrument a novel itself can prove to be when it comes to understanding language-in-use.  It is desirable that participants be able to read Proust in the original French, but others with an interest in the topic may enroll in the seminar as space allows.

German 256.1
Problems of Literary Theory

Karen S. Feldman
Wednesdays, 1-4 pm, 282 Dwinelle

This graduate seminar will investigate German philosophy of history. We will focus on Historicism, its precursors, and its legacy for hermeneutics and literary theory. Readings include excerpts from Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Ranke, Koselleck and others. Important secondaries include Paul Ricoeur, Hayden White, Timothy Bahti, Frederick Beiser and others.

Spanish 280.1
Christianity and Capitalism

Ivonne del Valle
Tuesdays, 3-6 pm, 104 Dwinelle

According to Max Weber the spirit of Protestantism made possible the emergence of capitalism proper. In his recounting, Spain’s imperial/colonial experience could be bracketed as a previous and/or different moment, what Marx termed primitive accumulation. Without negating that the 16th and 17th centuries in the Americas (one of the central vantage points of the course) could be rightfully considered in such a way, we will study how religion and economy intermingled, clashed, and related to each other in an enterprise in which they were the central, directing forces (evangelization/exploitation of people and resources). Focusing on Spain’s Catholic version of the economy we will investigate violence and its justification, religious metaphors and ideology, as well as the processes of rationalization and discipline, ordering that accompanied the expansion of Christianity, in order to understand the particular forms the economy took under early modern/colonial Catholicism and the cultural, social forms that accompanied it.

Spanish 280.3

Natalia Brizuela
Thursdays, 3-6 pm, 54 Barrows

This seminar will work its way through the critical concept of mimesis in 20th Century theory, and 20th and 21st Century aesthetic practices (literature, photography, film, art) and political life. The work of Aristotle, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Roger Caillois, Jacques Derrida, Michael Taussig and Kaja Silverman will construct the blueprint for our journey, as we make sense of this elusive concept. Miming, imitation, mimicry, reproduction, resemblance, similarities, the irreducible material element of nature itself, becoming-other, analogies: all of these, and many others, are ways in which the aesthetic and the political realms of human life have understood mimesis. As opposed to Plato, who saw in the world of mimetic imitation a threat, for Aristotle man is the most imitative of all creatures, so that mimesis and mediation are mankind’s fundamental ways of getting closer to the real by learning from and about nature. For Benjamin humans have a particular gift for the mimetic, and the mimetic faculty is above all a human product that is historically changing. For Adorno, mimicry — and therefore mimesis — was a necessary strategy for guaranteeing life. For both Benjamin and Adorno, in the post-Enlightenment world, with the epistemic rupture of a certain sensuous relationship between man and the world, crystallized first around the emergence of science (and later technologies of reproduction), mimesis as a form of truth entered into crisis. It is the height of this crisis — the 20th and 21st centuries — that we will investigate in this seminar. We will draw on cases and examples from the Luso-Hispanic world, but all seminar participants can and should use the seminar to work through their own corpus of materials from other geographical and disciplinary areas.  Seminar conducted in English.