Spring 2018

Core Courses

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

Critical Theory 200
Critique in 19th-Century Thought

Charles Daniel Blanton
Tuesdays, 2-5 pm, Dwinelle 187

This course will examine various formulations of critique in 19th-century theory. Thinkers who may be studied include Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Weber, though the selection will vary by instructor. This is the “foundations” course for the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory.

Note: Departmental consent required for enrollment. Please write to critical_theory@berkeley.edu with the subject line “Critical Theory 200 Enrollment” to express your interest in enrolling in this course. Please identify your home department, year, and reasons for wanting to enroll in the course.

Ethnic Studies 250
Critical Ethnic Studies without Guarantees: Thinking with Stuart Hall

Keith Feldman
Tuesdays, 11 am-2 pm, Barrows 591

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. We will read a broad swathe of Hall’s oeuvre alongside a selection of his interlocutors, including Marx, Gramsci, Althusser, Williams, Freud, Fanon, Derrida, Gilroy, McRobbie, Spivak, Scott, Bhabha, Carby, Keeling, Sharpe, and Lubiano.

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

Film 240
Freud and Lacan

Mary Anne Doane
Wednesdays, 1-4 pm, Dwinelle 226

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.

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

French 270A
“Nature/milieu/habit/life”

Suzanne Guerlac
Tuesdays, 2-5 pm, Giannini 201

“The nature within us,” wrote Merleau-Ponty, “must have some relation to Nature outside us … It is no longer a matter of constructing arguments but of seeing how all this hangs together.”

In this seminar, we will explore how notions of nature, milieu, habit and life “hang together” (or do not) as we travel through writings by philosophers, physiologists, psychologists and philosophers of science. Readings will include works (or extracts of works) by figures such as Descartes, Kant (Critique of Teleological Reason), Félix Ravaisson (On Habit), Claude Bernard (Introduction to the Studies of Experimental Medicine, with special attention to the notion of “interior milieu”), Théodule Ribot (on attention and memory), Xavier Bichat (from Physiological Researches upon Life and Death), Bergson (especially Matter and Memory, considered in relation to Ravaisson), Georges Canguilhem (“The Normal and the Pathological”), Merleau-Ponty (especially Nature, Notes from the Collège de France but with extracts from The Philosophy of Perception) and Georges Simondon (on individuation and milieu). We will also consider more recent writings: Mark Sinclair (on Bergson and Ravaisson), Brian Massumi, and Isabelle Stengers. In the course of our travels we will keep in mind Merleau-Ponty’s reminder that “The concept of Nature is always the expression of an ontology – and its privileged expression,” and Georges Canguilhem’s insistence that milieu has become “an indispensable category of modern thought.”

Reading knowledge of French would be helpful but not essential, as most of our readings will be available in English translation.

In the schedule of classes this course also appears as French 270A: Literacy Criticism: Recent Work in French

This instance of French 270A counts towards Critical Theory DE students’ Critical Theory 240 requirement.

Elective Courses

The following courses satisfy Critical Theory Designated Emphasis elective requirements.

Critical Theory 290 | Law 267.4
American Legal History

Christopher Tomlins
2240 Piedmont (Legal Studies Department), Room 102, Wednesdays, 2-5 pm

American Legal History is a reading and discussion seminar. 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, graduate students from History, Critical Theory, and other campus programs, and from other Bay Area institutions.

As a field of study, legal history is as much history as it is 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’s formative literatures by reading a wide selection of the field’s best work, ranging from 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), to the best work of the current generation (like Laura Edwards’ The People and their Peace and Michael Willrich’s City of Courts), to notable recent work by younger scholars (like Karen Tani’s States of Dependency and Ken Mack’s Representing the Race). We will acquaint ourselves with the main currents of American legal history while also exploring 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.

The course is offered in a 3-unit format that is standard for all JD students, and a 3+1 unit format required for graduate students that gives an additional unit of credit for additional work within the course framework. Each format has its own reading and assessment requirement. For further information on this matter, see the course syllabus.

Comparative Literature 202B
Three Marxian Poets? Germany And The Americas? Brecht, Vallejo, Zukofsky

Robert Kaufman
Wednesdays, 2-5 pm, Dwinelle 4104

The German Bertolt Brecht, the Peruvian César Vallejo, and the American Louis Zukofsky exert—within their lifetimes, and in their posthumous reception to this day—special influence on experimental-modernist and marxian (as well as broader Left) traditions of poetry, poetics, and criticism. Like many artists who come of age early in the 20th century, these poets effectively begin their careers with romantic and symbolist poetics all but second nature to them; they proceed to adopt and extend “advanced” formal and thematic experimentation as intended critique, radicalization, and modernization of romanticism and symbolism themselves, and as an intended contribution towards the development of modern poetry’s capacities dynamically to engage, from the Left, a dramatically altered social landscape.

In sustained readings of these writers’ poetry and criticism (and with some attention to their work outside poetry), this seminar will invite response to many aspects of the poetic art under study, while highlighting the consideration of what seems or doesn’t seem particularly marxian—or for that matter, particularly Left—in the poetry. These poets’ formidable imaginative energies and intellectual reach; their terrific feel for how to work with and stretch inherited poetic forms and genres; their singular formal-technical innovations at the level of line, syntax, phrase, syllable, accent, and even phoneme; their virtuosic abilities with traditional and novel orchestrations of lyric musicality; and just their sheer overall poetic talent and ambition will allow us to see, among other things, how their rigorous investigations and enactments, in verse and criticism, of the compound question “what is poetry, what is aesthetic experience, what is modernism, what is Marxism, what might—or should, or should not—bring them all together?” will yield intriguing, often unexpected results (and not only in terms of the relationships obtaining in modern poetry among pleasure, estrangement, judgment, form, structure, genre, aesthetic autonomy, sociohistorical content, and ethical-political commitment).

In addition to their own poetry, we will read poems by some of Brecht’s, Vallejo’s, and Zukofsky’s precursors, colleagues, and heirs; and we will spend considerable time evaluating the national—and, perhaps especially, the international or supra-national—claims made by and for the three poets’ work, including claims about the bridges they wished to help construct (not least, among the literary-artistic-political cultures of Germany and the rest of Europe, Latin America, and the United States). We will in addition read—trying to work out our own interpretations while seeking as well to reconstruct the interpretations made (and then presumably put artistically into motion) by Brecht, Vallejo, and Zukofsky themselves—those marxian writings that most influenced the three poets; this will above all mean the canonical writings of Marx and Engels, but also some key works of other figures whose criticism either influenced the three poets, or importantly influenced readings of them, including Karl Korsch, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Vladimir Mayakovsky, José Carlos Mariátegui, Hannah Arendt, Clement Greenberg, and others. The ways that Brecht’s, Vallejo’s, and Zukofsky’s poems appear finally to grasp or transform these 19th and 20th century marxian texts may prove telling, not only vis-à-vis modern poetry and Marxism, but also with regard to this particular poetry’s German-European, Peruvian-Latin American, and American character.

(Note: We will read Brecht’s and Vallejo’s poetry in English translation, though we will frequently refer to the original German or Spanish texts of the facing-page editions that have been ordered; knowledge of German and/or Spanish, while not required, will of course prove very helpful.)

Comparative Literature 250 | German 256
Imagination, Fantasy, “Einbildungskraft”

Niklaus Largier
Tuesdays, 5-8 pm, Dwinelle 282

In this seminar we will discuss the significance of the notions and concepts of the imagination in philosophical and literary traditions. We will start with a discussion of basic texts by Plato and Aristotle; move on to the treatment of the imagination in classical rhetoric; and focus on four key areas where imagination, fantasy, and ‘Einbildungskraft’ play a significant role: the so-called mystical tradition up to Jacob Böhme; Baroque cultures of the imagination; poetic imagination in the 18th and 19th centuries; and 20th century philosophical approaches. The reading list will include texts by Plato, Aristotle, Quintilian, Ignatius of Loyola, Lohenstein, Böhme, Malebranche, Kant, Addison, Goethe, Moritz, Flaubert, Sartre, and Foucault.

English 203
Radical Enlightenment?

Amanda Goldstein
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-11 am, Dwinelle 104

Channeling the voice of his own Enlightened despot, Kant’s famous answer to the question “What is Enlightenment?” included the chilling injunction to “argue as much as you want and about whatever you want, only obey!” In Foucault’s hands, the limit-setting project of Kantian critique yields a positively transgressive “limit-attitude,” yet Foucault is also quite clear that this ethos must turn away from “all projects that claim to be global or radical.” This seminar, on the contrary, turns toward the “radical” pretenses and partisans of Enlightenment – the heretical ontologies, clandestine associations, violent enthusiasms, trans-Atlantic crosscurrents, and hubristic linkages between philosophy and material freedom – against which the canonical statements of Enlightenment liberalism were wrought. What do radical and minoritarian versions of Enlightenment have to teach us about the stakes and limits of the renewed yearning, in contemporary political life, for something like civil, public discourse? What less familiar relationships between reason and emancipation, personal and collective freedom, revolutionary and colonizing violence, revisionary historiography and radical pedagogy, do they imagine?

With an eye toward the fictional forms (dreams, dialogues, voyages) that often convey extreme ideas and illicit desires, and keeping in mind the partiality of the textual archive as a record of mass aspirations and casualties, this course will survey English, German, French and Caribbean expressions of the radical strains in Enlightenment, as scholars from CLR James to Louis Althusser and Srinivas Aravamudan have sought to theorize their ideas and effects. We will study Lucretius and Spinoza in their clandestine Enlightenment circulation and “new materialist” popularity; examine the spread of “Jacobin” science through dissenting societies and public entertainments; trace, with anti-colonial historiographers, the non-European agents and places that shaped Enlightenment from the inside and put its propositions to unauthorized use; and evaluate Enlightenment in Romantic radicalizations and retrospects, asking, with nineteenth-century people, to what extent ideas and their print media authored the American, French and Haitian Revolutions.

Readings will be assigned in English translation, but students are encouraged to obtain and read original language editions if they wish.

English 250
The Rhetoric of Technique

Joseph Lavery
Thursdays, 3:30-6:30 pm, Mulford 107

“Sex is boring,” Foucault declared in an interview published posthumously in 1986, before expressing his interest in those “intentional and voluntary actions by which men […] make their life an oeuvre that carries certain aesthetic values, and meets certain stylistic criteria,” actions that he called “techniques of the self.” A particular sexual habit or lifestyle might indeed exemplify such a technique, but so might bonsai gardening, crossword puzzles, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, “weird Twitter,” or slam poetry. Yet although such techniques raised, for Foucault, the utopian possibility of stylistic individuation – of “coming into one’s own” – we know, too, that anything that can be improved can be monetized. Under the conditions of capitalist modernity, the drive to perfect the technical dimension of labor both accelerated the expropriation of surplus values from laboring bodies, and further muted what Marx and Engels called the “charm” of pre-capitalist labor. In the modern sense, then, we might understand technique as the product of a collision between these two contradictory compulsions: style (understood as nonscalable, free, and self-creating), and efficacy (understood as measurable, exchangeable, and generic). In this class, we will examine the development of a modern, aesthetic sense of technique through a range of literary and narrative objects, from the mid nineteenth century through until the present day, in a diverse range of genres and texts. In addition to the usual suspects, reading for this course will likely include: Roland Barthes, Cleanth Brooks, Thomas De Quincey, George Eliot, Charles Fourier, Thomas Hardy, L. Ron Hubbard, Henry James, B. S. Johnson, Walter Pater, I. A. Richards, Gillian Rose, John Ruskin, and D. W. Winnicott. This course satisfies the Group 4 (Nineteenth Century), 5 (Twentieth Century), or 6 (Non-historical) requirement.

Book list: Butler, Samuel: Erewhon; Eliot, George: Romula; Hardy, Thomas: Jude the Obscure; Johnson, B. S.: Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry; Miller, D. A.: Place for Us; Preciado, Paul B. [“Beatriz Preciado”]: Testo Junkie; Rose, Gillian: Love’s Work

German 214
Media, Ecology, Migration

Deniz Göktürk
Wednesdays 1-4 pm and Thursdays 1-3pm, Dwinelle 282

This seminar will read theories of old and new media through the lens of two conceptual frameworks environmental criticism and migration studies. Tracing the effects of movement and stillness, interaction and connectivity from early cinema to social media and new forms of data visualizations, participants will develop their own research projects and methodologies by relating questions arising from theory to practice. Drawing on seminal literary and theoretical readings as well as film and multimedia examples, the seminar will test methodologies of critical digital humanities and urban studies, probing interfaces between social sciences and the humanities.

NOTE: This class also meets on Thursdays from 1-3pm in 282 Dwinelle Hall for film screenings.

German 263C
Poetry and Thought

Karen Feldman
Tuesdays, 1-4 pm, 5527 Tolman

This graduate seminar will investigate various disputes at the intersection of philosophy and literary theory that arose with respect to poetry and particular poems. We will begin with a short look at 18th-century disputes between Gottsched and Bodmer/Breitinger; and an examination of the convergence of philosophical and poetic thought in Hölderlin, Schelling and Hegel. Turning to the 20th century, we will look at an exchange between Heidegger, Emil Staiger and Leo Spitzer concerning Mörike’s “Auf eine Lampe”; at serial analyses of later works of Hölderlin by Heidegger, Adorno and de Man.

Note: Some reading German required.

Rhetoric 240G
Homer: Invention and Reception

James Porter
Thursdays, 2-5 pm, Dwinelle 7415

Ancient materials about Homer (philosophy and literary criticism mainly) will be discussed in the first half, and modern materials 2nd half, including Vico, Hegel, Nietzsche, Hokheimer and Adorno, E. Auerbach, S. Weil, R. Bespalof, D. Walcott.

The seminar will examine how classical texts are received by later generations, with Homer as the centerpiece example. We will look at the multifarious ways in which classical texts are transmitted from the past and how they have survived (or failed to survive) from antiquity into the present; how even their imperfect or failed survival can become a theme of reception; how readers have sought to make sense of them and to locate them in reality; and how Homer’s originally sung texts were changed (adapted, used, quoted, sometimes maligned and abused, sometimes creatively reshuffled or translated into different media—first writing, then visual art—or transposed into geographical and archaeological inquiries) while still remaining identifiably “Homeric,” and in this way came to constitute a Homeric tradition that continues to flourish today. Because this tradition has had to invent its source (Homer, whose identity is utterly mysterious and may turn out to be an idea, not a person), the tradition is literally eccentric in all of its manifestations: at its center stands an absent and empty name (“Homer”) and an unanswerable question (“Who was Homer?”). Wrestling with these dilemmas has long been a productive way to generate new cultural forms of expression and especially new “untimely” critiques of the often violent but ever alluring foundations of our culture. This process is still alive today.

The seminar will fall roughly into two parts: (I) the invention and reception of Homer in antiquity; the archaeology of Troy, the history of the Trojan War, the Homeric poems (read selectively through contemporary approaches especially in the new materialisms [Purves, Holmes, Grethlein, alongside relevant selections from the contemporary literature]), and ancient critiques or revisions of Homer in different areas (lies and truth-telling, sophistic revision, literary and philosophical criticism) from the Presocratics to Roman imperial writers; (II) selected modern counterparts, above all philosophers, cultural critics, and poets: Vico, Hegel, Nietzsche, Horkheimer and Adorno, Auerbach, Weil and Bespaloff, Borges, and Derek Walcott. Secondary readings providing background and context will accompany the primary materials. But this is a tentative list that we can modify once we assemble for our first meeting—or sooner if you wish to contact me now (jiporter@berkeley.edu).

Requirements: one or two in-class presentations on the assigned readings; final seminar paper on any area, period, genre, discipline, or language. Archaeologists and visual studies students are especially welcome. No prerequisites: all readings will be made available in translation. Those with ancient or modern languages can bring their insights to the seminar and are encouraged to form reading groups to discuss the originals together. Please visit the bCourses course site for updates and for readings as they become available.

Rhetoric 240G
Scientizing Society: Scientific Discourses of Social Difference and Improvement

Nasser Zakariya
Wednesdays, 9am-12pm, Dwinelle 7415

This course will examine different attempts to conceive, construct and enact sciences of the social world, examining their transformations, ruptures, and shifts primarily from the early nineteenth century to the present. These attempts are part of ongoing efforts to posit and apply notions of social justice and welfare, enactments that also provoke critiques challenging the wisdom and probity of their visions and practices. In turn, such pursuits have been stitched into the problematics of disciplinary traditions in science and technology studies, and in history, philosophy and sociopolitical orders. The course will return to literatures on the histories of race and science (eugenics, early statistics, anthropology), connecting them, for example, to economic literatures on wealth and development, as well as to a variety of science studies relating to practices of mapping and municipal planning in different contexts. Through such connections, this course overviews and probes relevant theoretical interventions and debates in these overlapping disciplines.