Spring 2024

Critical Theory 200

A seminar in 19th century philosophy and social theory concerned with key texts undergirding critical theories in the 20th century. This seminar may include Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and/or Weber, and will be organized around the concept of “critique” and “critical theory.”

Critical Theory 205

A seminar on the Frankfurt School in conjunction with other critical trends, e.g., Adorno and Benjamin and aesthetic theory, or social theory from Bloch to Habermas.

Critical Theory 240

A seminar on contemporary critique and critical theory. This course may include critical race theory, postcontinental political theory, norms and values in critical theory, seminars on the tradition of critique and theology, comparative forms of critique, geopolitical conditions of theory-formation, critical theory and Marxism, critique and the problem of political dissent and citizenship, gender and race in relation to critical practices, psychoanalysis, and literary and art theory and criticism.


Additionally, students in the DE are required to complete two electives from a wide selection of cross-listed courses offered each year. Electives include those listed on this site, but students can also request credit for other courses taken, especially if taught by DE-affiliated faculty.

Spring 2024

Core Courses

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

Comp Lit 250
Studies in Literary Theory
Critical Theory requirement: 240

Ramsey McGlazer
2-5 pm T, 4104 Dwinelle
Class #32169

In this seminar, we’ll study the relationship between literature and modern discourses on psychopathology. We’ll ask how literature informs and inspires psychoanalysis, schizoanalysis, and psychiatry. But, conversely, we'll also ask how these clinical practices alter the production and reception of literature. How do modernist and later writers respond to the claims of clinical knowledge, whether to borrow from, channel, suspend, complicate, contest, or refuse them? What happens to literature when “madness,” long regarded as familiar terrain for poets, playwrights, and novelists, gives way to “mental illness”? What role does the aesthetic play in the emergence of radical psychiatry, as in the work of Fanon, Tosquelles, Basaglia, and Guattari? What was antipsychiatry, and what, if anything, did literature have to do with it?

As we work to address these questions, we will focus on the psychoses rather than on the forms of neurotic suffering that Freud saw as amenable to psychoanalytic treatment or on the “ordinary unhappiness” that he thought could come, at the best of times, after a course of analysis. We'll read several rejoinders to Freud written by clinicians (from Lacan to Davoine and Gaudillière) who argue for the use of psychoanalysis to treat psychotic symptoms. We’ll also study recent critical returns to the psychosocial and consider the status of categories like “paranoia” and “deviance” in ongoing debates in literary studies (from Sedgwick to Love). Literary examples will range from Surrealist experiments to works by Beckett, Darío, Eltit, Head, Joyce, Lessing, Rivera Garza, Rosselli, and Weiss, among others.

Elective Courses

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

Rhetoric 240G
Introduction to Nietzsche
Critical Theory requirement: 290

James Porter
2-5 T, 7415 Dwinelle
Class #23043

An introduction to the writings of Nietzsche over the full length of his career, organized around the general rubric of Nietzsche as a cultural critic and a philosopher of life. Themes to be covered will include cultural history (temporality, historical consciousness, genealogy, and relations between antiquity, modernity, and the present), philosophy, science, religion, race, ethics (agency, self-deception, critique of morals), myth-making, art, the art of writing and the art of voicing (posing, posturing, theatricalizing, parody, performativity), with accompanying secondary materials from Bataille to Adorno, Arendt, Klossowski, Deleuze, Foucault, and contemporary Nietzsche specialists. Seminar papers can be devoted to any topic, whether focused on Nietzsche or in the participants’ individual areas of interest. No prerequisites. Inquiries to jiporter@berkeley.edu(link sends e-mail).

Portuguese 275
Critical and Stylistic Studies of a Single Author or Period
Critical Theory requirement: 290

Nathaniel Wolfson
3-6 Th,
Class #26343

This course explores critiques of Western theories of the avant-garde by focusing on Brazilian texts and visual materials mainly of the 20th century. We will consider how individuals involved in literary, architectural, and artistic movements especially in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1960s, associated their work with concepts of “the tropics.” In various and sometimes opposing ways, situating their practices in “the tropics” allowed them to address the relationships between avant-garde and anti-colonial movements. In the 1960s, the notion of “experimentation” in literary and art practices, so tied up with Western aesthetic theory of the avant-garde, was sometimes challenged by artists and critics. On the topic of experimentation we will read critiques of aesthetic autonomy by Hélio Oiticica and Lina Bo Bardi, as well as studies of indigenous and African cosmologies and traditions by Abdias do Nascimento, Edmilson de Almeida Pereira, and Conceição Evaristo. A second through line of this seminar considers how, in Brazil and across Latin America, technological imaginaries in literature and art have often invoked ecological destruction and capitalist extractivism. On this topic we’ll read with poets, architects and engineers. A third through line concerns alternatives to Western philosophies of rationality and the self. We’ll read texts on psychology and language theory, including those by philosopher Vicente Ferreira da Silva, psychologist Nisa de Silveira, and artist Flávio de Carvalho.

Though Brazilian texts will be emphasized, those interested in avant-garde aesthetics from other regions are very much encouraged to join. However, because of the limited availability of translations, reading proficiency of Portuguese is required.

NW Media 200
History and Theory of New Media
Critical Theory requirement: 240

Hannah Zeavin
1-4 Th, 340 Moffitt LIbrary
Class #30781

This course provides a broad historical and theoretical background for new media production and practice. The class will map out theoretical approaches from different disciplines and allow graduate students to discuss and apply them to their own research projects.

Education 280B
Proseminar: Sociocultural Critique of Education
Critical Theory requirement: 290

Zeus Leonardo
10-1 T, 1216 Berkeley Way West
Class #31538

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?

Education 240D
Foundations of Curriculum Theory in the United States: A Survey
Critical Theory requirement: 290

Zeus Leonardo
10-1 M, 1216 Berkeley Way West
Class #31537

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.

German 267
Media Archeology
Critical Theory requirement: 290

Nicholas Baer
1-4 T, Dwinelle 282
Class #33911

This seminar surveys the burgeoning field of media archaeology, exploring its wide-ranging implications for media theory, historiography, curation, and creative practice. We will read core texts in the field, including writings on time axis manipulation, topoi, deep time, radical media archaeology, zombie media, and experimental media archaeology. We will also consider recent scholarly interventions on a broad array of media (e.g., paper, screens, sound, television, wireless, virtual reality)—interventions that have extended, challenged, and reoriented the field and placed it in more sustained conversation with decolonial, Afrofuturist, feminist, and queer thought.

Film 200
Film and Media Theory
Critical Theory requirement: 290

Damon Young
10-1 Th, Dwinelle 226
Class #26044

In this course, we will read key works of film and media theory from the past 100 years, spanning theories of aesthetics, subjectivity/spectatorship, and mediation. We will situate these works in the context of the larger intellectual movements that they emerged from and contributed to (including phenomenology, Marxism, structural linguistics, psychoanalysis, feminism, postmodernism, queer theory and critical race theory). A primary focus of the course will be on cinema, as a dominant representational form and cultural technology of the 20th century. But we will also examine more recent theories of television, digital media, and media broadly conceived that destabilize some of the assumptions of classical and post-structuralist film theory. Throughout the course, we will attempt to place theorists in conversation with one another and examine how the theorization of moving-image forms has been central to the analysis of aesthetics and politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, to the point that a study of modernity without a theory of film and media is virtually inconceivable.

Ethnic Studies 201
History and Narrativity: Contemporary Theories and Methods
Critical Theory requirement: 290

Raul Coronado
9:30-1:30, 2547 Bowditch 201
Class #26064

The course examines critical theories and methods in the production of historical narratives, social myths, and ideologies dealing with racialization and ethnicity. Special attention is given to employment strategies, tropes, and allegorical forms in the construction of historical events and narratives.

Film 240
Temporality in/and the cinema/media
Critical Theory requirement: 290

Mary Ann Doane
12:30-3:30 W, 226 Dwinelle
Class #31244

An examination of the cinema’s historical and theoretical position as a mode of representing time. Is time recorded or produced by film? How can we analyze duration in the cinema? What is the cinema’s relation to the archive and to modernity? While the cinema is certainly the inheritor of rationalization and the standardization of time in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, its special relation to temporality can result in the problematization of that mathematical time, particularly in works and cinematic strategies--such as slow motion and narrative distension--that emphasize the palpability of duration and boredom. We will extend this analysis to contemporary media and the instantaneity associated with the digital as well as the endlessness suggested by television serialization. We will read work by Bergson, Freud, Marey, Kracauer, Benjamin, Deleuze, Sartre, and others. Films by Lumière, Griffith, Michael Snow, Tsai Ming-Liang, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Hitchcock, and others.

Scandinavian 250
Ecocritical Approaches to Scandinavian Literature and Culture
Critical Theory requirement: 290

Linda Haverty Rugg
2-5 T, Dwinelle 6415
Class #33239

In this course we will explore ecocritical and ecotheoretical and ecophilosophical texts and their application to Scandinavian literature and culture. Consideration will be given to how such concepts as nature and wilderness, animal and human, are defined at different historical moments in both literary and theoretical texts. Is Scandinavia a special case, and if so, how? How does art confront the threat of environmental catastrophe?

University of California Berkeley