Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series

The Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory offers a series of public lectures on the history of critical theory every fall semester. These lectures, each of which will be followed by open discussion, will take place on Tuesdays from 5:15-6:45pm in-person or via Zoom. The lectures are coordinated with graduate seminars on critical theory in a number of departments, but are also open to other faculty or graduate students who may wish to attend.

For participants not enrolled in one of the affiliated courses, see the Box folder of corresponding readings for each lecture. For more information, including the password to access the readings, please contact Ashli Anda, or Hyeree Ellis


Modern Critical Theory Reading List 2021


8/31 German Idealism (Hegel), Mark Alznauer (Philosophy, Northwestern University)

Required Readings

  • Hegel, G. W. F. Elements of the Philosophy of Right, edited by Allen W. Wood, translated by H. B. Nisbet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. See esp. 86-88 and 95-97.
  • Hegel, G. W. F. Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, translated by William Wallace. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1894. See esp. 260-62.
  • Hegel, G. W. F. Lectures on the Philosophy of World-History: Volume 1: Manuscripts of the Introduction and the Lectures of 1822-3, edited and translated by Robert F. Brown and Peter C. Hodgson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. See esp. 78-89, 100-04, 404, and 457-59.
  • Pinkard, Terry. “Infinite Ends at Work in History.” In Does History Make Sense?: Hegel on the Historical Shapes of Justice, 140-68. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017.
  • Williams, Bernard. “Human Rights and Relativism.” In In the Beginning Was the Deed: Realism and Moralism in Political Argument, 62-74. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

Supplemental Readings

  • Croce, Benedetto. “History as the History of Liberty.” In History as the Story of Liberty, 54-62. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000.
  • Kojève, Alexandre. “Summary of the First Six Chapters of the Phenomenology of Spirit.” In Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, 31-70. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969.


9/7 Marx and Marxism, Tim Brennan (Comparative Literature, U of Minnesota)

  • Adorno, Theodor W. “Lecture 8: Ontologizing the Ontic (I)” and “Lecture 9: Ontologizing the Ontic (II).” In Ontology and Dialectics, edited by Rolf Tiedemann, 73-94. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2019.
  • Adorno, Theodor W. “The Ontological Need.” In Negative Dialectics, 61-70, 100-04. New York: Continuum, 1994.
  • Feuerbach, Ludwig. “Provisional Theses for the Reformation of Philosophy.” In The Young Hegelians: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence S. Stepelevich, 156-71. Humanities Press, 1983.
  • Marx, Karl. “Feuerbach: Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlooks" and "Theses on Feuerbach.” In The German Ideology, 33-70. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1998.
  • Žižek, Slavoj. “The State of Things.” In Like a Thief in Broad Daylight: Power in the Era of Posthuman Capitalism, 13-56. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2018.


9/14 Structuralism, Calvin Thomas (English, Georgia State)

  • Barthes, Roland. “Myth Today (1957).” In Adventures in Theory: A Compact Anthology, edited by Calvin Thomas, 77-88. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019.
  • Rubin, Gayle. “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex.” In Adventures in Theory: A Compact Anthology, edited by Calvin Thomas, 149-82. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019.
  • Saussure, Ferdinand. “The Sign Considered in Its Totality (1916).” In Adventures in Theory: A Compact Anthology, edited by Calvin Thomas, 45-47. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019.
  • Thomas, Calvin. “Lesson Eight: The Unconscious is Structured Like a Language—or, Invasions of the Signifier.” In Ten Lessons in Theory: An Introduction to Theoretical Writing, 226-46. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.


9/21 Psychoanalysis, Rob Rushing (Comparative Literature, UIUC)

  • Freud, Sigmund. “’A Child is Being Beaten’: A Contribution to the Study of the Origin of Sexual Perversion.” In Introduction to Psychoanalysis, translated by Alix Strachey and James Strachey, 179-204. 1924.
  • Lacan, Jacques. “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason Since Freud.” In Écrits: A Selection, translated by Alan Sheridan, 111-36. London: Routledge: 2001.
  • Lacan, Jacques. “The Mirror Stage.” In Écrits: A Selection, translated by Alan Sheridan, 1-6. London: Routledge, 2001.
  • Lacan, Jacques. “The Partial Drive and Its Circuit.” In The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book XI The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, edited by Jacques-Alain Miller, translated by Alan Sheridan, 174-86. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998.


9/28 Deconstruction, Katie Chenoweth (French & Italian, Princeton)

  • Derrida, Jacques. “Exergue” and “The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing.” In Of Grammatology, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 3-28. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016.
  • Derrida, Jacques. “Exordium” and “Injunctions of Marx.” In Specters of Marx, translated by Peggy Kamuf, xvi-25. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Derrida, Jacques. Learning to Live Finally: The Last Interview. Translated by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Nass, 21-52. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.


10/5 Biopolitics, Samantha Frost (Political Science, UIUC)

Required Readings

  • Agamben, Giorgio. “Anthropological Machine.” In The Open: Man and Animal, translated by Kevin Attell, 33-38. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2004.
  • Agamben, Giorgio. Introduction to Homo Sacer, 9-14. Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1998.
  • Agamben, Giorgio. “Life Divided” and “A Life Inseparable from Its Form.” In The Use of Bodies, translated by Adam Kotsko, 195-213. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2016.
  • Esposito, Roberto. “Community, Immunity, Biopolitics.” Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 18, no. 3 (2013): 83-90.
  • Foucault, Michel. “Governmentality.” In Power (The Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984), edited by James D. Faubion, 201-22. New York: New Press, 2001.
  • Foucault, Michel. “One: 11 January 1978.” In Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977-78, edited by Michel Senellart and Arnold I. Davidson, translated by Graham Burchell, 1-23. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
  • Lee, Rachel C. “Chapter 1: How a Critical Biopolitcal Studies Lens Alters the Questions We Ask Vis-à-vis Race.” In The Exquisite Corpse of Asian America: Biopolitics, Biosociality, and Posthuman Ecologies, 39-65. New York: New York University Press, 2014.

Supplemental Readings

  • Ahuja, Neel. Bioinsecurities: Disease Interventions, Empire, and the Government of Species. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.
  • Cooper Melinda, and Catherine Waldby. Clinical Labor: Tissue Donors and Research Subjects in the Global Bioeconomy. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014.
  • Mbembé, Achille. “Necropolitics.” Public Culture 15, no. 1 (2003): 11-40. Project Muse.
  • Meloni, Maurizio. “A Postgenomic Body: Histories, Genealogy, Politics.” Body and Society 24, no. 3 (2018): 3-38.
  • Pitts-Taylor, Victoria. The Brain’s Body: Neuroscience and Corporeal Politics. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.
  • Rabinow, Paul and Nikolas Rose. “Biopower Today.” BioSocieities 1 (2006): 195-217.
  • Rose, Nikolas. The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.
  • Tallbear, Kim. Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.


10/12 Postcolonial Theory, B. Venkat Mani (German, UW-Madison)

  • Gatrell, Peter. “Refugees—What’s Wrong with History?” Journal of Refugee Studies 30, no. 2 (2017): 170-89.
  • Nguyen, Viet Thanh. “On Being a Refugee, An American—and a Human Being.” In The Refugees, 211-18. New York: Grove Press, 2018.
  • Said, Edward W. “Reflections on Exile.” In Reflections on Exile and Other Essays, 137-49. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.
  • Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “1996: Foucault and Najibullah.” In Other Asias, 132-60. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.


10/19 Critical Race Theory, Curtis Marez (Ethnic Studies, UC-San Diego)

  • Marez, Curtis. “Precarious Locations: Streaming TV and Global Inequalities.” American Studies 60, no. 1 (2021): 9-32.
  • Melamed, Jodi. “Racial Capitalism.” Critical Ethnic Studies 1, no. 1 (2015): 76-85. JSTOR.
  • Robinson, Cedric. Preface to Forgeries of Memory and Meaning: Blacks and the Regimes of Race in American Theater and Film before World War II, xi-xviii. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007. See also chap. 4, “Resistance and Imitation in Early Black Cinema,” 180-202.


10/26 Environmental Studies, D. Fairchild Ruggles (Landscape Architecture, UIUC)

Required Readings

  • Fuller, Steve. “Making Agency Count: A Brief Foray Into the Foundations of Social Theory.” American Behavioral Scientist 37, no. 6 (1994): 741-53.
  • Gilbert, Scott, Jan Sapp, and Alfred Tauber.“A Symbiotic View of Life: We Have Never Been Individuals.” The Quarterly Review of Biology 87, no. 4 (2012): 325-41.
  • Plumwood, Val. “Nature as Agency and the Prospects for a Progressive Naturalism.” Capitalism Nature Socialism 12, no. 4 (2001): 3-32.

Supplemental Readings

  • Kohn, Eduardo. How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. See esp. chap. 1, 27-68 and chap. 2, 71-100.


11/2 Disability Studies, Therí Pickens (English, Bates College)

  • Pickens, Therí. Black Madness::Mad Blackness. Duke University Press, 2019. See esp. the preface, ix-xii, the introduction, 1-22, and chap. 3, 74-94.


11/9 Queer Theory, Sharon P. Holland (American Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill)

Required Readings

  • Benavente, Gabby and Julian Gill-Peterson. "The Promise of Trans Critique: Susan Stryker's Queer Theory.” GLQ Forum 25, no. 1 (2019): 23-28.
  • Hammonds, Evelynn. “Black (W)holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality.” differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 6, no. 2/3 (1994): 126-145.

  • Martin, Biddy. "Sexualities without Genders and Other Queer Utopias.” Diacritics 24, no. 2/3 (1994): 104-121.

  • Stryker, Susan. "Trans Studies Queer Theory's Evil Twin.” GLQ Forum 10, no.2 (April 2004): 212-215.

Supplemental Reading

  • “Thinking Sex/Thinking Gender.” GLQ Forum 10, no. 2 (April 2004): 211-313.


11/16 Indigenous Studies, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui (American Studies, Wesleyan)

  • Kauanui, Kēhaulani J. “’A Structure, Not an Event’: Settler Colonialism and Enduring Indigeneity.” Lateral 5, no. 1 (2016).
  • Kauanui, Kēhaulani J. “False Dilemmas and Settler Colonial Studies: Response to Lorenzo Veracini: ‘Is Settler Colonial Studies Even Useful?’” Postcolonial Studies 24, no. 2 (2020): 1-7.
  • Kauanui, Kēhaulani J. and Patrick Wolfe. “Patrick Wolfe on Settler Colonialism.” In Speaking of Indigenous Politics: Conversations with Activists, Scholars, and Tribal Leaders, edited by J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, 343-60. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018.
  • Somerville, Alice Te Punga. “OMG Settler Colonial Studies: Response to Lorenzo Veracini: ‘Is Settler Colonial Studies Even Useful?’” Postcolonial Studies 24, no. 2 (2020): 1-5.
  • Speed, Shannon. “Structures of Settler Capitalism in Abya Yala.” American Quaterly 69, no. 4 (2017): 783-90.
  • Veracini, Lorezno. “Is Settler Colonial Studies Even Useful?” Postcolonial Studies 24, no. 2 (2020): 1-8.
  • Warrior, Robert. “Settler Sidekick Solidarity?: Response to Lorenzo Veracini: ‘Is Settler Colonial Studies Even Useful?’” Postcolonial Studies 24, no. 2 (2020): 1-7.
  • Wolfe, Patrick. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native.” Journal of Genocide Research 8, no. 4 (2006): 387-409.