ARTH 550: The Matter of American Culture

Professor: Jennifer Greenhill
Meets: Thursdays 3:30-6:20pm

This graduate seminar explores the meanings of matter in American culture from nation formation to the Civil War, and is designed as an introduction to material culture studies. The course begins by engaging with the objects that structured relationships between Native Americans and Europeans during the colonial period and ends by examining the relation between bodies and things in the context of the slave trade. We will explore a broad range of approaches to the study of matter and material culture, drawing on the writing of Gaston Bachelard, Jane Bennett, Bill Brown, Martin Heidegger, Bruno Latour, Jules Prown, Elaine Scarry and many others. The course incorporates period literature as well as first-hand study of objects in area museums (including relevant contemporary works of art). There will be at least one field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago.


CWL 571: Literature and the World System

Professor: Erika Beckman
Meets: Wednesdays 2:00-4:50

Faced with the rise of globalization and the weakening of traditional categories of nation and region, scholars of comparative literature have struggled to find new methods of classifying and interpreting literary texts. This course will focus on world-systems analysis, a theory of history that studies the integration of different societies into global capitalism, as a possible model for comparative literary studies. Is “the world” an appropriate scale of analysis for individual literary texts? What might we gain—or lose—by placing texts from radically different social contexts (say, France and Brazil, or Guyana and Egypt) within a single frame of analysis? What happens to traditional understandings of genre and period once we place them in the context of large, indeed global, analytical structures?

Focusing on the novel, an eminently mobile form of modern expression, we will move back and forth between practices of close and “distant” reading (Moretti) to answer the following questions: Is there a literature of global capitalist modernity? If so, what can the formal and thematic preoccupations of this literature tell us about the nature of the global system that brought it into being? How might we use large-scale social theory to create even more specific and sensitive registers of cultural interpretation? While we will focus mainly on novels from Europe and the Americas, students will be encouraged to produce presentations and research on their areas of linguistic and cultural expertise.

Theorists and critics will include Immanuel Wallerstein (founder of world-systems analysis), Fernand Braudel, Giovanni Arrighi, Georg Lukács, Fredric Jameson, and Pascale Casanova. Primary texts by Goethe, Balzac, Machado de Assis, Gabriel García Márquez, and Abdelrahman Munif, among others.


CWL 581: The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Body and Gender in Psychoanalytic Theory and Contemporary Poetics

Professor: Nancy Blake
Meets: Thursdays 3:00-4:50

With the recent development of queer theory, it is perhaps time to revisit the most remarkable texts in feminist and psychoanalytic theory devoted to gender identity in order to determine what has held up and what has changed in our understanding of the relation between body and thought. Increasingly, though surprisingly in view of the materialist backgrounds of many of these thinkers, religious arguments have come to inflect arguments in these fields. Readings from Riviere, Kristeva, Lacan Parveen Adams, Butler, Genevieve Morel, films by Neil Jordan, David Cronenberg, Hitchcock, Almodovar.


ENGL 537: Machine Dreams: Victorian Utopias

Professor: Eleanor Courtemanche
Meets: TBA

One of the most surprising things about Victorian utopias is that so many of them actually came to pass.  From the link between urban hub and suburban idyll made possible by mass transit, to universal consumerism, the socialist welfare state, international communism, and the solution of the “Jewish problem” through the creation of the state of Israel, many of the most far-fetched dreams of Victorian radicals became everyday realities in the following centuries.  In this class, we will consider the British tradition of neo-medieval futurism (Thomas Carlyle’s Past and Present, John Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice, William Morris’s News from Nowhere), social planning through architecture (Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, Emile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise, Walter Benjamin’s arcades, Robert Owen’s co-operative factories, and Charles Fourier’s phalansteries), technocracy (Theodor Herzl’s Old-New Land, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, and H. G. Wells’s A Modern Utopia), class struggle (Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and Marx and Engels’s The Communist Manifesto), and the neo-Victorian genre of steampunk (William Gibson’s The Difference Engine), as well as secondary criticism.  Class requirements will include a class presentation, a seminar paper, and several writing and public speaking exercises.    


ENGL 578: The Implicated Subject: Distant Suffering in Literature and Theory

Professor: Michael Rothberg
Meets: Wednesdays 3:00-5:20

What kinds of claims does the past make on the present? In what ways are we responsible for events that take place at a great distance as well as those that are close at hand? This seminar will address the ethics and politics of distant suffering from literary, cinematic, and theoretical angles. With a focus on both the temporally and the spatially distant—including a focus on how “distance” and “proximity” are constructed—the course will explore what might be called an "archive of implication": a deliberately open-ended term that gathers together various modes of historical and ethical relation that do not necessarily (or simply) fall under the more direct forms of participation associated with traumatic or violent events, such as victimization and perpetration. Such "implicated" modes of relation encompass bystanders, beneficiaries, latecomers of the postmemory generation, and others connected powerfully to pasts they did not directly experience or to contemporary contexts that might seem far away. A consideration of the issues associated with these implicatedsubject positions moves us away from overt questions of guilt and innocence and into the more uncertain moral and ethical terrain of complicity. Problems of ethical and political implication will be explored via contemporary literary, cinematic, and theoretical texts dealing with: war, genocide, slavery, apartheid, colonialism, and contemporary globalization. Since the course is meant as an experiment in developing new ways of thinking about social and historical relationality, students will be encouraged to draw on their own research interests and explore archives of implication beyond those mentioned here. To the extent possible, we will try to incorporate such interests into the syllabus. 

Requirements will include: active participation, several short response papers, and a seminar paper. Likely readings will include (but will not be limited to): Judith Butler, Frames of War; Octavia Butler, Kindred; Stanley Cohen, States of Denial; Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss; Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother; Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place; Antje Krog, Country of My Skull; Joe Sacco, The Fixer; Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others; films by Stephanie Black (Life and Debt), Michael Haneke (Caché), and William Kentridge (Drawings for Projection); and essays by Timothy Bewes, Luc Boltanski, Marianne Hirsch, Primo Levi, Mark Sanders, Gabriele Schwab, and others.


GEOG 493: Democracy and Environment

Professor: Jessie C. Ribot
Meets: TBA

Local Democracy and Environment in the Developing World: Institutionalizing Representation

When is local more equitable and efficient than centralized natural resource management (NRM)? What decentralized institutional arrangements does theory expect will deliver increased efficiency, equity and justice in NRM? Focusing on democratic decentralization – the most promising form – the course analyzes the two-way relation between natural resource management and three dimensions of local democracy: representation, citizenship, and the public domain. The course investigates theoretical foundations of localism and decentralization, and analyzes the policy processes by which theory is inscribed in law and project documents and translated into practice. Through theoretical literature and natural-resource case studies it explores local-democracy effects of environmental interventions and the environmental implications of local democratic decision making. Cases of global environmental policy, such as climate adaptation, UN Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation or the World Banks’ Community-Driven Development policies will be used for theoretical and empirical analysis. 

The course will draw on case studies from developing countries around the world with a focus on decentralized forest management (although discussions and assignments may focus on any resource). It will take an in-depth look at forest management in India, Indonesia, and Brazil. The course will pay special attention to the UN program for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) and the UN Climate Adaptation fund and World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. Under UN REDD+, payments for carbon emission reductions tropical forests may be on the order of $30 billion per year. These unprecedentedly large climate mitigation and adaptation interventions are likely to affect forest-dependent groups throughout the developing world. How have these groups been represented in past resource management decisions and how will they be represented in or shape these enormous new interventions? The course will use environment as a lens for better understanding the making and functioning of local democracy.


GER 496/CWL 496: Freud, Nietzsche, Kafka

Professor: Laurie Johnson
Meets: TBA

Join us for an exploration of a seminal trajectory in European thought, via texts by Freud, Nietzsche, and Kafka. We will examine the ways in which psychoanalysis, philosophy, and literature intersect around 1900 and beyond. How are psychoanalytic, philosophical, and aesthetic views of the self compatible, and where do they differ? What are these thinkers’ messages for us today? We will investigate visions of hope and redemption, self and community, art and life in some of the most fascinating works ever written. Open to undergraduate and graduate students. Readings and discussion in English. No prerequisites.


GWS 590: Queering Legal Cultures

Professor: Chantal Nadeau
Meets: Wednesday 2:00-5:00

This seminar explores the many forms of address that legal language can take, along with its complex and contradictory consequences for queer democratic participation and resistance. We will be looking at state laws, supreme court decisions, policy publications, literature and social commentaries—e.g. manifestos—and visually mediated treatments (websites, blogs, films) in which queer emerges as a way in and out of the legal spaces. Topics will include historical formations, current debates, and pending cases in both national and transnational contexts.

The course is informed by feminist and queer approaches to subjectivity, citizenship, sovereignty, and immunity. Readings will included those by authors trained in legal studies, but also in philosophy, queer theory, feminist political thought, cultural theory, and postcolonial studies. The list of authors includes but is not limited to Ahmed, Amar, Bhabha, Butler, Barnard-Naudé, Derrida, Esposito, Foucault, Halley, Kauanui, Povinelli, Shah, Volpp as well as gay, lesbian, queer, and trans activists/theorists such as Spade, Stricker, and Noble.


HIST 502: The History of Sexuality

Professor: Tamara Chaplin
Meets: TBA

This course will investigate sexuality as an object of historical inquiry. While sexuality has long been considered integral to modern articulations of the self, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the social regulation of sexual practices became increasingly central to the control and operation of the modern state. Growing interest in and access to new forms of contraception altered heterosexual experience in complex ways. Secularization challenged religious proscriptions about sexual behavior, and sexual desire became a motive force behind the burgeoning consumer economy. Conservatives and liberals fiercely debated the merits and parameters of regulation, education, commercialization and normalization in the sexual realm. But what is sexuality? How is it practiced, produced, policed, constructed, represented, liberated, controlled and gendered? What are the theoretical, epistemological, personal and political stakes of its analysis? How do we grasp such an intimate aspect of human experience within an historical frame? What drives historical change in the sexual domain? 

We shall begin by reading foundational and contemporary texts (Foucault, Reich, Freud, Butler, Kinsey, Sedgewick, Halberstam, etc.), in order to establish familiarity with the methodological and theoretical approaches (sociological, psychoanalytic, feminist, post-colonial, queer, etc.) circumscribing work in this field. Subsequent investigations shall be structured thematically around such topics as sexual orientation and queer sexualities, colonial/post-colonial sexual economies, prostitution, sexology and sexual norms, reproductive technologies, pornography and the erotic, sexuality and violence, sexuality and the media, sexual education, and questions of health, disease and desire. The geographic focus in this class is eclectic; Europe will constitute our primary area of study but texts may range globally to North America, Africa, Asia, Latin America, etc. Students will complete a substantive research paper on a topic of their own choosing related to the themes of the class. Our work will include the analysis of sexuality and the erotic in art, literature, the print and broadcast media, advertising, and film.


MDIA 590: Media/Space

Professor: James Hay
Meets: Tuesdays 5:30-8:20

This seminar has several convergent aims. One aim is to review recent theories and histories of the production of space.  I use the term “production of space” (following Henri Lefebvre) to emphasize the course’s emphasis on space as produced through various practices and as productive of specific forms of life.  I also use the term to acknowledge that the course is interested in the production of various kinds of space, including space of commerce and commercial development, cultural space, representational and represented space, technological space, spaces of government and security, civic space, militarized zones,  old and emergent spaces, socially segregated (e.g., gendered and racialized) space, popular space,  spaces of activism & mobilization, memorial space, utopian space, carcereal space,  the border, privatized space,  physical and virtual space, work and leisure space, consumer space, domestic or household space, urban space, national space, global space, spaces of transportation, touristic space, terrestrial and astronautical space, and (as the title suggests, perhaps modestly at the end of this long list) media spaces. 

As suggested by the course’s title, the course seeks to demonstrate the role and place of media in “the production of space.”  To this end, the course will consider how studies about all of the issues mentioned above have informed recent studies of various media, such as  print media, cinema, television, radio, telephony, game media, portable & mobile media, transportation media, billboards, military media, informatics, long-distance command and control, forms of remote control, and (broadly speaking) web-based media.  We will consider where media are located and/or engaged in daily life, and how media have been designed for, and their uses shaped by, particular environments.  But we also will consider the role of media and media-convergence in producing, organizing, managing, inhabiting, representing, securing, networking and transforming various kinds of social and activity spaces, such as the home, the car, the workplace, the city, the mall, theme parks, museums, libraries, retail space, war zones. We will consider how “new media” and “media convergence” are replacing or repurposing earlier media/space.  We will consider the changing relation between video and aural/sonic space.  We will consider the role of media in various observational technologies and practices of surveilling places.

In all these ways, the course aspires to a view of communication and media that does not see “media studies” as the beginning or end of the study of media. While the course should be relevant to students interested in new or alternative approaches to media, it also is designed for students with little background in studying media and/or who are simply interested in an interdisciplinary analysis of space, temporality, or communication media.


PS 572: Political Economy: Its Theorists and Critics

Professor: Melissa Orlie
Meets: Mondays 1:30-3:50

This advanced introduction to modern political theory will focus upon theorists and critics of political economy of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, including Hobbes and Locke, Rousseau and Adam Smith, Hegel and Marx, and their heirs. In addition to these “primary” texts (listed below), we will consult broad contextualizations, incisive commentaries, and paradigmatic theoretical elaborations of our main thinkers, their theoretical themes and the politics of economy of their time and our own (see “Context, Commentary, Elaboration” below). 

Requirements: Besides doing the reading scheduled for each seminar and attending meetings regularly, participants will be expected to prepare a 1-2 page discussion brief (succinctly posing a vital issue for us to consider during our meeting) for most class sessions. Each participant also will write a longer final paper on an agreed topic related to the course material. 

Required Texts:“Primary”

  • T. Hobbes, Leviathan (Hackett)(0-87220-177-5) Hackett
  • Locke, Two Treatises on Government (0-521-35730-6) Laslett, Cambridge
  • J.J. Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings (1-60384-673-5) 2nd edition Hackett
  • A. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments (9780143105923) Penguin Classics
  • A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations (978-0-553-58597-1) Modern Library Classics
  • G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (0-19-824597-1) Miller, Oxford
  • Marx, The Marx Engels Reader (0-393-09040-X) Tucker, Norton


“Context, Commentary, Elaboration”

  • David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism (978-0199836840 Oxford
  • C.B. MacPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism (978-0195444018) Oxford
  • G. Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing (978-1844672981) Verso
  • Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (978-0807056431) Beacon
  • F.A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (978-0226320847) Chicago
  • Fredric Jameson, The Hegel Variations (978-1-84467-616-3) Verso
  • Susan Buck-Morss, Hegel, Haiti and Universal History (978-0-8229-5978-6) Pittsburgh
  • Charles Taylor, Hegel and Modern Society (0-521-29351-0) Cambridge
  • L. Althusser, For Marx (978-1844670529) Verso
  • G. Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness (978-0262620208) MIT
  • A. Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (978-0717803972) International



PS 579: Biology and Politics

Professor: Samantha Frost
Meets: TBA

Biology and Politics is an interdisciplinary graduate course that examines how our understanding of political theory and our concepts about politics might be modified or amended by insights from the life sciences. Students will combine learning in genetics, neuroscience, and primatology with theoretical consideration of science as a form of inquiry, ontological reflection about life, the human, and the political, critical exploration of the relationship between body/biology and culture, and analysis of the potentials and pitfalls of this kind of interdisciplinary work.


SOC 596: Contentious Politics and Changing Media

Professor: Markus Schulz
Meets: Thursday 5:00-7:50

This research-oriented graduate seminar explores the relationship between social struggles and media, with special attention to the Internet and related new technologies. Movements rely on different types of media interfaces to inform, inspire, communicate, connect, mobilize, and co-ordinate. The accessibility, structure, organization, and inherent dynamics of media influence how movements can connect internally and to larger publics. The seminar investigates how movements adapt to the operative logic of mass media to get their messages broadcast, how they often fail—and sometimes succeed—to maintain control over their message, how mass media influence or even shape movements, and how movements create diverse arrays of own media from open discussion circles, word-of-mouth propaganda, human mikes, songs, and drumming to mass marches, flash mobs, sit-ins, camps, street theater, masks, dresses, graffiti, murals, banners, puppets, clandestine printing, pirate radio, email list-serves, websites, mobile messaging, and social media. What formats, strategies, and practices can yield what kind of outcomes? How can resources be mobilized? How can spaces for resistance be expanded? Under what conditions do the horizons of imagination open up? What roles do cognitive frames, ideologies, emotions, codes, and memes play in challenging dominant regimes? The cases under consideration range from historical revolutions and the student movements of the 1960s to the contemporary transnational mobilizations of the Zapatistas, globalization protests, human rights activism, anarchist direct action, culture jam, hacktivism, the Indignados, and Occupy Wall Street. The overall aim of the course is to provide students with opportunity to engage with theories and empirical studies of social movements and their complex relations to media technologies, public deliberation, and the political-economic process.


SPAN 590: Cultural Studies: Theories and Practices

Professor: L. Elena Delgado
Meets: Wednesdays 10:00-12:30

This course will offer an overview of the history and theoretical foundations of what has been called the “non-disciplinary discipline” of Cultural Studies. We will focus on important debates which have shaped specific critical practices within the British, American, Latin American and Spanish traditions, with particular emphasis on issues such as the character of truth and value, the relationship between culture and the body, the relationship between the local and the global/universal, and the politics of difference. Last, but not least, we will explore the intersection of cultural studies and critical pedagogy, particularly in the context of recent movements that attempt to promote radical democracy and social justice, as well as the (re)consideration of the University as a democratic public sphere.

Required text: C. Barker Cultural Studies. Theory and Practice. Additional readings by Williams, Hall, Gramsci, Berubé, Mignolo, García-Canclini, Martín Barbero, Schwarz, Labanyi, Resina, Fuchs, Giroux. Theoretical texts for the class will be in English. No knowledge of Spanish necessary. Students will be able to focus on one particular geographical area or issue for their research papers. For questions, please contact instructor: