AAS 490: Critical Ethnic Studies

Professor: Junaid Rana
Meets: Wednesdays, 2:00 - 4:50 PM

Advanced seminar that examines the formation of the emergent field of Critical Ethnic Studies and the key concepts of settler colonialism, racial capitalism, white supremacy, indigeneity, heteropatriarchy, decolonization, genocide, blackness, liberation, among others.


AAS 590: Militarized Violence and US Empire

Professor: A. Naomi Paik
Meets: Mondays, 4:00 - 6:50 PM

This seminar examines the relationship between militarized violence and US empire. Given that the United States has not formally declared war since WWII, the course approaches the question of militarized violence broadly, to encompass not only warfare, but also the production of state-sanctioned and extra-state violence deployed against external enemies “over there” and internal enemies within US territory. It questions supposed divisions between policing and military power, private and public domains, and foreign and internal targets, asking how we might see them as connected formations of US empire. The course necessarily considers how militarized violence has been crucial to defining race and racism, and how, in turn, racist ideas have enabled and justified militarized violence. The course takes a particular interest in the rise of the United States as a global hegemon, secured in part through its unrivaled military powers, while also noting how the US state is relinquishing its control over its militarized violence through the working of neoliberal capitalism and governance. As an interdisciplinary course, we will draw on scholarship in critical ethnic, cultural, and feminist studies, while reading across disciplinary scholarship in history, political economy, and geography. 


ANTH 515, Section JD: Performance Studies Graduate Seminar

Professor: Jane Desmond
Meets: Mondays, 2:00 - 4:50 PM, 109A Davenport Hall

From Trump protests to Beyonce's halftime show, to the Tango in Finland and Hip hop in Japan, even to the rendering of aid in US nursing homes or refugee camps in Greece, the performative dimension of daily life and artistic practices looms large in our understanding of cultural politics.

This seminar provides students with theoretical tools and analytical experiences to approach questions of power, belonging, and the translation of cultural practices over time and across space, with an emphasis on live events and embodied practices. A special focus on theorizing the performative in a more-than-human world will frame the closing weeks.

Readings from Anthropology, literary studies, visual studies, and performance studies will provide students from across the humanities and arts with a strong interdisciplinary grounding from which to explore their own projects. A 4 credit option for Ph.D. students and a 2 credit option for MFA candidates are available.


ANTH 515, Section MM: Affect Theory

Professor: Martin F. Manalansan IV
Meets: Tuesdays, 2:00 - 4:50 PM, 1120 FLB


The contemporary humanities and humanistic social sciences have increasingly become invested with exploring the materiality and sociality of bodily capacities, energies, and skills.  These investments are tethered to questions about the ways corporeal potencies animate and circulate in various sensational ecologies and environments – and how these contexts may produce new forms of inequalities, differences, attachments, activisms, violence or orientations towards alternative modes of social justice.  Such issues and questions continue to permeate, infect, shape and infuse research, writing and thought in these fields for the past ten years.

This course is a critical engagement with the ideas brought about by the “affective turn” and the sensorial revolution by examining various texts from anthropology, literary criticism, philosophy, cultural studies, cognitive science, queer studies, sociology, and other fields in order to open up new spaces for analyzing the political and the social.


CMN 538, Section 1: On Bodies and the Body Politic

Professor: J. David Cisneros
Meets: Wednesdays, 2:00-4:50, 4103 Lincoln Hall


The metaphor of the “body politic,” or the idea that the polity is like a biological/organic body, stems as far back as the fables of Aesop and The Republic of Plato. In political discourse, the metaphor posits a functional and organic likeness between the physical body and the body of the state: the idea that the human body and the socio-political group are both naturally bounded, self-sufficient, unitary, hierarchically organized, and functional. It is descriptive and normative, shaping understandings of what a polity and a biological human body are and should be.

This class will seek to unpack the idea of the “body politic” from two angles: politicized physical bodies (e.g., citizens) and the political or social body (e.g., the nation state). We’ll seek to understand the history and deployment of this metaphor as a descriptor of a social/political body and the assumptions it carries about normative and non-normative physical bodies (e.g., law-abiding, able- bodied). We’ll explore the ways in which the contours of the national political body have been delineated by marking and then politicizing certain bodies (e.g., through race, gender, sex, and criminality). We’ll consider whether and how the materiality of bodies (corporeality, emplacement, mobility) has been used to undermine the politicized, and oftentimes exclusionary, construction of the U.S. body politic.

We will read widely across disciplines and study both classical and contemporary/recent works. Readings may come from authors such Plato, Aristotle, Michel Foucault, Frantz Fanon, Elaine Scarry, Judith Butler, Charles Mills, Elizabeth Grosz, Sara Ahmed, Carole Blair, Debra Hawhee, Jordynn Jack, Kelly Happe, and Alexander Wehiliye. Students will complete regular reading analysis/reaction assignments as well as a semester research project. 


CWL 496/GER 496/PHIL 444: Freud-Nietzsche-Kafka

Professor: Laurie Johnson
Meets: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00 AM - 12:20 PM, FLB G30 

In this course, we read works by Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Franz Kafka, and others in order to 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? How can they be understood in the context of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe? Can they contribute to our attempts to understand what happened in Europe shortly before, during, and just after WWII? 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. We will consider several films as well.

Students who complete the course will have a rich understanding of the ways discourses from different disciplines form our experience of the world at the most fundamental level, will understand the essential vocabulary of psychoanalysis, and will appreciate and be able to articulate the significance of philosophy for literature and the arts.

Open to interested undergraduates and graduate students on all levels. Readings and discussions in English; no prerequisites. Students in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and other students who read German are encouraged to read at least some of the assigned texts in the original German, and also are welcome to complete at least some writing assignments in German. Graduate students, please see me for options for earning four credits for this course.


CWL 501: Theory of Literature

Professor: Eric Calderwood
Meets: Lecture: Tuesday evenings; Seminar: Wednesdays, 3:00 PM - 4:50 PM, FLB 3024 

This course will offer you an introduction to the major ideas, problems, and critical trends that have shaped the study of literature and culture over the past several decades.  By the end of the semester, you will be familiar with the evolution of and interrelations between a number of theoretical fields, including structuralism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, postcolonial theory, indigenous studies, critical race theory, digital humanities, visual studies, and feminist and queer theory.  Some of the texts on the syllabus might already be familiar, but many certainly will not.  In any case, the goal of the course will be to have you see familiar problems in a new light and to develop new skills to think about the relationship between literature, culture, politics, and scholarship.  This course is conceived for graduate students in comparative literature, but it is appropriate for anyone engaged in literary or cultural studies in any geographic context. 


CWL 581/JS 502: Introduction to Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies

Professor: Brett Kaplan
Meets: TBD

This seminar will provide a graduate-level introduction to the field of Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. We will survey some of the significant theorists of memory from the last century. Topics will include the relations between history, memory, and identity; power, politics, and contestation; media, generational change, and modes of transmission; and remembrance, justice, and globalization. Students will have the opportunity to design research projects in their own areas of interest. Requirements will include active participation, an oral presentation, one short response paper, and a final research paper. This course is recommended (though not required) for those contemplating a Certificate in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies and will be of interest to students across a broad range of interests and disciplines including but not limited to those working on the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the Rwandan genocide, Cambodia, Indonesia, and/or memory and violence more generally.


ENGL 500: Introduction to Criticism & Research

Professor: Susan Koshy
Meets: Wednesdays, 3:00-5:00pm, English Bldg. 113

This course will offer a historical survey of the major texts and schools that orient contemporary scholarship in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. It examines the emergence of key modern concepts of critique in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Kant, Hegel, and Marx); and the evolution of historically distinct forms of critique in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, in response to the problems of capitalism, fascism, colonialism, racism, and globalization. The second half of the course will focus on contemporary developments in critical theory including critical race theory, feminist and queer theory, postcolonial theory, indigenous studies, and posthumanism, among others. The course is designed for first-year graduate students and for students interested in studying the development of critical theory in a systematic way. It will equip students to examine the premises, categories, and discourses that underpin economic systems, social and political formations, and cultural production.

The course will meet twice a week: once a week, with graduate students from theory seminars in other departments, for public lectures run through the Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series (Tuesdays, 5:15-6:45 pm); and once a week for regular seminar sessions restricted to registered students. The Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series talks will be integrated with the seminar course material.


ENGL 514, Section E: Nature & the Non-Human in the Chivalric Romances of Medieval & Early Modern England

Professor: Robert Barrett
Meets: Fridays, 1:00-2:50pm, English Bldg. 113

A man or woman on horseback in the midst of a trackless forest—this is the archetypal protagonist of chivalric romance. From an ecocritical perspective, it’s also an actor-network, an assemblage of companion species (human, horse, tree) enmeshed in an ongoing process of natureculture. Textualized as romances, these entanglements participate in the co-constitutive articulation of civilization (bios) and wilderness (zoe). They seek to establish the primacy of the human over the non-human (and are thus kin to the ecological crises of our own twenty-first-century moment), but they simultaneously demonstrate (consciously or not) humanity’s inability to achieve such separation and autonomy. The knight in shining armor may defend his people from monstrous werewolves (Marie de France’s Bisclavret) and witches (Edmund Spenser’s Duessa) and green giants (the Gawain-Poet’s Sir Bertilak), but he is just as often a predatory monster himself (e.g., the cannibalistic Richard Lionheart, the diabolical Sir Gowther, or the rapist-knight of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale), calling into question the utility of monstrosity as category. Over the course of the semester, we’ll explore these and other interspecies interactions, familiarizing ourselves with both the romances of the past and the ecocriticism of the present. Our assignments will combine brief reading responses with the obligatory seminar paper, and our texts will cover some five centuries of literary production in the British Isles, beginning with Marie’s twelfth-century Lais and ending with Spenser’s sixteenth-century Faerie Queene. Be sure to bring your own critical interests to the class: the ideas outlined in this brief description are only a starting point for our ecologically-inflected discussion of genre.


EPS/MDIA 575: Pro-seminar in Cultural Studies and Critical Interpretation

Professor: Cameron McCarthy
Meets: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:00-5:00pm, Education Bldg. 333

This course will offer students the opportunity to become familiar with the history, applications and limitations of several theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of contemporary culture and popular media that have been developed in the emergent research field known as cultural studies. It is intended to provide students with analytical frameworks for understanding contemporary cultural life. Debates and issues within cultural studies and debates between cultural studies and other schools of thought will serve as the organizing agenda for exploring: the relationships between culture, experience and unequal social relations of gender, race, class, nation, and sexuality; youth cultures, resistance through rituals; popular culture, power and public policy; cultural imperialism and center-periphery relations; poststructuralism and its implications for the study of culture; and the impact of cultural studies across the disciplines. This course is interdisciplinary and should be of interest to students with backgrounds in several different areas, including: a) research methods that combine textual analysis of contemporary popular media and culture with sociological analysis; b) theoretical encounters and bridges between continental thought and American traditions; c) feminist theory, poststructuralism, semiotics, cultural geography, psychoanalysis, queer theory, Marxist political economy analysis, postcolonialism and critical race theory  in education; d) the application of literary and rhetorical theories to the media and popular culture; and e) new theories of digitalization. The pro-seminar will meet twice per week (for approximately 2 hours per session).


GWS 478: Sex, Power, and Politics

Professor: Bonnie Washick

Debates about sexuality have shaped the self-conception, the self-representation, and the agenda of much contemporary feminist theory and practice. Different conceptions of the relationship between sex and power have generated conflicting representations of the nature of women's oppression and the kinds of feminist politics necessary to fight it. At the same time that feminists have disagreed about the nature of women’s oppression, however, they have concurred on the need to have issues of sexual violence gain more social and political visibility.  In recent years establishment politics and mainstream media in the U.S. have made sexual violence a topic of public discourse and an object of a generalized mobilization.  The aim of this course is to give students the theoretical tools to analyze political discourses about sex and power.  The course introduces students to different representations of the relationship between sex, power, and subjectivity within feminism. It also elaborates the theoretical frameworks provided by theorists of power, desire, prohibition, subjectivity and political agency, including Sigmund Freud, Gilles Deleuze, and Michel Foucault.  Over the course of the semester, students will develop a research project that uses the theoretical frameworks provided by the course materials to analyze and respond to contemporary sexual politics.


HDFS 533: Communities in American Society

Professor: Soo Ah Kwon
Meets: Tuesdays, 2-4:50, Christopher Hall, Room 5

The class explores the intersecting and overlapping forces of race, class, culture, and gender in communities in U.S. society. Close attention will be paid to the relations and processes of power and social practices that constitute communities and society. The course critically examines the relationship of globalization, immigration, transnationalism, neoliberalism, and capitalism in understanding community and communities. In doing so, students will investigate role of state, governance, political economy, social and cultural productions, and space/place locations in the study of communities. The course employs an interdisciplinary approach that combines scholarly works in anthropology, cultural geography, cultural studies, ethnic studies, sociology, and other related fields. This is an intensive reading and discussion seminar.


MDIA 590: Global Media Studies

Professor: Angharad N. Valdivia
Meets: Wednesdays, 6:00-9:00pm, Room TBA

This course focuses on transnational flows of media and popular culture in relation to contemporary issues of gender, ethnicity, nation, migration, “new Media” technologies, and will provide an introduction to the broad range of interdisciplinary traditions in the field of transnational Media Studies. We will begin by exploring issues of production and political economy, content and representation, interpretation and audiences, and effects and cognition.  From there we will branch out into the hybrid, the digital, and the post-binary approaches within the field.  The course will include canonical readings as well as the latest research being carried out in this intersectional and global ranging field of studies, inescapably addressing issues of gender and ethnicity as these inform mediated approaches.  Students will be encouraged to either pursue an original research project or to produce a series of response papers throughout the semester.  We will engage in audiovisual media screening as a way to understand media analysis and in a small and rudimentary production mini-project to be able to theorize and understand the constraints in media production as these impinge on the availability and circulation of mainstream media.  We will host at least two off campus major scholars whose work centrally addressed the themes in this class.


PHIL 511: Seminar Ethical Theory

Professor: Helga Varden
Meets: Thursdays, 3:30 - 6:20pm, Gregory Hall 402

This course investigates Kant’s own as well as a revised Kantian theory of sexuality. Cashing this out requires that we pay attention to aspects of all three critiques. We will start with Kant’s account of human nature before revising it in order to arrive at a more plausible account of sexuality that can capture sexuality’s diversity and phenomenology. We will then see how this theory of human nature is complemented by his moral theories of freedom, both virtue and right. Also here we will pay attention to both Kant’s own account as well as a revised version that can capture, for example, the heinousness of sexual violence, moral repair, and grief; one that can provide a critique of rights, such as to bodily integrity and to marriage; and one that can capture problems that are inherently systemic in nature, such as sexual oppression and prostitution.


REL 494, Section JT: Fascism, Religion, America

Professor: James Treat
Meets: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 9:30-10:50, 389 Education Building

What is fascism?  Can the study of religion help us understand fascism?  How do fascism and religion bear on America?

Addressing these and other important questions, this interdisciplinary seminar moves through relevant readings in political theory, religious history, cultural criticism, postcolonial literature, and investigative journalism.  Research projects allow each participant to supplement our collective effort by exploring an individual interest in greater detail.

Students have the opportunity to gain a basic understanding of fascism/religion/America; to conduct focused research on a related topic, theme, or issue; and to develop critical skills for use in educational, professional, and personal settings.


Kevin Passmore, Fascism: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2014 [2002]).
Karlheinz Deschner, God and the Fascists: The Vatican Alliance with Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, and Pavelic, trans. Richard Pepper (Prometheus Books, 2013 [1965]).
Robert L. Ivie and Oscar Giner, Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture (University of Alabama Press, 2015).
Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham, expanded ed. (Monthly Review Press, 2000 [1955]).
Chris Hedges, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, paperback ed. (Free Press, 2008 [2006]).


SOC 596/GWS 590: Gender and Sexuality

Professor: Ghassan Moussawi
Meets: Mondays, 3:30 - 6:50 PM

This graduate seminar explores contemporary sociological and interdisciplinary debates in studies of gender and sexuality, with a particular focus on power. Even though we will go over multiple theories, we will pay particular attention to black feminist thought, transnational feminism, queer theory, and queer of color critique. We will consider various questions, including: What is the role of social and sociological theory in understanding gender and sexuality? What diverse methodological approaches/considerations are employed in studies of gender and sexualities? What are the various genealogies of these fields of study?

We will read and discuss both theoretical and empirical studies on topics including: political economy of gender and sexuality, migration and transnational mobilities, racisms, urban inequalities and gentrification, nation and nationalism, masculinities and femininities, and social movements and organizing. We will also think about knowledge production processes, and consider the importance of theories of/from the global south. This course is open to students from all disciplines. It is not required to have a background in gender and sexuality to take this course.


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For more information on course affiliation, please contact Susan Koshy (skoshy@illinois.edu).