Fall 2018 Course Offerings

CMN 538: Rhetorics of Recognition: Citizenship, Rights, Humanity

Professor: J. David Cisneros
Meets: Tuesdays, 2:00-5:00pm, Lincoln Hall 4007

This course will examine three dominant rhetorics of recognition: citizenship, rights, and notions of shared humanity. Rather than providing a comprehensive study of each of these three key terms (a task impossible to do in one semester), the course will approach them as discourses through which claims are made for social and political acknowledgment, respect, and/or membership. In other words, our goal will be to study origins, effects, and expressions of citizenship, rights, and humanity as languages used to demand recognition in US and (to a lesser degree) international political culture.

The course will be split into four units. The first part of the course explores the idea of recognition itself. We’ll read works that theorize and challenge the idea of recognition as a key word or ideograph of contemporary politics, and we’ll study some germinal debates about the politics of recognition. Some of those whose work we may read in this unit include Hegel, Fanon, Nancy Fraser, Axel Honneth, Charles Taylor, and Kelly Oliver. Each of the ensuing three units will consider citizenship, rights, and humanism, respectively, as rhetorics of recognition (i.e., demands for acknowledgment, respect, and/or membership). After some introductory readings that explore the origins and contours of these as rhetorics of recognition, each of the units will focus on 1-2 book-length explorations of them and their pitfalls and possibilities, which may include works by Isaac West, Karma Chavez, Amy Brandzel, Naomi Paik, Wendy Hesford, Lisa Cacho, Glen Coulthard, Frank Wilderson, and Diane Davis. 

This course is appropriate for graduate students in Communication/Rhetoric, Media, English, or other allied disciplines. No previous background in these issues is required. Assignments may include a series of short reading reflections, class leadership, and a seminar paper.


CWL 571: Literature, Violence and the Archive

Professor: Harriet L. Murav
Meets: Tuesdays, 3:30-4:50pm

What is a document? What makes a text, or any artifact, visual, aural, literary, electronic, artistic, or bureaucratic—a document? Who gets to document what? Violence can lead to a proliferation and also, a crisis of documentation. States create regimes of documentation, and yet populations and groups abandoned by law, both during periods of political upheaval, and during ordinary conditions, lose the capacity to record their histories. Other genres, more typically associated with the arts and literature -- absorb and transform documentation. Biopolitical concepts, including abandonment, bare life, and creaturely life, thus inform the archive. CWL 571 ponders questions about the archive, violence, and subjectivity by examining creaturely life, and theories and practices of the documentation of violence, with particular focus on the 1920s and the 1990s, and with special, but not exclusive, attention to Russia and Eastern Europe.


CWL 581: Seminar in Literary Themes: “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Freud But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock”

Professor: Lilya Kaganovsky
Meets: Thursdays, 3:00-4:50

A close study of the writings of Sigmund Freud, beginning with the 1895 volume, "Studies on Hysteria." Emphasis will be placed on Freud’s methodological contributions to the development of Western thought, on psychoanalysis as a critical and theoretical apparatus, and on Freud’s value for literary and cinema studies. Examples of the elaboration or application of Freudian methodology will include works by Melanie Klein, Jacques Lacan, Shoshana Felman, Peter Brooks, Kaja Silverman, and Slavoj Zizek. We will draw our examples for textual analysis from the films of Alfred Hitchcock. 


ENGL 500: Modern Critical Theory

Professor: Susan Koshy
Meets: Wednesdays, 3:00-5:00pm, English Building 29

This course will examine some of the major theoretical developments and debates that have shaped the study of literature and culture from the eighteenth century to the present. We begin by examining the emergence of key modern concepts of critique in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Kant, Hegel, and Marx). We then consider the evolution of new forms and sites of critique in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, in response to the problems of capitalism, fascism, colonialism, racism, and globalization. Our readings in contemporary theory will include some of the foundational texts in critical race theory, feminist and queer theory, postcolonial theory, indigenous studies, visual studies, and ecocriticism. Throughout, we will pay attention to the interrelations between theoretical approaches and consider their influence in shaping the goals and methods of humanistic and interdisciplinary inquiry. Finally, we will reflect on how to effectively engage theory in our own research and writing. By the end, you will be equipped to critically assess the premises, categories, and discourses that underpin contemporary scholarship in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. Through an introduction to critical theories and methodologies central to a variety of fields, the course aims to provide the basis for interdisciplinary conversation and intellectual community among graduate students and faculty members across the university.

This course combines the seminar format with lectures run through the Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series. We will meet twice a week: once a week, in a joint session with graduate students from theory seminars in Comparative Literature, Art History, and Ethnomusicology, for public talks connected to the Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series (Tuesdays, 5:15-6:45 pm); and on Wednesdays, 3:00-5:00 pm, in a closed session limited to students enrolled in Engl 500 (Engl Bldg 113). This format will enable us to participate in and reflect on the interdisciplinary frames of theoretical inquiry central to this course.

ENGL 584: Topics in Discourse and Writing: Economies of Literacy

Professor: Catherine Prendergas

You lived the practice during the strike, now read the theory. This course presents the opportunity to examine the conversation between two domains of knowledge: economics and literacy studies. Economic theory has long influenced research in literacy.  Similarly, economics is filled with metaphors that speak of literacy. We will read classic texts in literacy studies with and against texts in economics that inform them, are misused by them, and/or that they could inform. In addition to course readings, students will serve as collectors of economic theory (either by sitting in on an economics lecture on campus or joining a MOOC) and will bring that knowledge back to the class. Students will have choice in devising their final project for the class, whether a traditional seminar paper, or proposal for further study.

FR 579: French Literature Meets Queer Theory

Professor: Professor: François Proulx
Meets: Thursdays 3:00-4:50pm, Foreign Languages Building 1110

The founding texts of American queer theory have a marked affinity with French literature and the nineteenth century. Michel Foucault famously claimed in The History of Sexuality that “the homosexual” became a species around 1870; Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick likewise based her Epistemology of the Closeton nineteenth- and turn-of-the-century texts, including the work of Marcel Proust. This seminar will confront French nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels that arguably constitute a queer French canon (Balzac, Gautier, Proust, Colette, Genet, Leduc) with classic essays in queer theory by French and American critics (Foucault, Barthes, Wittig, Sedgwick, Butler and others). We will investigate queer theory’s roots in classic French literature and ask how that corpus can still fruitfully dialogue with more recent trends in queer and critical theory.

Lectures in French; seminar discussions in French and English. Graduate students from programs other than French Studies may opt to submit all written work in English.


GEOG 595: Spaces of Marxism

Professor: Brian Jefferson
Meets: Tuesdays, 11:00am - 1:50pm, 137C Davenport Hall

This reading-intensive module explores Marxian analyses of relations between capital and space. We will investigate how scholars use Marx to explain the spatial dimensions of colonization, urbanization, uneven development, and globalization. We also engage with texts using Marxian concepts to critically examine ethnoracialized spaces including slave plantations, colonial settlements, detention centers, prisons, sweatshops, ghettoized neighborhoods, and borderlands; and gendered spaces including the domestic sphere, workplaces, and spaces of care work. The goal of the class is to familiarize students with key concepts, debates, and texts in the subfields of Marxian and neo-Marxian geography.


LAW 657: International Human Rights Law

Professor: Francis A. Boyle

Based primarily on a series of contemporary “real world” problems, the course introduces the student to the established and developing legal rules and procedures governing the protection of international human rights. Its thesis is that there exists a substantial body of substantive and procedural International Human Rights Law, and that lawyers, government officials, and concerned citizens should be familiar with the policies underlying this law and its enforcement, as well as with the potential it offers for improving the basic lot of human beings everywhere. Additionally, the course presupposes that the meaning of “human rights” is undergoing fundamental expansion, and therefore explores Marxist and Third World conceptions of human rights as well as those derived from the liberal West.


PS 579: Special Topics in Political Theory: Biocultural Politics: Biology, Embodiment, and the Muddled Subject

Professor: Samantha Frost

This course examines how recent developments in the life sciences that undermine a clear distinction between biology and culture might reshape the way we think about politics. We will engage research in epigenetics, microbiomics, immunology, neuroscience, and environmental toxicology—according to which the biological body is responsive in its material constitution to its social and material environs—as well as topically-related research in feminist theory, critical race studies, biopolitics, environmental political theory, and science and technology studies. Exploring the productive interplay between life science and humanities research, we will consider how theories of subjectivity, agency, responsibility, and collective action might need to be rearticulated when the subject of politics is conceived as porous and plastic in its materiality or embodiment. 




SLAV 576: Methods in Slavic Graduate Study

Professor: David L. Cooper
Meets: Mondays 1-2:50pm

This course examines major developments in Slavic literary theory in the 20th century, from Russian formalism to Prague Structuralism and Soviet semiotics, with particular attention to Jakobson, Bakhtin, and Lotman. Russian is not required. The course ends with Derrida and deconstruction, which prepares for the late 20th century “theory” boom that uses and reworks this legacy of Slavic theories. 

Students will read a list of representative theoretical and analytical texts that introduce the major concepts, methods, and conclusions of these schools and scholars. Students will engage in discussion aimed at mastery of these concepts and methods and begin to apply them in short analytical writing assignments.


SOC 501: Contemporary Theory: Power, Culture, Subjectivity

Professor: Zsuzsa Gille
Meets: Wednesdays, 3:30-6:20pm

The purpose of this course is to provide graduate students with a systematic overview of contemporary social and sociological theories from various parts of the world as they relate to the central issues of power, culture, and subjectivity. We will compare and contrast concepts of power, conceptual frameworks of relating structure and agency, and diverging meanings of and significance attributed to culture.

While always attending to the historical and political context of each contemporary theorist, we will engage in a relational reading of some key texts. We will focus on the following relations: a) Freud, Marx, and the Frankfurt School; b) Semiotics, Structuralism, Functionalism, and Structural-Functionalism; c) Gramsci’s concept of hegemony and British Cultural Studies; d) Structuralism and Poststructuralism; e) Postmodernism and Late Capitalism; f) Poststructuralism, postmodernism, postcolonialism, postfeminism, and postsocialism. In addition we will discuss Bourdieu, U.S. micro-sociology and its critiques, and Burawoy’s concept of public sociology.

SOC 565: Megacities of the Global South 

Professor: Asef Bayat
Meets: Tuesdays, 3:30-6:20pm      

This advanced seminar aims to discuss the dynamics of urban life in the megacities of the Global South. It explores the ways in which the advent of neo-liberal policies since the 1990s has affected urban space and people; and how urban inhabitants respond to their adverse circumstance. Even though modern cities have almost always been the locus of inequality, conflict, and politics, the current economic restructuring seems to have intensified urban disparities (of place, wealth, and opportunities) and fractured the urban bodies in novel fashions. In these ‘cities of extremes’ the modern ideals of (real vs formal) citizenship are subverted by growing exclusion and marginalization, while the opposite poles of urban fragments—the gated communities and the ‘planet of slums’-- are being mediated increasingly through the practice of violence, on the one hand, and securitization, on the other. How do the elites, the public officials, and the ordinary city-zens react to these environments? How do the poor assert the ‘right to the city’? Focusing on the way in which politics is articulated in the megacities of the global South, we look at select cases from the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and South Asia.