The Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series - Fall 2004

The Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory sponsors a criticism seminar each semester for interested faculty and graduate students. This non-credit seminar features discussion of theoretical readings introduced by a changing cast of guest experts. During fall semester 2004, our topic will be “Critical Foundations in an Anti-Foundational Age.” Linked to a graduate course on Modern Critical Theory, this Unit seminar will consider canonical readings in critical theory from Kant and Hegel to Queer Theory and Postcolonial Studies. The purpose of the seminar will be to explore the genealogy of contemporary, interdisciplinary critical practices by returning to foundational texts. Despite the critiques of the canon that have dominated much thinking in the humanities and interpretive social sciences during the last decades, texts of Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche have in recent years received extensive and crucial rethinking in the writings of such theorists as Jacques Derrida, Gayatri Spivak, and Judith Butler. Even in an age of legitimate skepticism towards foundations and canons of all types, it is essential to return from time to time to the classical texts of the tradition of critical theory in order to re-read them in the light of current concerns. 

All Monday sessions will take place on Mondays, 7:30-9pm at the IPRH (805 W. Pennsylvania). 


8/30: Kant and Hegel (Presentation by Adam Sutcliffe, History)

Kant Readings: 

“Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History,” in H. S. Reiss, ed., Kant: Political Writings (1970), 221-34. 

“Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose,” in K:PW, 41-53. 

“Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?'” in K:PW, 54-60. 

Hegel Readings: 

Extracts from Phenomenology of Spirit (Master / Slave Dialectic) from Norton . 

Inaugural Address, Delivered at the University of Berlin (22 October 1818), in L. Dickey and H. B. Nisbet, eds., Hegel: Political Writings (1999), 181-5. 

Extracts from Lectures on the Philosophy of History , in H:PW, 197-224. 


Frederick Beiser, “The Enlightenment and Idealism,” in Karl Ameriks, ed., The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism (2000), 18-36.


9/20: Nietzsche (Presentation by Melissa Orlie, Political Science)

Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals . Selections: Preface, Essay I: sections 1-2, 6-7, 10-13; Essay II: sections 1-12, 16-18, 21-24; Essay III: sections 1-2, 7-21, 23-28 (pp. 15-23, 24-26, 31-34, 36-46, 57-63,57-79, 84-88, 91-96, 97-99, 106-43,145-63) 


10/4: Weber, Geertz, and Interpretive Social Theory (Presentation by Matti Bunzl, Anthropology)

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (pp. 12-31, 154-183) 

Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture” and “Religion as a Cultural System” in The Interpretation of Cultures


10/11: Western Marxism: Horkheimer, Benjamin, Lukacs, Adorno (Presentation by Jed Esty, English)

Gyorgy Lukacs, “Realism in the Balance” in Norton 

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” in Norton 

Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, “The Culture Industry,” in Norton 

Theodor Adorno, “On the Fetish Character in Music and the Regression of Listening”


10/18: Structuralism: Saussure, Barthes, Levi-Strauss (Presentation by Andrea Goulet, French)

Readings by Saussure, Barthes, and Levi-Strauss from Norton 

Plus: Roland Barthes, “The Structuralist Activity” 

Claude Levi-Strauss, “The Structural Study of Myth”


10/25: Foucault (Presentation by Mark Thompson, English and Comp Lit)

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1 


11/8: Lacan (Presentation by Nancy Blake, Comp Lit) 

Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage,” “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious,” & “The Signification of the Phallus” in Norton 


11/15: Feminism I: Beauvoir, Kristeva, Irigaray (Presentation by Samantha Frost, ICR) 

Simone de Beauvoir, “Chapter XI: Myth and Reality” (from Norton ) & “XXI: Women's Situation and Character” from The Second Sex 

Julia Kristeva, “Approaching Abjection,” from Powers of Horror & “Might Not Universality be our Own Foreignness?” from Strangers to Ourselves 

Luce Irigaray, “This Sex which is not One” & “The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of Women” from This Sex Which Is Not One & "I Want Love, Not War" (pp. 21-29), "Democracy is Love" (106-120) and "The Question of the Other" (pp.121-141) from Democracy Begins Between Two


12/1: Feminism and Queer Theory: Butler and Sedgwick (Stephanie Foote, English) 

Selections from Butler and Eve Sedgwick in Norton


12/6: Postcolonial Theory: Said, Spivak, and Bhabha (Wail Hassan, Comp Lit) 

Selections from Said, Spivak, and Bhabha in Norton