The Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series 2019

The Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory will offer a series of public lectures on the history of critical theory. These lectures, each of which will be followed by open discussion, will take place on Tuesdays from 5:15-6:45pm in 1092 Lincoln Hall. 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.

Students may wish to purchase the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, Second Edition (2010).

Week 1 (8/27): No Public Lecture 

Week 2 (9/3): German Idealism, Helga Varden, (Philosophy) 

I. Hannah Arendt:

On the Origins of Totalitarianism 

  • Preface to the First Edition, pp. vii-ix
  • Preface to Part One: Antisemitism, pp. xi-xvi
  • Preface to Part Three: xxiii-xl

(please note that Part II Imperialism is included in the pdf but is not required reading)

Eichmann In Jerusalem

  • "The Accused," pp. 21-35
  • "Epilogue," pp. 253-279

II. Immanuel Kant:

Religion with the Bounds of Mere Reason

  • "Concerning the Predisposition to Good in Human Nature," pp. 6: 26-29
  • "Concerning The Propensity to Evil in Human Nature," pp. 6: 29-33

"The Doctrine of Right" in The Metaphysics of Morals

  • "Division of the Doctrine of Right," pp. 6: 236-237
  • "Division of Rights," pp. 6: 237-239
  • "Private Right" (selections), pp. 6: 245-249 & 6: 264-267 & 6: 305-308
  • Public Right" (selection), pp. 6: 311--332

An Answer to the Question- What is Enlightenment?

Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View

"Main features of the description of the human species' character," pp. 7: 330-333 


Week 3 (9/10): Structuralism, Constantine Nakassis, (Anthropology, U Chicago) 

Required Reading:

  • de Saussure, Ferdinand. 1916 [1986]. Introduction- Chapters 3–5 (pp. 8–23), Part I (General Principles)- Chapter 1 (pp. 65–70), Part 2 (Synchronic Linguistics)- Chapters 2–6 (pp. 101–132).  In Course in General Linguistics. Roy Harris, trans. Open Court. 51pp. 
  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1958 [1963]. “The Structural Study of Myth” (1955) (pp. 206–231). In Structural Anthropology. Basic Books. 25pp.
  • Metz, Christian. 1967 [1974]. “Problems of Denotation in the Fiction Film” (pp. 108–145). In Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema. Oxford University Press. 37pp.
  • Bellour, Raymond. 2000. “The Obvious and the Code” (1973) (pp. 69–76).[1] In Analysis of Film. Indiana University Press. 7pp. 

    [1] For the film clip (from the 1946 film, The Big Sleep) Bellour discusses in “The Obvious and the Code,” see

Opitional Reading:   

  • Jakobson, Roman. 1942 [1978]. Chapters 3–6 (pp. 45–116). In Six Lectures on Sound and Meaning. MIT Press.
  • Benveniste, Émile. 1971. “Saussure after a Half-Century” (1963) (pp. 29–42),“The Nature of the Linguistic Sign” (1939) (pp. 43–48), “The Levels of Linguistic Analysis” (1963) (pp. 101–112). In Problems of General Linguistics. University of Miami.
  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1952–1953 [1986]. “The Problem of Speech Genres” (pp. 60–102). In Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. University of Texas Press.

Week 4 (9/17): Marx and Marxism, Erik McDuffie, (History) 

  • McDuffie, Sojourning For Freedom, Chap 6
  • Claudia Jones, For the Unity of Women in the Cause of Peace, 1951
  • Angela Davis, Freedom Is a Constact Struggle, Chap 8

Week 5 (9/24): Pscyhoanalytic Studies, Patricia Gherovici, (Psychoanalytic Studies, U Penn) 


  • Freud, S. (1926). The Question of Lay Analysis. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XX (1925-1926): An Autobiographical Study, Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, The Question of Lay Analysis and Other Works, 177-258
  • Sigmund Freud. (1920). The psychogenesis of a case of homosexuality in a woman.  In J. Strachey (Ed. & Trans.), The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 18, pp. 145–172). London: Hogarth Press.
  • Jacques Lacan. (2006) “The Situation of Psychoanalysis and the Training of Psychoanalysts in 1956” in Ecrits pp. 384-411. Ecrits: The First complete edition in English (B. Fink, Trans.). New York: Norton.



Week 6 (10/1): Deconstruction, Marcus Keller, (French and Italian)      


  •  Derrida (1967)_Structure Sign Play
  • Derrida (1971)_Signature Event Context


  • Derrida. 1993. Specters of Marx (Excerpts)
  • Derrida Humanities


Week 7 (10/8): Biopolitics, Samantha Frost, Political Science 

Assigned readings

  • Foucault, “Governmentality” from Foucault, Power (essential works) ed. Faubian (NYU Press) 201-222
  •  Foucault, Lecture one 11 January 1978 from Security, Territory, Population (pp1-23) (23pp) 
  • Esposito, “Community, Immunity, Biopolitics” Angelaki 18 (3) (2013)-83-90 (7pp)
  • Agamben “Life Divided” and “A Life Inseparable from Its Form” from The Use of Bodies (Stanford UP 2015) 195-213. (18pp)
  • Agamben “Anthropological Machine” in The Open-Man and Animal (Stanford UP 2004) 33-38 (5pp)
  • Agamben, “Introduction” from Homo Sacer (Stanford UP 1998)- 9-14 (6pp)
  • Rachel Lee “Chapter 1- How a critical biopolitical studies lens alters the questions we ask vis-à-vis race” in The Exquisite Corpse of Asian America (NYU Press 2014): 39-65 (26pp)

Supplemental readings


Week 8 (10/15): Postcolonial Theory, Nasser Mufti, (English, UIC)

  • Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 12, No. 1, "Race," Writing, and Difference. (Autumn, 1985), pp. 243-26.
  • Lukacs, Georg. 1962. The Historical Novel. London- Merlin Press. Pp 19-30.
  • James, C.L.R. 1963. The Black Jacobins. New York- Vintage Books. Pp 145-162; 241-266.


Week 9 (10/22): Critical Race Theory, Patricia Nguyen, (Asian American Studies, Northwestern) 

​Additional Reading

Week 10 (10/29): Indigenous Studies, Theresa Montoya (Anthropology, U Chicago), Haley Negrin (History, UIC), and Kelly Wiseup (English, Northwestern)

NAIS and Disciplines

Sovereignty, Settler Colonialism, and Entanglements

Indigenous Feminisms 

  • Maile Arvin, Eve Tuck, and Angie Morrill, “Decolonizing Feminism- Challenging Connections between Settler Colonialism and Heteropatriarchy” Feminist Formations, vol. 25, no. 1 (Spring 2013)- 8-34. 
  • Rachel Flowers, “Refusal to Forgive- Indigenous women’s love and rage,” Decolonization- Indigeneity, Education and Society Vol. 4, No. 2 (2015)- 32-49 

Week 11 (11/5), Feminist Theory, Lida Maxwell, (Political Science, Boston U) 

Required Readings:

  • Audre Lorde, “Poetry is not a Luxury,” from Sister Outsider – 5 pages.
  • Hortense Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe- An American Grammar Book” – 17 pages
  • Michael Warner, “Public and Private” from Publics and Counterpublics - 40ish pages

Recommended Readings

  • Hannah Arendt, “Private and Public,” Part II of The Human Condition.
  • Sophie Lewis, Full Surrogacy Now
  • Sara Ahmed, “Feminist Killjoys,” from The Promise of Happiness
  • Rachel Carson, Chs. 1-2 of Silent Spring (“A Fable for Tomorrow” & “The Obligation to Endure”)

Week 12 (11/12), Queer Theory, Toby Beauchamp, (GWS) 


  1. Michel Foucault, "The Incitement to Discourse." From The History of Sexuality, Vol. I. NY- Random House, 1990. pp.17-35
  2. Cathy Cohen, "Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens- The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?" GLQ 3 no.4 (1997)- 437-465.
  3. Susan Stryker, "My Words to Victor Frankenstein above the Village of Chamounix- Performing Transgender Rage." GLQ 1 no.3 (1994)- 237-254.
  4. Julian Gill-Peterson, %22Trans of Color Critique before Transsexuality.%22 TSQ 5 no.4 (2018)- 606-620.


  1. Gayle Rubin, "Thinking Sex- Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality." In The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, ed. Abelove, Barale, and Halperin. NY- Routledge, 1993. pp.3-44.


Week 13 (11/ 19), Ecocriticism, Clara Bosak-Schroeder, Classics 

1.)Abigail Pérez Aguilera, The Tangibility of Maize, Indigenous Literature, Bioart, and Violence in Mexico, in Ecocriticism and Indigenous Studies

2.) Kimberly Ruffin, Bones and Water, Telling Myth, in Black on Earth

3.) Rachel Stein, The Place, Promised, That Has Not Yet Been