AAS 561: Race and Cultural Critique

Professor: Junaid Rana
Meets: Tuesdays, 4:00 - 6:30 PM

Introduction to graduate level theoretical and methodological approaches in Comparative Race Studies. As a survey of theories of race and racism and the methodology of critique, this course offers an interdisciplinary approach that draws from anthropology, sociology, history, literature, cultural studies, and gender/sexuality studies. In addition, the study of racial and cultural formation is examined from a comparative perspective in the scholarship of racialized and Gender and Women's Studies. Same as AFRO 531, ANTH 565, GWS 561, and LLS 561.


ANTH 515: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Evidence

Professor: Virginia R. Dominguez
Meets: Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30 AM - 12:15 PM (193 Davenport Hall)

This graduate course examines the role of ideas and ideologies of evidence in the
production of knowledge across the disciplines. Interdisciplinary explorations will
concentrate on (1) ideas of evidence, (2) their role in the production and testing of
knowledge, (3) a range of sociopolitical sites in which evidence is privileged as an idea, (4) a range of sociopolitical sites in which it does not appear privileged, (5) claims made in terms of "evidence," (6) ideologies of knowledge in terms of evidence and of evidence in terms of knowledge, and (7) the legal range of experience with "evidence," including jurisprudential debates.

Students will explore their own assumptions about evidence in their current and past
work as well as in non-work areas of life, and they will explore the consequences different stances on evidence would have in their own dissertation research and writing.

Materials for the course are drawn from selected scholarly debates across a range of
disciplines including anthropology, history, feminist psychology, law, statistics, literary theory, psychiatry, political science, sociology, and science studies.

In addition, we will have visiting scholars with expertise in different issues and approaches to evidence: Professor Jasmin Habib (cultural anthropologist in the Department of Political Science at the University of Waterloo, Canada) on February 27, and Professor Michael Chibnik (University of Iowa economic anthropologist and current Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist) on March 27.


CWL 581: Biopolitical Fantasy on Screen

Professor: Robert Rushing
Meets: Thursdays, 3:00 - 4:50 PM

Although some have claimed that biopolitics is about the direct manipulation of life, a careful analysis shows that biopolitical interventions are always mediated—that is, like other forms of ideology, as Zizek has argued, they always require a fantasy to sustain them, whether they are public service billboards or Hollywood films. Understanding the essential falsity of ideology is not enough, in other words, to understand its hold over the viewer. In this seminar, we’ll explore some theories of biopolitics as well as theories (largely but not exclusively psychoanalytic) that attempt to explain the fascination that screen fantasies hold over us in the service of the preservation and exploitation of life. Readings include Väliaho, Esposito, Campbell, Agamben, Zizek, McGowan, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Edelman and Barker. Films and television may include: 300, Immortals, Orphan Black, The Hunger Games, Aliens, Logan’s Run, Game of Thrones, Mad Max: Fury Road, World War Z, Fight Club, Essential Killing, Zero Dark Thirty.


ENGL 533: Rousseau, Feminism, and Romanticism

Professor: Hina Nazar

The two decades following the French revolution of 1789 were a period of remarkable intellectual ferment and ideological contestation in Britain.  The “pamphlet war” begun by Edmund Burke’s dyspeptic denunciation of the revolution in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), and continued in such rejoinders to Burke as Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790) and Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (1791-92), powerfully established the contours of present-day liberalism and conservatism.  This seminar brings into focus one of the most far-reaching developments of the 1790s and early 1800s: the emergent feminist discourse of the “rights of woman,” which accompanied the more prominent one of the “rights of man,” and which was developed, in important ways, through the medium of fiction rather than by political or philosophical treatises.  More particularly, the seminar considers how a broad spectrum of Romantic women writers engaged questions about women’s rights and duties by engaging the maddeningly paradoxical but fascinating mid-century writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, hailed by the French revolutionaries as a primary intellectual influence on the revolution.  Rousseau’s bestselling sentimental novel, Julie or The New Heloise (1761), was especially important to women writers of the later eighteenth century: it was cited/revised/contested in multiple novels by century’s end, including Helen Maria Williams’s Julia (1790), Eliza Fenwick’s Secresy (1795), Mary Hays’s Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796), Mary Wollstonecraft’s Wrongs of Woman, or Maria (1798), Charlotte Smith’s The Young Philosopher (1798), Jane West’s Tale of the Times (1799), and Elizabeth Hamilton’s Memoirs of Modern Philosophers (1800).  We will ask how Rousseau’s claims about female education, sensibility, natural rights, and freedom—as developed in writings including  JulieThe Social Contract, and Emile (all three published in 1761-62)—served as a springboard for the Romantic novel and late-century feminism.  The seminar will conclude with a discussion of Jane Austen’s outrageously funny juvenilia (written in the 1790s), as well as the more sober Sense and Sensibility (published in 1811 but drafted in the 1790s as an epistolary novel à la Julie), which represent a culmination of post-revolutionary debates about women and their rights.

This seminar is designed to appeal not only to students of the long eighteenth century or of women’s writing but also to anyone interested in the Enlightenment origins of the dominant ideologies of our own time.  Rousseau has proven to be one of the most influential figures in the development, at once, of present-day liberalism and totalitarianism.  His many paradoxical self-descriptions— philosophe and harbinger of the counter-Enlightenment, contractarian and sentimentalist, “solitary walker” and “proud citizen of Geneva”—have consistently created the strangest of bedfellows amongst his admirers.  His writings were also crucial to the development of theory in our profession, serving as a springboard for the work of Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man, among others.  Romantic women writers’ response to Rousseau, therefore, began a trend that continues unabated today and that has critical consequences for the future discourses of modernity. 


ENGL 581: Queer Theory (Seminar in Literary Theory)

Professor: Siobhan Somerville
Meets: Tuesdays, 1:00 - 2:50 PM (123 EB)

This course will trace key moments in the development of the field of queer theory over the past three decades (or so).  While one familiar genealogy of queer theory locates its origins in the development of a theory of sexuality (as distinct from theories of gender), a range of queer theorists have instead critiqued any attempt to give exclusive priority to sexuality over other categories of analysis.  The full potential of queer theory, it was argued early in the field, is to dislodge "the status of sexual orientation itself as the authentic and centrally governing category of queer practice, thus freeing up queer theory as a way of reconceiving not just the sexual, but the social in general” (Harper, et al., 1997).  Still other queer theorists have located the full potential of queer critique in its refusal of the social and political altogether.  While we will remain skeptical of origin stories and attentive to the stakes of competing genealogies, our readings will include texts that have been understood as foundational to the field, as well as well as emerging work in areas such as queer indigenous studies and queer disability studies. 


ENGL 559: Black and Bourgeois in the Flesh: Class, Sex, and the Racial Body

Professor: Candice Jenkins
Meets: Thursdays 1:00 - 2:50 PM in EB 113

In this course we will examine how African American authors in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries grapple with the question of black class privilege, and particularly with an inherent tension between the racialized excess of embodiment that accrues to notions of “blackness,” and the tendency of privilege to mask or erase the body's traces. With this ontological dilemma in mind, we will consider how and why African American narratives of the post-Civil Rights era have articulated black bourgeois identity as a problematically embodied state—implicating interraciality's visible markers as classed signs, but also speaking beyond racial phenotype and its underlying histories, to the ways in which the intersection of "race" and "class" operates viscerally, as corporeal and even libidinal performance. Throughout our study, we will consider how the unique sociohistorical circumstances surrounding the “black” body--circumstances that recall Hortense Spillers’ crucial distinction between body and flesh and the latter’s “vestibular” relation to Western culture--inform narrative representations of class, and particularly of class privilege, and speak to their complex relationship to corporeality for black subjects. In exploring how African American class privilege lives “in the flesh,” we will consider, as well, the vulnerability and violability of the black body, and how this vulnerability manifests in particular ways in the post-Civil Rights and “post-racial” moment and relates to the fiscal precariousness of the (post)-postmodern and what Jeffrey Nealon calls “just-in-time capitalism.” 

Primary texts will include both fiction and memoir--some possibilities are Toi Derricotte’s The Black Notebooks, Percival Everett’s Erasure, Andrea Lee’s Sarah Phillips, Reginald McKnight’s He Sleeps, Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby, Michael Thomas’s Man Gone Down, and Rebecca Walker’s Black, White, and Jewish, among others--as well as films by Spike Lee and Dee Rees. Critical and theoretical readings will include works by Elizabeth Alexander, Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Nicole Fleetwood, Sharon Holland, Frederic Jameson, Karyn Lacy, Rupali Mukherjee, Jeffrey Nealon, Naomi Pabst, Darieck Scott, Jared Sexton, Hortense Spillers, Diana Taylor, and Harvey Young. Requirements: participation, weekly discussion-board postings, oral presentation, final seminar paper. Students should read Hortense Spillers’ essay, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book” in preparation for the first class meeting.


HIST 546: Home and Away in British Empire Historiography

Professor: Antoinette Burton
Meets: Mondays, 1:00 - 3:00 PM (Greg Hall 315)

This course offers an introduction to major issues in the contemporary historiography of Britain and its empire in the modern period. In addition to thinking through big questions – slavery, environment, sex and gender, racialized mobility and resistance – students are encouraged to develop an appreciation for both portable methods and the stakes of writing imperial histories that do not reproduce the vantage point of the colonizer. This is, in effect, a postcolonial approach to modern British imperialism, driven by theoretical and methodological considerations both embedded and explicit. Practitioners from all disciplines are most welcome. 


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.


LAW 687: Jurisprudence

Professor: Francis A. Boyle

In recent years this course has surveyed the principal schools of legal and political philosophy in Western civilizations. Topics include the nature and role of the state, the nature and role of law, and the position of the individual in the state. The principal writers surveyed are Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Bentham, and J.S. Mill.


MACS 496: Surveillance & Society

Professor: James Hay
Meets: Tuesdays, 5:00 - 8:00 PM

The 21st century increasingly has been referred to as a “surveillance society.”  As a description of the today’s media environment, the term “surveillance society” is an exaggeration, ignoring that technologies of surveillance were part of social life and were forms of social control before the 21st century.  However, the term does recognize the fairly rapid ways that the technologies of surveillance have become deeply and widely part of the media environment in the 21st century—and in very different ways than in the past.  

Current forms of surveillance are not simply the future that was forecast in George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984, where the State operated as Big Brother, even though following the attacks in the U.S. on September 11, 2001 the Department of Homeland Security became the largest government agency created in the U.S. in over fifty years, and at a time when U.S. cities already were “securing” downtowns through monitoring networks.  Downtown Chicago has become one of the densest networks of municipal-sponsored surveillance in the U.S.  Also, “national security” has rapidly become a matter of defense and warfare waged by States as “cyber-security.”

However, surveillance also has become an integral feature of new commercial models—and particularly a new commercial model of media use.  For instance, surveillance is integral to the new, “interactive” features of “old media” such as TV. Some critics have described 21st-century Reality TV (for instance, the early Reality TV program, “Big Brother”) as a “game of surveillance” - of spying or eavesdropping on real human subjects. Surveillance has become a central feature of Web use and commerce, where personal information is constantly “mined” and often sold/traded among companies. “Big data” is another term for mining and selling personal information—increasingly by networks of machines and software designed for that purpose. GPS and Biometrics (facial recognition, iris and finger-print scanning, body scans) have been adopted as much by businesses as by governments for “tracking” and security purposes.

However, there also are peer-to-peer forms of surveillance that make the present environment different from the past.  “Social networking” media such as Facebook allow users to “follow” and “find” friends.  The redesign of the phone as camera is another, recent way that we spy on one another and record one another’s activities, and that the technology of communication (the telephone) operates as a technology of surveillance.  The Selfie is a means by which we watch and surveil ourselves, and often “share” ourselves through social networks.  Drones are military and commercial tools, but they also are available for private/personal uses, to observe previously private spaces.  In all of these ways, surveillance is not practiced only by governments and businesses (i.e., turned on us from the outside) but is a practice that we turn on each other and on ourselves.   

All of these developments have profoundly contributed to a changing understanding, and new set of problems, about what is public and private.  These developments have contributed to new media economies, forms of commercial transaction, and consumerism, These developments have contributed to new questions about the role of government and citizens, as exemplified by the recent controversies and debates surrounding the role of cameras in policing, the role of cameras by citizens who monitor police practices, and the role of cameras by activists protesting police practices. These developments also have become part of everyday life in the present—not only the way we live our lives but the ways that our lives are observed, recorded, and revealed.

This course examines current practices and technologies of surveillance through a wide variety of examples, seeking to understand what is specific as well as inter-related about surveillance practices and technologies. 


MACS 504: Film Theory and Criticism

Professor: Julie Turnock
Meets: Tuesdays, 1:00 - 4:50 PM

This course engages with, uses, and challenges various theoretical ideas and approaches to film.  Throughout the semester, we will address questions such as: What is cinema, and what is film studies?  How do we relate to and interact with films and media?  What are the relationships among film, media, and the larger global society?  We will discuss the historical and cultural context in which particular theories emerged, and we will reflect on the role of film theory in the development of film studies as a discipline.  Additionally, we will look at how film studies has both taken up and influenced theoretical lines of thought such as ideology, Marxism, semiotics, Russian formalism, psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, feminism, critical race theory, sexuality studies, queer theory, transnationalism, and critiques of neocolonialism.  While considering many of the most influential theories in film studies, we will read canonical authors, e.g., Bazin, , Bordwell, Comolli and Narboni, Dyer, Mulvey, Doane, Bhabba, Rodowick, Elsaesser, Bellour, Altman, Gunning.


MDVL 500: Premodern Plants

Professor: Robert Barrett
Meets: Fridays, 1:00 - 2:50 PM

Taking its cues from the emerging field of critical plant studies, this course in ecocriticism explores the literary productions of those arbores inversae or “inverted trees” known as medieval men and women. The seminar rejects plant blindness (the zoocentric treatment of vegetal life as backdrop) to focus instead on plants as active agents in the multispecies assemblages of the global Middle Ages. We’ll look at medieval plants from a variety of authors, genres, and cultural traditions: the ash in Marie de France’s Le Fresne, the cherry of Zeami’s Saigyozakura, the holly of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the laurel of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, and the mugwort of the Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm are just a few of the species we may consider in the course. We’ll also discuss more fantastic plants: e.g., the three-in-one-tree species of the Cross of Christian apocrypha, the vegetable lamb of Mandeville’s Travels, and the barnacle tree of Gerald of Wales. Because this class is aimed at graduate students across the entirety of the Illinois medieval studies program, all texts —including Old and Middle English—will be taught in Modern English translation. (Since we’ll also be reading some key theoretical texts from ecocriticism and critical plant studies, non-medievalists interested in the environmental humanities will also find much of relevance in the seminar.) Students will work with me to develop research paper projects relevant to their academic disciplines and fields of origin.


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