The Modern Critical Theory Lecture Series



Fall 2017

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.

For more information, contact Susan Koshy, Alyssa Bralower, or Roman Friedman.

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

NOTE: Participants who are not registered for one of the affiliated courses and who would like to read the supporting readings should email Roman Friedman (


Week 1 (8/29): No Public Lecture 

Week 2 (9/5): German Idealism
Lecture: Helga Varden, Philosophy, UIUC


1.  Kant, Immanuel. "An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?" WE 8: 33-42. (In Practical Philosophy, transl./ed. Mary Gregor, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996: pp. 17-22.)

2. ---. "On the Common Saying: That may be correct in theory, but is of no use in practice" TP 8: 273-341. (In Practical Philosophy, pp. 277-309)

3. ---. "The following selections from Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason:

           "I. Concerning the Original Predisposition to Good in Human Nature,"

           "II. Concerning the Propensity to Evil in Human Nature," and

           "III. The Human Being is by Nature Evil Vitiis Nemo Sine Nascitur, Horace"

Rel. 6: 26-39. (In Religion and Rational Theology, transl./ed. by Allen W. Wood and George di Giovanni, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 50-61.

4. Selection from Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View: "B. The Character of the Sexes," A 7: 303-311. (In Anthropology, History, and Education, ed. Louden et al./transl. Gregor et al., New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007: pp. 399-407


Week 3 (9/12): Structuralism  
Lecture: Robert Parker, English, UIUC


1. de Saussure, Ferdinand. "Course in General Linguistics" (1916). Critical Theory: A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies. Oxford, 2012. 37-48.

2. Parker, Robert Dale. "Ch.3: Structuralism."  How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies, Third Edition (2014/2015). 43-84.


1. Barthes, Roland. "The Death of the Author" (1968). Critical Theory: A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies. Oxford, 2012. 83-87.

2. Jakobson, Roman. "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles" (1956). Critical Theory: A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies. Oxford, 2012. 62-68.

3. Propp, Vladimir. "The Morphology of the Folktale" (1928). Critical Theory: A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies. Oxford, 2012. 58-62.

Week 4 (9/19): Marx & Marxism
Lecture: Emmanuel Rota, History/French & Italian, UIUC


1. Marx, Karl. Grundrisse, Introduction, from p.25 to p. 51, with special attention to part 3 and 4, from 41 to 51.

2. Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks

Week 5 (9/26): Psychoanalysis 
Lecture: Lilya Kaganovksy, Comparative and World Literature, UIUC


1. Freud, Sigmund. "Fetishism." Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. WW Norton, 2001. 952-956.

2. Freud, Sigmund. "Some Psychological Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction between the Sexes." The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Hogarth, 1953. 248-258.

3. Freud, Sigmund. From The Interpretation of Dreams. Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. WW Norton, 2001. 919-929.

4. Lacan, Jacques. "The Mirror Stage," "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious"

5. Kristeva, Julia. “Approaching Abjection.” Trans. Leon Roudiez. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (Columbia UP, 1982).

6. Zizek, Slavoj. "The Seven Veils of Fantasy," from Key Concepts of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, ed. Dany Nobus (New York: Other Press, 1999), 190-218.


Week 6 (10/3): Deconstruction
Lecture: Geoffrey Bennington, French & Italian, Emory


1. Derrida, Jacques. “Semiology and Grammatology.” Interview with Julia Kristeva. Extract from Positions, trans. Bass, London: Athlone Press, 1981 (1972).

2. ---.  Linguistics and Grammatology. From Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri C. Spivak. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1976. [p. 39-47 “The Hinge” is less important for lecture]

3. ---. “The Exorbitant. Question of Method.” From Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri C. Spivak. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1976.

Week 7 (10/10): Biopolitics
Lecture: Richard C. Keller, Medical History and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin, Madison


1. Redfield, Peter. “Bioexpectation: Life Technologies as Humanitarian Goods,” Public Culture 24, no. 1 (2012): 157-84.

2. Willis, John M. “Governing the Living and the Dead: Mecca and the Convergence of the Saudi Biopolitical State,” American Historical Review (2017): 346-70.

3. Sanyal, Debarati. “Calais’s ‘Jungle’: Refugees, Biopolitics, and the Arts of Resistance,” Representations 139 (2017): 1-33.

Week 8 (10/17): Postcolonial Theory
Lecture: Gaurav Desai, English, University of Michigan


1. Editor's Column on "The End of Postcolonial Theory?" PMLA 122.3 (2007): 633–651.

2. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35 (2009): 197-222.

3. Heise, Ursula. "Globality, Difference and the International Turn in Ecocriticism" PMLA 128.3 (2013): 636-643.


1. Ghosh, Amitav. Part II “History.” The Great Derangement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 86-115.


Week 9 (10/24): Indigenous Studies
Lecture: Jenny L. Davis, Anthropology, UIUC


1. O'Brien, Jean. M. Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians out of Existence in New England. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (2010), p. 1-54 (ch. 1) and p. 105-144 (ch. 3).

Week 10 (10/31): Critical Race Theory - "The Open Secret of Racial Capitalist Violence"
Lecture: Jodi Melamed, English and Africana Studies, Marquette University


1. Melamed, Jodi. "Racial Capitalism." Journal of Critical Ethnic Studies 1 (2015): 76-85.

2. Harney, Stefano, and Fred Moten. "Fantasy in the Hold." The Undercommons, Fugitive Planning & Black Study. NY: Minor Compositions, 2013: 84-100.

3. Clarno, Andy. "Neoliberal Colonization in the West Bank." Social Problems, 2017, 0, 1-19. doi: 10.1093/socpro/spw055. Article.

4. Murakawa, Naomi. "The First Civil Right: Protection from Lawless Racial Violence." The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America. New York and London: Oxford UP, 2014: 1- 27.


1. Byrd, Jodi, Alyosha Goldstein, Jodi Melamed, and Chandan Reddy. "On Economies of Dispossession."  Economies of Dispossession: Indigeneity, Race, Capitalism, a special issue of Social Text. Forthcoming. Approx. 20 pages. 

Week 11 (11/7): Ecocriticism 
Lecture: Jamie Jones, English, UIUC


1. Heise, Ursula. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Ecocriticism,” PMLA 121:2 (March 2006), 503-516.

2. LeMenager, Stephanie. “Ultradeep, Petroleum Culture in the American Century.”  Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century, Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 3-19.

3. LeMenager, Stephanie. “The Aesthetics of Petroleum.” Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century, Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 66-102

4. Nixon, Rob. “Slow Violence.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 26 June 2011,

Week 12 (11/14): Visual Studies
Lecture: Lisa Rosenthal, Art History, UIUC


1.  Mitchell, W.J.T. “Showing Seeing: A Critique of Visual Culture,” Journal of Visual Culture 1:2 (2002) pp. 165-181.

2.  Zorach, Rebecca. “ 'Without Fear of Boarder Guards’. The Renaissance of Visual Culture,” in Barbara Baert, Ann-Sohie Lehmann, Jenke van den Akkerveken (eds.) New Perspectives in Iconology (Brussels: ASP Publishers, 2011) pp.. 23-41.

3.  Smith, Pamela H. “Art, Science, and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe,” Isis 97:1 (2006) pp. 83-100.

4. Moxey, Keith. Visual Time (Durham/London: Duke University Press, 2013), chapter 4, "Visual Studies and the Iconic Turn,” pp. 53-75.

Week 13 (11/28): Queer Theory
Lecture: Andrew Leong, English, Northwestern University


1. Edelman, Lee. "The Future is Kid Stuff." No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2003. 1-31. (link)

2. Muñoz, José Esteban. "Introduction" and "The Future is in the Present: Sexual Avant-Gardes and the Performance of Utopia." Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: NYU Press, 2009. 1-18; 49-64. (link)


1. Downing, Lisa,  and Robert Gillett. "Georges Bataille at the Avant-Garde of Queer Theory?: Transgression, Perversion, and Death Drive." Nottingham French Studies: 50.3, (2011): 88-102. (link)