Affiliated Courses

Spring 2019 Course Offerings

CWL 571: Seminar in Literary Relations; George Gasyna

CWL 581/SPAN 590: Borders; Eric Calderwood

ENGL 581: The Settler Colonial Turn; Jodi Byrd

ENGL 553/AFRO 579: Speculative Pessimisms: Social Death and the Afro-Future; Candice Jenkins

EPS/MEDIA 570: Pro-seminar in Postcolonial Theory and Methodology; Cameron McCarthy

GWS 580: Queer Theories & Methods; Ghassan Moussawi

REL 511: Modern and Post-Modern Theories of Religion; Bruce Rosenstock

PHIL 441: Existential Philosophy; Bill Schroeder

MACS 504: Film Theory and Criticism; Julie Turnock

PHIL 414: Major Recent Philosophers: Hannah Arendt; Helga Varden

 

CWL 571: Seminar in Literary Relations

Professor: George Gasyna
Meets: Mondays 3-5:20pm, Location TBA

This seminar is entitled Radical Political Thought and Literature, and all semester we will read texts and documents that speak to the perceived need to revision and reconstruct the world, mainly in the western context. Using discourses of Modernism/Modernity as a conceptual horizon, the course grapples with some of the leading ideas that have "entranced the minds of men" (cf. Borges) throughout the "cycles" (cf. Hegel, Marx) of modern history, with special focus on a number of recurrent demons of history: Imperialism, anti-Semitism, Fascism, and totalitarian-style usurpations of other kinds. Assigned readings in theory, in juxtaposition with literary texts, will include interrogations and reconceptualizations of politics, history, society and art penned by Machiavelli, Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche, Schmitt, and others, modern philosophers of culture such as Foucault, Althusser, Adorno, Weber, and Singer, and several related soundings in cognate fields (in sociology, anthropology, etc., such as Bronislaw Malinowski, Bruno Latour, Gaston Bachelard, and Sigmund Freud). Don’t worry, though: in preparation for the journey into the dark “heart of man,”[1] before we enter these troubled territories (and probably on the way out, too), we shall all partake in a “big antiseptic bath.”[2]


[1] L-F Céline, Journey to the End of the Night.
[2] G. Ribemont-Dessaignes, Manifeste cannibale dada.

 

CWL 581/SPAN 590: Borders

Professor: Eric Calderwood
Meets: Tuesdays, 3:00-5:30pm, G20 Foreign Languages Building

Our world is filled with borders. Borders and borderlands play a key role in the production and contestation of national and cultural identities. They offer insights into the status of citizenship and the nation in the age of globalization, and they also shape long-standing debates about cross-cultural encounter, exchange, and conflict.

This course will offer a critical introduction to border studies, an interdisciplinary field that draws upon cultural studies, anthropology, geography, and political science in order to reflect on the cultural, political, social, and economic impact of geopolitical borders. The course will begin with readings from recent theoretical work on borders, and then it will be divided into three units devoted to the cultural production from and about three significant border spaces: U.S./Mexico, Spain/Morocco, and Israel/Palestine. All literary texts and films will be taught in English translation, but students will be encouraged to read the texts in their original languages: Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, Catalan, and English

 

ENGL 581: The Settler Colonial Turn

Professor: Jodi Byrd
Meets: Mondays, 1:00-2:50pm, 135 English Building

Settler colonialism now circulates as a critical orientation across a range of disciplines as it reorients how we understand arrival and dispersal, possession and dispossession in the global north and south. This class will offer an intersectional analysis of settler colonial studies as it has developed through postcolonial studies. Readings will draw from and situated through interventions from indigenous studies, queer studies, feminist studies, technology studies, and theories of antiblackness as they shape the political, historical, and contemporary understandings of race, place, and nation within the United States and Canada in particular, with attention given to other geographies as well.

 

ENGL 553: Speculative Pessimisms: Social Death and the Afro-Future

Professor: Candice Jenkins
Meets: Thursdays, 3:00-4:50pm, 135 English Building

This course will engage with what has been described as the genre turn in 21st century African American cultural production—the literary and cultural movement called Afrofuturism, as well as black speculative fiction more broadly—alongside a school of thought that has garnered, recently, a great deal of both positive and negative attention in the field: Afro-Pessimism. The latter argues that the position of the black subject in Western society is synonymous with that of the Slave, a condition of non-being—absolute fungibility and subjection—based in the slave’s status not as worker, but commodity. Our project will be to consider how these two movements might have both a similarly pessimistic and a similarly imaginative provenance. The Afro-Pessimist position insists that the violent exclusion of black non-being creates the conditions for the existence of the Human, and indeed that civil society’s structuring around anti-blackness, and the position of the black subject vis-a-vis that society, is one of irreconcilable antagonism. How might we understand this analysis as a speculative one—in Jared Sexton’s words, how might we unpack “the rhetorical dimensions of the discourse of Afro-Pessimism [. . .] and the productive theoretical effects of the fiction it creates”? Conversely, how might we consider the increasingly wide reach of the speculative, writ broadly, in 21st century black literature and culture, concomitantly with the evident pessimism about the world, as it exists, that would elicit such imaginative projects? Might we understand contemporary Afrofuturism and the speculative both as tending towards the pessimistic, either in inspiration—turning to the future, and to other sorts of alternative timelines, in response to a painful and disappointing present—or in narrative outcome, wherein these speculative works depict dark, dystopian futures or dwell within and bring to life an unbearable past? Throughout this semester, we will unpack not only what possibilities thinking Afro-Pessimism and Afrofuturism/the black speculative together might open up for the analysis of 21st century African American literature and culture, but also what we might learn from this juxtaposition about both the potential and the pitfalls of each mode of theorizing contemporary black life.

Primary texts may include fiction by Jesmyn Ward, Colson Whitehead, Octavia Butler, Victor LaValle, Nnedi Okorafor, and N.K. Jemisin, and films by Jordan Peele, Ryan Coogler, and Janelle Monae; critical texts will include selected work from, at minimum, Frank Wilderson, Jared Sexton, Saidiya Hartman, David Marriott, Terrion Williamson, Kinitra Brooks, Tina Campt, Hortense Spillers, Alex Weheliye, and Fred Moten. Participation, two short critical response papers, oral presentation, final seminar paper.

 

EPS/MEDIA 570: Pro-seminar in Postcolonial Theory and Methodology

Professor: Cameron McCarthy
Meets: Thursdays, 12:00-2:50pm, 382 Education Building

Settler colonialism now circulates as a critical orientation across a range of disciplines as it reorients how we understand arrival and dispersal, possession and dispossession in the global north and south. This class will offer an intersectional analysis of settler colonial studies as it has developed through postcolonial studies. Readings will draw from and situated through interventions from indigenous studies, queer studies, feminist studies, technology studies, and theories of antiblackness as they shape the political, historical, and contemporary understandings of race, place, and nation within the United States and Canada in particular, with attention given to other geographies as well.

 

GWS 580: Queer Theories and Methods

Professor: Ghassan Moussawi
Meets: Tuesdays, 9:30am-12:20pm, 1205 W Nevada 102

While a relatively new field of inquiry, queer theories have opened up new and multiple ways for us to think of power and knowledge production in the constitution of the social world. This interdisciplinary graduate seminar focuses on a number of key debates in the formation of what came to be known as “queer theory.” Rather than thinking of a singular queer theory, this course rethinks queer theories and methods by focusing on silences, meeting points, and tensions between queer theory, queer of color critique, women of color feminisms, and transnational queer studies. Topics include racisms, precarity, borders, immigration, transnational (im)mobilites, policing, affect and hauntings, empire, and settler colonialism. In addition, we will discuss queer methodologies by asking: what are queer methods? How does one conduct “queer” research? We will queer research by considering topics including: collaboration, (bad) feelings, (auto) ethnographies, solidarities, and our own positions with regards to our research.

 

REL 511: Modern and Post-Modern Theories of Religion: Feuerbach, Marx, Bergson, Freud, Lacan, Derrida

Professor: Bruce Rosenstock
Meets: Tuesdays, 3:00-4:50pm, 319 Gregory Hall

The Enlightenment saw a number of critiques of dogmatic religion in favor of a “religion of reason.” The French Revolution installed a new “Goddess of Reason” as the object of the state’s veneration. But Reason proved to be too abstract and sterile to inspire religious fervor. In the nineteenth century, new theories of religion arose that argued that the real object of religious fervor should be the human species in its bodily reality. The love for the species should replace the love for God. The culmination of human religion was no longer thought to be the
replacement of superstition by Reason as in the Enlightenment, but the replacement of the alienated image of the human species with the human species itself. But what is the “essence” of the human species? What drives the species to alienate its essence into a divine being? If the species is the product of evolution (as Darwin in midcentury taught), what evolutionary forces are at work in the creation of religion? Is the preservation of the species advanced or hindered by religion? How does religion relate to the human unconscious, the seat of the species drives (libido and death drive)? Is religion an autoimmune response of the species to itself? Our course will begin with a brief text of the Enlightenment writer Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (The Education of the Human Race), then we will turn to Ludwig Feuerbach  (Essence of Christianity), Karl Marx (Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts), Henri Bergson (Two Sources of Morality and Religion), Sigmund Freud (Beyond the Pleasure Principle), Jacques Lacan (The Ethics of Psychoanalysis), and Jacques Derrida (Acts of Religion).

 

PHIL 441: Existential Philosophy

Professor: Bill Schroeder
Meets: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00-3:20pm, 331 Gregory Hall

Existentialism Special Focus: Early Sartre contrasted with de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, and Heidegger In this course the most interesting sections of Jean-Paul Sartre’s first major treatise, Being and Nothingness, will be given a close reading, analysis, and critique. In addition, the main features of his early works on Emotions, Imagination, and the Ego will be explored, as will his essay on humanism. In addition to Sartre, contrasting theories on certain topics will be explored from Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty and de Beauvoir. However the main readings will be the more accessible sections of Being and Nothingness and some of Sartre’s key works of literature: Nausea; No Exit; The Flies; and Dirty Hands. The major works of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty and de Beauvoir will be available, but only as suggested (optional) readings. Every effort will be made to keep the readings accessible and manageable, and Sartre’s difficult terminology will be explained as the course proceeds. The topics that will be considered in some depth are the self, emotions, imagination, self-deception, the body, intersubjectivity, concrete relations with others (e.g., love, sexual desire, hatred), freedom, existential psychoanalysis, and authenticity/ethics, and dialectical approaches to social theory. Main requirements for the course include one term paper (10-12 pages), a midterm, and a final exam. The term paper will require expository, critical, and creative thinking components in equal measure. The course is intended for advanced undergraduates and philosophy majors, but graduate students in other disciplines and in philosophy are welcome to enroll. Texts include Existentialism is a Humanism; Transcendence of the Ego; Nausea; selections from Being and Nothingness; Search for a Method; No Exit and Other Plays.

 

MACS 504: Film Theory and Criticism

Professor: Julie Turnock
Meets: Tuesdays, 1:00-4:50pm, 336 Gregory Hall

This course engages with, uses, and challenges various theoretical ideas and approaches to film.  Throughout the semester, we will address questions such as: Is cinema studies a discipline distinct from other studies of moving images, and on what bases have theorists made such a claim?  How do we incorporate films and media into our research projects? And what is the status of film in such projects?  How have theorists conceptualized 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 ideologies of Marxism, semiotics, Soviet 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., Adorno, Bazin, Bellour, Benjamin, Bhabha Bordwell, Comolli and Narboni, Deleuze, Doane, Dulac, Dyer, Eisenstein, Gunning, Hansen, hooks, Metz, and Mulvey.

 

PHIL 414: Major Recent Philosophers: Hannah Arendt

Professor: Helga Varden
Meets: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00-12:20pm, 327 Gregory Hall

Hannah Arendt was one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. The importance of her work and influence on political philosophy cannot be overestimated. In this course we take a closer look at three of her major works: On the Origins of TotalitarianismThe Human Condition, and Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The focus throughout the course will be on Arendt’s engagements with the questions of the nature of power and evil.   

 

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