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Syllabus 21-22

Module leader 2021-22

Michael Gardiner

Module description

This module charts key developments in the development of critical and cultural theories, charting recent cultural and literary theory in historically and philosophically located ways. The module runs in Term One.

Week 1 Introduction (Michael Gardiner)

Byung-Chul Han, The Transparency Society (2015/ 2012), 1-8 (chapter, 'The Society of Positivity')

. How can we do theory in a world of performative positivity?
. How do we differentiate critical thinking from information processing?
. Is there anything special about the written text? The printed text? Did this change in 2020-21?

Unit 1 (Michael Gardiner)

Week 2: Nature and the Anglosphere

Andreas Malm, Fossil Capital (2016), 7-21 ie Ch 1, via library
Simon Hailwood, Alienation and Nature in Environmental Philosophy (2015), 16-48 ie Ch 1
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (1689), Second Treatise, Ch 5 'Of Property', widely available, for example here pp69-83

. What issues are there in naming nature?
. How do we deal with the fact that definitions of nature are place-specific?
. Is it possible to avoid reducing nature to resources?
. What is the relationship between nature and empiricism?
. Can our definition of nature make us perpetuate climate change?
. Is there an understanding of nature is specific to the Anglosphere, rather than ‘the west’?
. How might an Anglosphere understanding of nature relate to the realist novel or the study of English?

Week 3: Transparency and Representation

. Thomas Docherty, Confessions: The Philosophy of Transparency (2012), 128-143
. Byung-Jul Han, The Transparency Society, (2015/ 2012), 37-49
. Jean Baudrillard, The Transparency of Evil (1993/ 1990), 49-56 (section 'Operational Whitewash', though could look at 'The Theorem of the Accursed Share' and 'The Melodrama of Difference'), print copy in library
. Anne Dufourmantelle, In Defense of Secrets, 2021, 59-66

. How does linguistic representation relate to political representation?
. What are the stakes of ‘clear expression’?
. is the historical drive to transparency ‘apolitical’?
. Is transparency totalitarian? Is it catastrophic?
. What are the implications of the ubiquity of screens and mediated communication in 2020-21?

Week 4: Nostalgia

Mark Fisher, Ghosts of My Life, 2014 (various original essay dates) 13-31, 107-110, 143-149 (sections 'The Slow Cancellation of the Future', 'Nostalgia for Modernism', 'Always yearning for the time that just eluded us')
Katy Shaw, Hauntology (2018), 1-23, 105-110
Byung-Chul Han, The Disappearance of Rituals: A Topology of the Present (2020/ 2019), 27-35

. How is the past available to us?
. Is nostalgia regressive?
. What are the class politics of nostalgia?
. What was the relationship between hauntology and neoliberalism?
. If hauntology is over as a subject, does this overness give it a new potency?
. How might cultural theory deal with capital’s demands for more newness?

Unit 2 (Nick Lawrence): Modernity, Environment, Race - all To be Confirmed

(readings for this unit will be supplied by the instructor)

Week 5: Frankfurt School Critical Theory: History, Nature, Enlightenment
Readings: Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Concept of Enlightenment” and “Excursus I: Odysseus or Myth and Enlightenment,” Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, ed. Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford UP, 2002): 1-62.
Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History.” Selected Writings Vol. 4: 1938-1940, ed. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, trans. Edmund Jephcott and Howard Eiland (Harvard UP, 2002): 389-400.

Week 6: Environmental Breakdown and Radical Ecology
Readings: Jason W. Moore, “The Capitalocene, Part I: On the Nature and Origins of our Ecological Crisis,” Journal of Peasant Studies 44:3 (2017): 594-630. Andreas Malm, “Introduction: Theory for the Warming Condition,” “On the Use of Opposites: In Praise of Polarisation,” The Progress of this Storm: Nature and Society in a Warming World (Verso, 2018): 1-20, 177-196

Week 7: Racial Capitalism and Environmental Justice
Readings: Gargi Bhattacharyya, Rethinking Racial Capitalism: Questions of Reproduction and Survival (Rowan & Littlefield, 2018)
Leon Sealey-Huggins, “‘The Climate Crisis is a Racist Crisis’: Structural Racism, Inequality and Climate Change.” The Fire Now: Anti-Racist Scholarship in Times of Explicit Racial Violence, ed. Azeezat Johnson, Remi Joseph-Salisbury and Beth Kamunge. London: Zed Books, 2018.

Unit 3 (Ross Forman): Theorizing Diaspora

Week 8: What is Diaspora?

Stuart Hall, “Culture, Identity, and Diaspora.” Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory: A Reader. Ed. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman. 392-403.

Paul Gilroy, Chapter 1, “The Black Atlantic as Counterculture of Modernity,” in The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness.

Avtah Brah, “Thinking through the Concept of Diaspora.” Post-colonial Studies Reader. Ed. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin.

Salman Rushdie, “Imaginary Homelands.” Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism.

Week 9: Diaspora in Theory and Practice

Susan Stanford Friedman, “Migrations, Diasporas, and Borders.” Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures. 3rd ed. Ed. David G. Nicholls. 260-293.

  1. Radhakrishnan, “Ethnicity in an Age of Diaspora.” Transition 54 (1991): 104-115.

Shu-mei Shih, “Against Diaspora.” Sinophone Studies: A Critical Reader. Ed. Shu-mei Shih, Chien-hsin Tsai, and Brian Bernard. 25-42.

Rohinton Mistry, “Squatter.” Swimming Lessons and Other Stories from Firozsha Baag.

Week 10: Queer Diasporas

Jasbir Puar, “Disabled Diaspora, Rehabilitating State: The Queer Politics of Reproduction in Palestine/Israel.” The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability.

Kagura Macharia, “Introduction.” Frottage: Fictions of Intimacy across the Black Diaspora.

Martin F. Manalansan, IV, “Introduction: Points of Departure.” Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora. 1-20 and notes.

Gayatri Gopinath, “Archive, Affect, and the Everyday.” Unruly Visions: The Aesthetic Practices of Queer Diaspora. 125-168 and notes.

Assessment: One 6000w essay - see Tabula for dates. Write on at least one text from the module, plus any other text(s) you like on or off the course, or plus nothing.