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Syllabus 22-23

Module leader 2022-23

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.

Section I: Michael Gardiner

Week 1: Introduction (discussion of our previous reading, interests and expectations), and:
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
. Clare Birchall, Radical Secrecy (2021), section tbc, or any section

. 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?
. What are the implications of the ubiquity of screens and mediated communication in 2020-21?

Week 2: 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
Grafton Tanner, The Hours Have Lost Their Clock: The Politics of Nostalgia (2021), any section

. 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?

Week 3: Extinctions

Thomas Moynihan, X-Risk: How Humanity Discovered its own Extinction (2020), section tbc
Federico Campagna, Prophetic Culture: Recreation for Adolescents (2021), section tbc
Cymene Howe and Anand Pandian, Anthropocene Unseen (2020), section tbc or any sections
Andreas Malm, Fossil Capital (2014), section tbc

. How can we think extinction?
. What are our current existential risks, and how might these be represented?
. What is the longterm fate of recorded culture?
. What happened to protest about nuclear disarmament after 1990?

Section II: Nick Lawrence

Critical theory@4ºC

Week 4:
text tbc

Week 5:
text tbc

Section III: Emma Francis

'Firm Foundations?: Revisiting What We Think We Know

Week 6: Gaston Bachelard, tbc

Week 7: Simone de Beauvoir, tbc

Week 8: Frantz Fanon, tbc

Section IV: Harry Warwick


Week 9: Theories of Dispossession

Brenna Bhandar, The Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land, and Racial Regimes of Ownership (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018), pp. 1–32 (‘Introduction’)

Robert Nichols, Theft is Property!: Dispossession and Critical Theory (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020), pp. 16–84 (‘Chapter 1: That Sole and Despotic Dominion’, ‘Chapter 2: Marx, after the Feast’)

Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, trans. by Ben Fowkes and David Fernbach, 3 vols (London: Penguin, 1976–81), i, 873–95, 914–26 (‘Chapter 26: The Secret of Primitive Accumulation’, ‘Chapter 27: The Expropriation of the Agricultural Population from the Land’, ‘Chapter 31: The Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist’), also available online:

Week 10: Postmodernism Reconsidered


Fredric Jameson, ‘The Aesthetics of Singularity’, New Left Review, 92 (2015), 101–32

Sianne Ngai, Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), pp. 1–53 (‘Introduction’)

Additional reading tbc