I wrote the previous post I fully intending on working on my dissertation until the very moment I fell asleep. Alas! I had to check my email, and it contained the graduate seminar descriptions for the fall quarter. Since I've been having this conversation about the extent to which literary studies houses Theory quite a bit lately, I can't help myself: I will post some of the course descriptions of some of the upcoming UCI English, Comparative Literature and Critical Theory Emphasis seminars below the fold. Lest I seem to be attacking the venerable institution which will someday (maybe even soon) authorize all the shit I've stuffed in my head the past six years, I should note that, as a genre, the "course description" suffers from the same Madison Avenue-inflected bombast of theory or anti-theory anthologies, i.e. just as you must buy this anthology over all other anthologies so must you attend this seminar above all other seminars.
Wow. Amazing what'll spur Seder flashbacks. If I could figure out how to type in Hebrew, I'd impress you all by reproducing the Four Questions which must be answered once a year, every year, by the youngest, drunkest Jew at the table during what's supposed to be a celebration of the Egyptian Exodus. (As recounted in one of the books of the Original Testament. Which one escapes me for the moment. I'll be brainier come morning.) Since I'm unable to impress you with the modicum of Hebrew I acquired during a decade of Wednesday evenings spent attending Hebrew school, I'll have to settle for saying that to my knowledge these seminar descriptions aren't different from all other seminar descriptions.
We "Irvinites" don't place pillows behind our heads and backs to differentiate this seminar from all other seminars.
We're not required by the Lord who brought us out of Egypt to be Our Lord to sing the most entertaining and repetitive song ever written; one which is both called and seemingly consists only of the word dahyenu. Typical lyrics run the gamut from dahy-dahyenu, dahy-dahyenu to dahy-dahy-enu, dahy-dahy-enu, dahy-dahy-enu, dahyenu, dahyenu! Few songs are more fun to sing but none are more fun to sing as an increasingly drunk fourth grader. (I'm convinced that Andy Merrill, creator and writer of The Brak Show, is both Jewish and Dahyenu's biggest fan. How else to explain "The Song that Never Ends"?)
We neither drink to excess as the Lord commandeth nor do we leave any alcohol for Elijah. We know Elijah's the absent-presence of all that's phallogocentric...alright, alright, we know that Elijah's an absent-presence who somehow manages to imbibe a goblet of wine better left for the Easter Bunny. Because if you had to choose between a guy whose name--in Hebrew Eliyahu, which just so happens to my Hebrew name and is the name (abbreviated as "Eli") I went by for about half of my formative years--means "my God's name is Yahu" and the Easter Bunny, who would you prefer do the drinking? But I seriously digress:
My point is that us "Irvinites" don't take super-double-special seminars seeped in Theory which brings us out of our dogmatic slumber to be our Theory; we take what I believe are classes representative of those taken by English and Comparative Literature graduate students across America. If I'm mistaken--and I increasingly believe that I may overestimate the pervasiveness of Theory because I've come into my own at Irvine--feel free to inform me of my simple- and small-mindedness. (LB, I'm looking at you because most of the other graduate students I've met who aren't from Irvine are liable to fib because they mistake Irvine's interests for mine.)
To close this puppy out:
You'll see the sort of courses I could've taken this quarter if you choose to click below the fold, and then you'll understand better why I assume there's such a thing as Theory and why I'm so often frustrated by the way in which it instantiates itself in my environs. (Note to the careful: I'm not criticizing these courses, most of which strike me as interesting, only trying to paint a picture of why I might think that Theory exists and is pervasive.)
HUM 270 THEORY: PSYCHOANALYSIS/RACE/GENDER
This course will provide both an introduction to psychoanalytic theories of race from Freud to the present and revisit psychoanalysis in light of postcolonial and critical race theories. In particular it will dispel the misreading of psychoanalysis as merely a theory of intrapsychic life and focus on psychoanalysis as a social and cultural theory. We will begin with readings of foundational texts by Freud and Fanon in light of recent rewritings (Mbembe Nandy, Bhabha and Judith Butler.) The focus of the course will be on exploring issues of race and gender under a sequence of related perspectives: "Subjectivity and Subjection," "The Psychic Life of Power," "The Psychic Life of Terror," "Collective and Transgenerational Trauma," "Mourning, Redress and Reparation."
1. Freud, Mourning and Melancholia; "Why War?" (Letter to Einstein)
2. Abraham/ Torok, The Shell and the Kernel, Chicago: The University of Chicago Pr., 1994
3. Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks; Christopher Lane, The Psychoanalysis of Race (Introduction)
4. Christopher Bollas, “The Structure of Evil,” in: Cracking Up: The Structure of Unconscious Experience, NY: Hill and Wang, 1995
5. Sue Grand, The Reproduction of Evil: A Clinical and Cultural Perspective, Hillsdale: The Analytic Pr., 2000
6. Jacqueline Rose, On Not Being Able to Sleep: Psychoanalysis and the Modern World
7. Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference and Resistances of Psychoanalysis
8. Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power
9. Ann Pelegrini, Performance Anxieties: Staging Psychoanalysis, Staging Race.
10. Sander Gilman, Freud, Race and Gender.
ENG 210 LITERATURE, THEORY, AND THE CALL OF THE OTHER
The purpose of this seminar is to submit the theme of Alterity and the binary epistemic regime it exemplifies to rigorous critique. The Self-Other grid as the structuring principle of human self-understanding has a long and problematic “omni-history.” Philosophers, theorists, artists, and writers have negotiated this problematic with varying degrees of success and frustration. For a variety of world-historical reasons, this theme has become urgently significant in the last few decades. Alterity has been legitimated as a major theme in a variety of discourses such as psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, ethics, nationalist, diasporan, and transnational studies. I am hoping, with your help, to bring together some of the most exciting debates about the Self-Other problematic in Theory with literary practices that have struggled with the same issue in the name of aesthetic representation, and narrative authority. In this seminar we will be elaborating the Self-Other problematic on a variety of registers: the ethical, the political, and the epistemological. What does it mean to be interpellated by the Other? What is all the fuss over the distinction between the big O and the lower case o? Is the obsession with the Self-Other binary structure the metier of the dominant discourse? What is the relationship between a purely allegorical celebration of Alterity and the historical problems of various “selves” and “others” that are situated coevally in a world structured in dominance? How does the Self-Other theme emerge in the context of Racism, Patriarchy, Colonialism, linguistic representation, Madness, Anthropology? These are some of the questions that will resonate through the course as we dive fearlessly into Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground, Nadine Gordimer’s Burger’s Daughter, Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior in active conjunction with readings from Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, W.E.B. Du Bois, Mikhail Bakhtin, Edward Said, Johannes Fabian, and Martin Heidegger.
HUM 260A CRITICAL THEORY WORKSHOP: CULTURE/POWER/DESIRE
The concept of culture is the one that is typically invoked today when we want to examine the question of identity, but what exactly do we mean when we use the term "culture"? A symbolic system? A set of power relations? An ensemble of practices or performances? A collective work of art? This workshop will examine the question of culture and the related question of nationality in the light of works by Foucault, Lyotard, Memmi, Derrida, Fanon, Butler, Renan, Bhabha and Balibar. We will discuss the ways in which these works complement each other as well as the polemics they have given rise to in order to better grasp the complexity of culture itself. This year-long course is one of the requirements for the Critical Theory Emphasis, but it is open to all graduate students. The workshop is structured as a reading group to allow for full student/faculty interaction. There will be no terms papers and no letter grades (except for an S or a U). Students will receive four units of credit for this course in the last (that is, the Spring) quarter. Meetings will take place throughout the year, with approximately 5 meetings per quarter. Because it is structured as a reading group and depends on active participation by students as well as faculty, the work and direction of the workshop will necessarily reflect the interests of its members. The reading list includes Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish, Jean-François Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition and "A Memorial for Marxism," (Fall Quarter); Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks, selected essays by Fanon, and Albert Memmi's The Colonizer and the Colonized (Winter Quarter); and Jacques Derrida's The Monolingualism of the Other, Homi Bhabha's "DissemiNation," a selection from Butler's Gender Trouble, and Balibar's "The Nation Form."
CL 210 CRITICAL HUMANISM: A GENEALOGY OF THE WORK OF EDWARD W. SAID
“[W]hat I am talking about here [is] humanism and critical practice; humanism as it informs what one does as an intellectual and scholar-teacher of the humanities in today’s turbulent world.” So wrote Edward Said in the essay, “Humanism’s Sphere,” published posthumously in 2004. This seminar will investigate the terms that Said brings together here—humanism and criticism, scholarship and teaching, and the place and role of the intellectual in a turbulent world—in a series of texts by Giambattista Vico and Erich Auerbach, to whose work Said returned over and over again during his too short career, as well as, of course, in the writings of Said himself. Of particular interest will be the theoretical models that their work provided both one another (Auerbach translated Vico) and Said (who translated Auerbach) in terms of critical practice, and his and their understandings of how the critic’s encounter with texts comments upon the politics of what Said referred to as the “usable scope of humanism as an ongoing practice.” Along the way we will learn something about Dante, Biblical hermeneutics, and Renaissance Civic Humanism (and other Humanisms too, such as Christian, Secular, Third, New, Marxist, and Trans-), as well as about what Vico calls “Gentile” history, the early career of the German-Jewish refugee scholar, Auerbach (one of the “grandfathers” of U.S. Comp. Lit.), and the life of the U.S. academy during the Cold War. An equally important question will be about the relationship of Said’s interest in what some would call these more “traditional” theorists to his work in Orientalism and beyond. NB: 2007 is the fiftieth anniversary of Auerbach’s death, and there are a number of national and international conferences being planned. Seminar participants will be encouraged to think about their work for this seminar in that context.
CL 210 THE NOVEL AND NARRATIVE THEORY
There are two issues here, though they are closely related: the novel as a modern (that is, post-Romantic) genre; and narrative form, which of course has wider applicability than the novel but is at the same time a major component in any study of the genre. We will be drawing on a series of 20th-century critics, e.g., Fr. Schlegel, Lukács, Benjamin, Bakhtin, Auerbach, Lotman, Genette, Barthes, Prendergast, D. Cohn, E. Lämmert, P. Brooks, N. Armstrong, F. Moretti. Concurrently we will use two 19th-century novels as models for the theories: Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaften (The Elective Affinities) and Charles Dickens’s Bleak House. All students will be asked to present short class reports on one of the theoretical selections and on a short section from one of the two novels. Students may want to read the two novels before start of the course. Texts: Goethe, Elective Affinities, Regnery-Gateway Goethe, Die Wahlverwandtshcaften, ed., H.-J. Weitz, Insel Taschenbuch Dickens, Bleak House, Penguin
HUM 270 DELEUZE AND CINEMA
This course begins by reading the two volumes on cinema by Gilles Deleuze: the movement-image and the time-image. As a class, we will attempt to understand the formal elements of film style using the concepts and ideas raised by Deleuze in his film analyses. The questions the course will engage are: does the medium of cinema as an apparatus inherently resist linear and coherent narrative strategies while reconstituting what Deleuze calls a-semiotics? How does cinema constantly refigure the audience's perception of the relationship between signs and images? What kind of potential does cinema hold as a distinctively modernist medium? We will address and re-conceptualize the key terms Deleuze brings up while also determining their genealogical traces. The slippery relationship between the signifier and the signified, the "compossible" (the conflicting relationship between time and memory), and the multiple uses of the "I" will all be investigated through specific examples drawn from film texts. Some of the films screened in class will be the very texts that have inspired Deleuze: Stroheim, Ozu, Godard, Resnais, Bunuel, Jean Eustache, Chris Marker and Chantal Akerman (many of them in clips), but also paid attention will be the recent Asian films by Hong Sangsoo, Wong Kar-wei, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Edward Yang.
HUM 270 VISION AND THE BODY
What is vision? How does it work? What role does it play in giving the world a form? In giving the body a form? In this co-taught course we will examine attempts by phenomenologists to understand the seeing eye in relation to the body in which that eye is housed. We will also review recent work in cognitive science that construes the act of seeing as an adaptation not only to the body and its other modes of perception but also to the surrounding world. In the last two weeks, we will turn to contemporary theories of symbolic behavior that ally cognitive studies on the structure of vision with archeological and art historical accounts of the aesthetic impulse. The explicit goal of the seminar is to introduce students in the sciences to influential theories in philosophy and critical theory and students in the humanities to contemporary research into the nature of perception and its role in knowledge construction. The course should be of interest to students of literature, art, cultural studies, history, philosophy, and media studies, as well as students in cognitive science and psychology. No prerequisites are necessary. Graduate students lacking training in cognitive science, the structure of the brain, and/or philosophy will not find themselves at a disadvantage. We hope to raise questions about interdisciplinary methodology and the value or pertinence of science for conducting theoretical work in the humanities.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception.
J. J. Gibson, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception.
Alva Noë, Action in Perception.
Jean Clottes and David Lewis-Williams, Shamans of Prehistory: Trance and Magic in Decorated Caves.