Indiana University Bloomington



Fall 2015

CTIH-T600, Special Topics in Critical Theory: "Aesthetic Education - Learning To Live"

Professor Eyal Peretz, Comparative Literture

Tuesdays, 2:30 - 5 pm, Ballantine Hall 011 (crosslisted with Comparative Literature C 647)

What is the role of art in life? This is the main question animating, implicitly or explicitly, the major artistic creators as well as the fundamental thinkers and theoreticians of art from the second half of the eighteenth century to our own days. Perhaps the most fundamental intuition all these writers share is that a third term needs to be introduced in order to understand the relation of art to life, and this term is education. Art somehow involves, these writers seem to feel, an education; an education in, or perhaps into, life. It is as if there is a special kind of education that only the passage through art can be responsible for—a learning to live. This would seem to mean that until we have not fully experienced, until we have not been educated into, what art is, or could be, we do not yet know what life is, or could be. Yet a fundamental intuition of these modern thinkers is that we precisely have never yet fully known what art is, have never yet been fully educated into it, and that we have never yet fully known what life is, have never fully been alive. The education called aesthetic is therefore extremely mysterious since it is an education into something that is yet unknown, life, with the means of something that is equally unknown, art.
This class will try understand the nature of this mysterious education through two unknowns, and will also try to understand why precisely these terms—art, education, life—have received a newly conceived and prominent place at a certain moment of the experience of Western culture.
Readings may include: Plato, Plotinus, Saint Augustine, Descartes, Diderot, Rousseau, Kant, Goethe, Dickens, Schiller, Wagner, Nietzsche, Bergson, Freud, Artaud, Bataille, Chaplin, Heidegger, Lacan, Foucault, Hadot, Deleuze, Derrida.


Spring 2016

CTIH-T600, Special Topics in Critical Theory: "Discourse"

Professor Joshua Kates, English

If somebody says “Jane had two children and got married,” the speaker will usually be understood to mean that Jane had her offspring and then tied the knot. Yet nothing in the meaning of the words or the rules of language conveys this. The statement’s significance thus belongs to discourse, language in use, as opposed to language as such. Structuralism, and much post-structuralism, by contrast, invokes the opposite language-oriented framework, which largely still predominates in the Humanities today. Moreover, much “big data” and other informatics also assumes the possibility of wholly autonomous rule-governed languages.
The privilege of language over discourse in the Humanities, however, may be on the wane, as new work by Paul Grimstad, Toril Moi, and others attests. Accordingly, this course, investigates the burgeoning alternative that discourse provides to understanding what we in the Humanities do, since language, or some construal of it, arguably lies at the base of all our objects and practices. In the first part of the course, we will look at some foundational texts for conceiving discourse, contributions in what has come to be known as ordinary language philosophy: those of J. L. Austin, John Searle, H. P. Grice, and others. After possibly looking at the impact these authors had within the structuralist/post-structuralist context itself (in work by Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault), we will investigate discourse-based approaches to written texts, literary fictions, and associated practices. We will address such issues as is there “fiction” (and if so what is it); how to conceive texts and contexts; how to understand metaphor, and are there literal meanings.


Fall 2017

CTIH-T600, Special Topics in Critical Theory: "Collectivity"

Professor Claudia Breger, Germanic Studies

Th, 4 - 6:30 p.m. (crosslisted with Germanic Studies G505 and Cultural Studies CULS-C701)

Questions of collectivity have assumed new urgency in the face of 21st-century crises, from September 11th and the following wars to the instabilities produced by neoliberal governance. The news from too many parts of the world has been dominated by violent political manifestations of the urgency to create collective identifications based on nation, ethnicity, or religion, and ongoing heightened debates around immigration—in particular in Europe, but also the U.S.—have in part contributed to such ‘collective closures.’ But of course, there is also a broad range of counter-voices, in the political and cultural realm as well as that of theory. Thus, scholars from a range of disciplines have developed reflective new perspectives on the topic since the turn of the millennium. These perspectives range from reconceptualizations of universalism, cosmopolitanism, and conviviality to investigations of collective affect in Deleuzian contributions to the ‘affective turn,’ and from Bruno Latour’s suggestions for ‘reassembling’ the collective and Jacques Rancière’s ‘refiguration of the sensible’ towards an otherwise unseen ‘shared world’ to new interest in Stanley Cavell’s ‘Claim to Community.’ What these heterogeneous approaches share is a reorientation beyond the (perceived and actual) limits of modern and postmodern critiques of collectivity, towards more affirmative takes.

In this course, we will investigate these contemporary perspectives in some detail, striving to develop our own conceptualizations of how various forms of collectivity work and how their claims might be evaluated. Towards that goal, we will also include comparative glances at selected older texts that contributed to the modern and postmodern critique of collectivity. And importantly, all the theory ‘proper’ will be probed, concretized, at moments imaginatively displaced and improved by discussions of resonant literary, cinematic and essayistic works.

The course is jointlisted between Germanic Studies, the Theory Center and Cultural Studies. It is taught in English, and all materials will be available in English/with English subtitles, although Germanic Studies majors and minors are strongly encouraged to read originally German texts in that language. Most readings (shorter and longer excerpts) will be available online, but please acquire a copy of the following books:
Gilroy, Paul. Postcolonial Melancholia. Columbia UP 2006 (paperback 978-0231134552; $16.96).
Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Paperback Oxford UP 2007 (978-0199256051$30.26-or any alternative edition). Özdamar, Emine Sevgi. The Bridge of the Golden Horn. Serpent's Tail 2009 (paperback: 978-1852429324; $17.80). – German edition: Die Brücke vom Goldenen Horn. Kiepenheuer & Witsch 2002 (paperback: 978-3462031805, starting at $7.68 on amazon).


CTIH-T700, Independent Study in Critical Theory (1-4 credit hours)

Students may receive credit for work done in the Center reading group. To be aranged with the convener(s) of the reading of group.