CTIH-T500, Introduction to Critical Theory
Professor Johannes Türk, Dept. of Germanic Studies
Wedesdays, 4 - 6:15 p.m., Ballantine Hall 235
The term “theory” is derived from the Greek word theoria, which means “contemplation, viewing, sight.” By the time it is imported into English, it has come to signify “conception” or “scheme.” Although it can be used in the sense of method or explanation, its stakes are higher. Theory asks us to abandon the shores of preconception and set sail for the possibilities of thought. Theory also entertains a close relationship to a way of life as the compound bios theoreticos shows and encloses an appeal to change your life. This class is meant to introduce you to fundamental concepts and problems of theory. We will explore core dimensions of thought from mimesis to aesthetics, language, and politics, and ask how concepts shape our grasp of what can be experienced, understood, thought, and felt. Readings will include texts reaching from Plato and Aristotle to Heidegger, Freud, Derrida, and Rancière.
CTIH-T600, Special Topics in Critical Theory: "Hegel and the Humanities: Language, Thought, and World in the Science of Logic"
Professor Patrick Dove, Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese
Tuesdays, 4 - 6:15 p.m., Global & International Studies Building 0013
In this course, we will make our way deliberately through Hegel’s opus magnum, the Science of Logic, with an eye to understanding how Hegelian thought has informed a range of intellectual traditions over the last two centuries. We will also explore how a reading of Hegel’s major work today might open up new ways of articulating what it is that we do in the humanities. Hegel’s insights into the deep interrelatedness of domains that we often take to be separate or even diametrically opposed—language and logic, thought and reality, concept and object, being and nothingness, the spiritual and the material, activity and passivity, and so on—offer a site for reexamining prevailing ideas about the humanities and their role in the university and in society as a whole.
One of our main goals will be to explore what Hegel’s effort to produce a systematic account of the relationship between thought and being can say to us today. Hegel’s Logic offers a strong account of thinking as both an end in itself and as a mode of relating to the world that cannot be fully separated from the objective reality it seeks to grasp. While the Logic provides us with an opportunity to develop new ways of explaining what we do, it also presents a forceful critique of humanism itself and of the Subject of humanism in particular.
Each week we will read approximately two chapters of the Logic. This reading will be supplemented by selections from the work of other thinkers that will help us to situate Hegel’s thought in a specific context. Many of the selections will be derived from intellectual traditions that are informed by Hegelian thought and which understand themselves as either pursuing or pushing back against Hegelianism: for instance, Marxism and post-Marxism (Althusser, Laclau), Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, Heidegger and post-Heideggerian French thought (Derrida, Nancy), Levinas, post-colonialism and subaltern studies (Fanon, Said, Spivak, Mignolo), and theoretical reflections on the historical crisis of the modern university (Bill Readings and Willy Thayer). We will also discuss recent scholarship that has sought to contest or problematize the general anti-Hegelian tenor of post-war Continental thought: Judith Butler’s Subjects of Desire, Peter Osborne’s The Politics of Time, Slavoj Zizek (any title would do), Catherine Malabou’s The Future of Hegel, and Warren Montag’s Althusser and his Contemporaries.
CTIH-T600, Special Topics in Critical Theory: "War and the Political"
Professor Edgar Illas, Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese
Wednesdays, 4:00 - 6:30 p.m., Woodburn Hall 204.
This course will analyze a variety of theoretical approaches to the question of war and politics. We will explore one fundamental hypothesis, namely that war is an ontological event, that is, an event, or perhaps the event, that produces new social orders of being. Thus, rather than studying theories of war from a political science or a military perspective, our approach will be based on theoretical reflections about the continuation and also the gap between conflict and political order. The course, in other words, will revolve around a series of notions that try to conceptualize the abyssal transition from contentious disorder to stabilized order. We will start by examining classic theorizations of war, from Heraclitus all the way to Francisco Vitoria’s linkage between theology and politics in the concept of just war and to Hobbes’s connection between the war-of-all-against-all and the State. But our main focus will be on contemporary notions, which will include, among others: Heidegger’s polemos, Carl Schmitt’s nomos, Pierre Clastres’s societies-for-war, Deleuze and Guattari’s war machine, Derrida’s force of law, and Carlo Galli’s global war.
This last notion of global war points at the relevance of our topic. The fact that globalization has materialized as an endless state of exception and conflict has made it all the more urgent to think on the ontological function of war. The theoretical constellation of our course will not necessarily enable us to devise the possibility of peace, but at least it can help us dissipate the Clausewitzian “fog of war” that seems to define our global condition.
Assignments will consist of short compositions, one class presentation, and one final paper.
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.