Past Courses – (TEST)
While the significance of his contribution is controversial, there is little doubt that Michel Foucault was one of the most influential thinkers of the last half of the twentieth century. Likewise while it remains the subject of intense controversy, the impact of his first major text Madness and Civilization is also undeniable. And the long-awaited English translation of the full text (under the title of The History of Madness)provides Anglophone readers the possibility of studying Foucault’s classic work in detail. Madness and Civilization not only addresses the nature of madness and sanity, normality and pathology, the asylum as the prototype of the exclusionary institutions that became prevalent in modernity, the role that the emergence of psychiatry played in the formation of instrumental rationality, the modern subject and bio-power, the significance of psychoanalysis and the centrality of transgression to modernist culture. It also provoked heated debates on all these topics that continue today and that we will examine in this class. The place that the work occupies in Foucault’s career is also a topic of much controversy in Foucault scholarship. Does it represent a piece of romantic juvenilia that Foucault quickly abandoned to move on to a more politically and theoretically sophisticated position? This is the view that Foucault and many of his defenders tend to hold. Or did it in fact provide a template for the rest of his career, as many as his more critical interpreters maintain? We will also examine this controversy, examining in particular the relation between Madness and Civilizationand his late volumes on The History of Sexuality.
France has a long and influential history of crime/detective writing, as the use of ‘noir’ as a loan word in other languages attests. Though noir literature and film waned in importance after its heyday in the 1950s, it has lately made a comeback, not only in France but also in former French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean where French remains an important language of cultural production.
In these contexts, crime writing often explores the terrain of social and political injustice and inequality, particularly postcolonial, racial and transnational dynamics. Enquiries into the repressed memory of state-sponsored violence, notably the memory of the Holocaust and colonial brutality, these narratives harness the familiar mood, characters and structure of the crime genre, while giving it a local inscription.
In this course we read contemporary crime fiction from France and Africa/the Middle East, considering how texts respond to local social and political circumstances and play with the conventions of the genre. We devote particular attention to Algeria, where crime writing has emerged as a preeminent genre in the wake of the acute yet still murky violence of the 1990s, a conflict aptly, if rather crudely, described by Adam Schatz as “one big murder mystery.” We also explore some of the principal critical debates associated with detective fiction, including theories about genre and about high and low culture, and readings that situate crime writing in light of questions of international justice, punishment and human rights.
The course is taught in English. Readings can be done in French or English (all of the novels included on the syllabus are available in translation), and papers may also be submitted in either language.
Because of advances in feminist theory, infant research, clinical practice attachment theory and historical scholarship, a consensus has emerged concerning Freud’s oeuvre over the past fifty years: the figure of the mother is largely absent from all aspects of his thinking. This includes his self-self analysis, case histories, theory of development and account of religion and civilization. This fact will provide our point of reference for examining the development of Freud’s thought. We will first explore the biographical roots of this lacuna in Freud’s thinking. We will then see how it played itself out as his long and abundant career unfolded. We will examine texts regarding all the aspects of his thinking and from the different periods of his life.
From sexual difference to the difference writing makes, psychoanalysis and deconstruction have affected the way we think about reading, writing, learning. Both have become parts of cultural discourse in the form of catch phrases, categories of understanding, and political indictments. Psychoanalysis and deconstruction are also markers of a long conversation in which the meaning of subjectivity, authorship, agency, literature, culture and tradition is spelled out in detailed readings that intervene in and as dialogue and interruption. In this reading intensive class, we will attend to the basic texts and terms of psychoanalysis and deconstruction: the unconscious and sexuality, culture and religion, and more.
The goal of the course is to introduce students to Freud’s evolving thinking about sexuality, its internal problems, both those recognized by Freud and those he didn’t. Infantile sexuality, polymorphous perverse sexuality, repression and unconscious mental processes will be at the center. Other themes to be emphasized include the notions of ‘après-coup’, ‘psychic trauma’ and ‘psychic reality’; unconscious fantasy and primal fantasy; and the conceptual tensions between mental energy and fantasy, between drive and instinct, and between the biological and the mental. About one third to one half the reading will be Freud’s texts and the rest secondary sources – mostly commenting directly on Freud’s theorizing but also some which show the power of the development of much that he didn’t explicitly theorize (e.g. après-coup and leaning-on) and some which show how far wrong he could go. After this course, students should have not only a knowledge of some key texts, but also a solid conceptual base to be able to read and critique both Freud’s texts related to sexuality and those of later psychoanalytic thinkers and, to a lesser degree, some non-psychoanalytic sexologists.
Recent decades have witnessed a flood of life writing about the body, much of it by women and much of it about experiences of illness and disability. This development represents a significant change, as autobiography has historically been reserved for the most accomplished and able-bodied among us. Our course will study the rise of what G’ Thomas Couser calls “the some body memoir,” asking how it revises traditional autobiography as it attempts to carve out literary space for voices and bodies that have not historically been represented in public. We will consider how these new memoirs talk back to doctors and other health care professionals who medicalize the disabled body, as well as social environments that stigmatize and exclude the ill and disabled. We will also ask how race and gender inform stories of illness and disability, as well as investigating differences between physical and mental illness and/or disability. Each week we will read one memoir, paired with other writings meant to prompt discuss and critical examination. In addition to more traditional academic writing, students will also have opportunities to experiment with their own life writing.
Students in this course will join millions of readers around the world who have made the texts on the syllabus into bestsellers. Why is it that travelers have found Khalid Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner featured prominently in airport bookshops in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa? Such popularity on a global scale offers an occasion for critical reflection about the transnational economic forces and cultural politics that shape literary supply and demand. Our specific focus will be on novels, memoirs, and films whose authors come from places outside publishing centers of New York and London (Afghanistan, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa), yet find massive audiences in the US, UK and worldwide. We will do some reading in literary and cultural theory, and we will attend to the material networks of publishing and distribution, in order to understand how these bestsellers emerge, what kinds of conventional narratives or images of otherness they reinforce, and what new narratives and images they might generate. How can we understand the relationship between these texts popularity and their literary role? What frameworks of evaluation and interpretation are appropriate for such texts? What do these texts tell us about globalization?
What is the scale we call “global”? This theory seminar will reconsider the concept of scale in light of globalization, and vice versa. It has become commonplace to refer to “global” processes without defining the scale of the globe or the planet itself. This is a complex problem, which we will address by combining readings from recent architectural discourse (for example, Rem Koolhaas’s S, M, L, XL) with readings from cultural theory, urban studies, globalization studies, social theory, ecology, and elsewhere. A quintessentially architectural category, scale is normally measured relative to a fixed referent, as in “human scale” or “urban scale.” The size or dimension of that referent is usually thought to be absolute. In architecture, size and scale meet in measured or “scale” drawings, models, and maps, as well as in built form. They also meet when we offhandedly refer to specific processes as local, regional, global, or planetary. But in reality, whether we are speaking of ecology, infrastructure, cities, buildings, machines, furniture, or living beings, scales collide and overlap, dislodging or displacing their referents. This, rather than a smooth, telescopic sequence from microcosm to macrocosm, asks us to reconsider what we mean by global or planetary in every detail.
Modern normative orders are institutionalized within territorially circumscribed legal systems. In this respect, globalization seems to inaugurate a new era. The growing dependence of political systems on trans-territorial “markets” tends to “liberate” behavioural patterns from most traditional ethical restrictions. Increasingly, profit seeking activities are being pursued with little regard to internalized ethical restraints.
The validity of contractual obligations is not restrained by qualitative values like equity, fairness, material justice, good faith, virtue and honesty. Thus, the regulation of conflicting individual interests seems to be evolving with little consideration for established and circumscribed domestic orders. More than ever before, the “public interest” is being conceived in trans-territorial terms. In this sense, the emerging global normative order seems increasingly detached from the entities we usually referred to as organized “societies”. The fundamental liberal separation between the private and the public realms is dislocated.