Course Descriptions


Winter Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor

This workshop will explore the recent renaissance in antihumanist thinking, largely driven by Black Studies, alongside earlier breakthroughs. The goal is not to trace influences or to cast the earlier moments as background or foundation for an understanding of the present. Rather, it is to investigate some of the thoughts and energies that gather around an “anti-“ that marks a refusal of that kind of storytelling. In our current moment, the “anti-“ marks, among many other things, a refusal of a story of the “post-human“ according to which we have moved far enough beyond humanism that antihumanism is no longer pertinent (see, e.g., Braidotti, The Posthuman). While the workshop will not depend on any assumption of the pertinence of antihumanism, past or present, it will provide time and space and a supportive environment within which to explore the question wherever it may lead in your own work.

Reading will be determined to some extent by the interests of the group but will pay visits to some of the following sites: antihumanism in early film theory; Althusser’s response to Marxist and socialist humanism; Lacan’s response to Anglo-American ego psychology and French existentialism; Klein’s psychoanalytical fable of personal integration and Deleuze’s quarrel with it; antihumanism in Afropessimism (one take on Fanon); Sylvia Wynter’s new humanism (another take on Fanon); debates on the politics of recognition in Black and Indigenous studies; the conflict between posthumanism and antihumanism in the context of contemporary environmental studies. We will start with a cluster of readings by and around Saidiya Hartman, in conjunction with her visit to UCI in October.
Workshop for students participating in the SOH Black Studies Cluster
Thurs 3:00-5.50 p.m., HIB246

The world according to quantum mechanics seems perversely weird and counter-intuitive. A particle can be in two places or positions at the same time, a phenomenon called superposition. A cat can be both alive and dead until someone observes it: observation determines, not just informs us, about what happens. Light behaves both like a particle and a wave, while ‘entanglement’ shows that two particles can be interconnected in such a way that measuring the state of one would ‘determine’ the state of the other, no matter how far apart they may be.

What this seminar calls the quantum image alludes to how the strange world that quantum mechanics uncovers through mathematics has parallels with the world that modern art and literature discern through re-thinking the image. Benjamin suggested that the best way of experiencing the world of modern physics would be to read Kafka. In this course, Barad’s important work will provide intellectual context, which will be followed by seminars on Benjamin’s ‘dialectical image’, Deleuze’s ‘time image’, and Flusser’s ‘technical image’. Specifically, we will discuss Benjamin on Kafka, on storytelling, and on history as the most problematic form of storytelling, only graspable in an image that flashes up at a moment of danger. Deleuze like Benjamin sees history as volatile and indeterminate. The ‘time image’ interrupts time-as-chronology, and studies ‘Brownian movement’, aberrant movement, and ‘the powers of the false’ in new forms of movie-making. Flusser’s seminal work tracks the effects of changes in media on historical life. His timely analysis of the ‘technical image’ demonstrates, among other things, the unbearable lightness of social media.

Reading List
We will keep readings to a minimum. I will introduce the subject at our first meeting. You should buy or download 4 books:
--Benjamin’s ‘Illuminations’: the chapters entitled The Storyteller, Some reflections on Kafka, Theses on the Philosophy of History, + sections of the Artwork essay.
--Deleuze’s Cinema 2: the preface and parts of chap 1, 4, 5, and 6.
--Flusser’s small book ‘Into Immaterial Culture’,4 very illuminating lectures + essay ‘The Crisis of Linearity’ (online).
--Barad’s ‘Meeting the Universe Halfway’ (online) A good intro to the book is her interview, online, ‘Matter feels, converses, suffers, desires, yearns and remembers’.

--An entertaining but authoritative introduction to the strangeness of quantum theory is Brian Greene’s 3 one-hour programs made for NOVA on Youtube called ‘The Fabric of the Cosmos’ (also the title of his book).
German 230, Hum 270: The Frankfurt School

In the aftermath of WWI, a group of intellectuals now known as the Frankfurt School moved beyond standard approaches in social, cultural, and political analysis to investigate the changing and persisting challenges posed by mass politics, capitalism, modern bureaucracy. Paying close attention to the emergence and transformations of Fascism, Stalinism, industrialized genocide, and monopoly capitalism, the Frankfurt School Critical Theory (or rather theories) left a lasting impact in the fields of sociology, political science, gender studies, film, cultural studies and comparative literature, among others. Reading closely key texts by Adorno, Benjamin, Horkheimer, Kracauer, Marcuse, and Anders (a non-pun pun I will explain) we will situate their concepts—from instrumental reason to culture industry to discourse ethics—with reference to authors and texts that influenced them (from Kant and Marx to Nietzsche, Freud, and Kafka), that provoked and challenged them (Heidegger, Arendt, Beckett, and Anders), and that both followed and diverged from their paths (Habermas, Foucault, Lyotard). Together we will succeed and fail to bring our readings of the Frankfurt School into conversation with more recent strands of Marxism, deconstruction, feminism, decolonization, aesthetics, and cultural studies.

HUMAN 270/ENGLISH 210:  Theater/Theory
Thursdays 11am - 1:50pm, HIB 341

Theater has long been a problem for philosophy. From Plato’s Republic to Austin’s How to Do Things with Words, theater emerges as a problem for philosophy to solve. Jonas Barish surveyed this terrain in The Antitheatrical Prejudice (1981), and his title now often serves as shorthand to describe, but also to dismiss, this tradition. This course will ask not only how theater has posed a problem for philosophy, but also how philosophical texts identify dynamics at work in specific theatrical practices. Questions we will pursue include: What genres of theater inform particular philosophical approaches? What happens when theater as a mode comes to stand for the aesthetic as such? Does “theatricality” have a history?

A full account of philosophy’s engagement with theater could provide an alternative history of philosophy, and of theater: this course represents one way into this history. While this course will focus on texts since 1900, the first third of the term or so will focus on selected earlier texts to establish the contours of our conversation.

Texts will include:
Plato, The Republic (ca. 375 BCE)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Letter to M. D'Alembert on Spectacles (1758)
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (1872)
Antonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double (1938)
J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words (1962)
Jacques Derrida, “The Theater of Cruelty and the Closure of Representation” (1966) Jacques Rancière, “The Emancipated Spectator” (2007)
Alain Badiou, Rhapsody for the Theatre (2013)
HUMAN 270 | EURO ST 201A:  WildNess and PhenomenoloGy
Professor Carrie Noland
Winter 2023, Mondays 2-4:50

In his last, unfinished work, The Visible and the Invisible, Maurice Merleau-Ponty develops the concept of “wildness,” a state or perspective before (without) the human/nonhuman, subject/object, divide.  He argues that “wildness”—potentially available to and generative of human being—has been effaced by the rationalist, capitalist (reifying) Western tradition.  Recently, “wildness” has become an important term to think with in works by Jack Halberstam (Wild Things), Donna Haraway (When Species Meet), Timothy Morton (The Ecological Thought), Tim Ingold (Correspondences), and Stephanie D. Clare (Earthly Encounters: Sensation, Feminist Theory, and the Anthropocene), as well as other posthumanist and Queer thinkers.  In this course, we will explore “wildness” in these works but also as it is thought in Merleau-Ponty’s The Visible and the Invisible and in his Lectures on Nature (delivered just before his death and only recently published), both examples of what philosophers now call “wild phenomenology.”  We will examine how Merleau-Ponty’s ideas are anticipated by Edmund Husserl’s approach to “animal perception” in Ideas II.  This notion of “animal perception” gives rise to a good deal of Ecological and Queer thinking in the books we will read.

The format of the course will allow for some creative writing based on Tim Ingold’s notion of “observational thinking”—the derivation of critical insights from “thinking with” rather than “thinking about.”  Alternative models of critical thinking and/as political intervention will be explored here.

Tuesdays 11:00am - 1:50pm, HIB 341

To be cross-listed with Comparative Literature, Culture and Theory and Critical Theory Emphasis

This seminar will trace the overlaps as well as the discrepancies between Postcolonial Theory and Pan Africanism and their respective geopolitics of global decolonization. Here are some of the questions that will constitute our syllabus. What is the longue duree of Colonialism, and who or which political agency will succeed in terminating it? How has Colonialism affected Asia and Africa differentially? What are the possibilities, for Africa and Asia and India in particular, of a “return” to “one’s own” identity post Colonialism? How do postcolonial theories and PanAfricanism envision the relationship among Will, Reason, and Desire in the name of a total emancipation from every form of hegemony, dominance, and representation? How do postcolonial and PanAfrican modes of thinking position themselves epistemologically, politically, ethically, and ontologically with respect to the brute facticity of colonial history? What role should the nation state and nationalism play in the project of the decolonization of the mind? How do Violence and Non-Violence figure in the project of postcolonial and PanAfrican affirmation? What is the nature of the equilibrium between negation and affirmation in postcolonial theories and articulations of PanAfricanism? What are the onto-political coordinates of postcolonial and PanAfrican subject formation? Where is Home and where is World in postcolonial and PanAfrican thinking? Where are these two ideologies headed: a new humanism, a non-human humanism, critical humanism, planetary humanism, environmental humanism, post-humanism? Colonialism-Racism-Anti-Black humanism-Gender and Sexuality based oppressions: how do postcolonial and PanAfrican theories parse these conjunctures/intersectionalities? Freedom via politics, and Freedom from Politics: how are these two themes woven together in the fabric of postcolonial and PanAfrican thought processes? Does and should the West have a role to play in the future of the Global South?

The dramatis personae in this drama: Frantz Fanon, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Aime Cesaire, Wole Soyinka, Leopold Senghor, CLR James, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Harlem Renaissance, Edward Said, Rabindranath Tagore, Mohandas Gandhi, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Partha Chatterjee, Ranajit Guha, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Homi Bhabha, Achille Mbembe, David Marriott, among others.

Expectations and Requirements to be negotiated with the class: most likely 1 short essay and 1 long essay.
HUMAN 270/HISTORY 200A:  HIstory, Temporality, Event

Time and its conceptualizations are the fundaments of history. While we too often view time as the flat canvas over which we plot events, historical times are in fact governed by their own distinct velocities and rhythms, operating within their own horizons and scales. Under conditions of uneven development, the modern world has been shaped by a multiplicity of temporal regimes in a variety of configurations: dynamically imbricated, peacefully coexisting or violently erupting in moments of conflict. Temporal regimes underpin ideological regimes, they structure political and juridical orders, frame horizons of expectation and anticipation and infuse our understandings of modernity itself.

These temporalities intimately inform the production of history, the ways in which we secularize, periodize, rescale and animate historical time. They shape how we perceive events, whether as moments pregnant with transformative change or incidental distractions from the steady unfolding of deep temporal structures over centuries or millennia. They set the rhythms over which we narrate, revise and silence the past. Through a selection of readings at the crossroads of history, anthropology and critical theory, this seminar will draw students into a critical discussion of temporal regimes and their importance for the study of history.

Readings may include: Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Reinhart Koselleck, Marshall Sahlins, Fernand Braudel, Benedict Anderson, Francois Hartog, Manu Goswami, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Kristin Ross, Lynn Hunt, William Sewell, Kathleen Davis, Vanessa Ogle.
COM LIT 210/HUMAN 270:  Westphalianism
Tu, 2:00 - 4.50, HIB 137

There is much debate among International Relations theorists these days about the so-called “crisis of the nation-state” and whether the world is entering or exiting a post-Westphalian or a neo-Westphalian phase. The reference is to the historic Treaty of Westphalia signed between the Holy Roman Empire and the empires of Sweden and France in 1648. The document had over 100 signatories and took several years to negotiate – and even longer to implement – as it struggled to bring the devastating Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) to an end. Westphalia is said to have established the basic structure of the modern international system of states, with its mechanisms of the balance of (only the great) powers and the marginalization and subordination of everyone else. Now called a “reference peace” and referred to as a crucial category of “historical demarcation” in theories of the emergence of modernity, Westphalia allegedly endowed the nation-state with the absolute power to defend territorial sovereignty against threats from the outside and the authority to control domestic populations (also in the broader sense of colonial populations) within, and the political order based on it is said to have dominated Western geo-politics until 1945 and then to have experienced a renewal in the aftermath of decolonization, when newly enfranchised polities aspired to be Westphalian too. The triumph of neo-liberal economics and globalization (and its apparent demise at the time of the writing of this course description), the emergence of both non-state political actors in the form of various transnational movements and of civil-society organizations, the rise of a variety of sub-state and regional populisms, and the enormous increase in diasporic, refugee, and immigrant populations, have nevertheless meant that the notional statist hegemony of Westphalianism now no longer reigns supreme – either ideologically or in fact (this in spite of the fact that Westphalianist defenses of border and internal population control have been on the rise). In this course, we will examine the origins of Westphalianism in the near century of European religious and civil wars between 1550-1650 and the chaotic political and economic worlds and mixed demographics by which it was defined. We will read early modern political theoretical texts on which the Westphalian order was based (Luther, Machiavelli, Bodin, Grotius, Hobbes, and Pufendorf) alongside alternatives to that order authored by Dante, Calvin, Spinoza and Althusius, as well as a selection of the highly formalized treaties of the early modern period in which such theories issued. Contemporary students of neo- and post-Westphalianism such as Richard Falk and Mahmood Momdani, and historians and theorists of an anti-Westphalian cosmopolitanism and human rights and of alternatives to the nation-state, such as Martti Koskenniemi, Seyla Benhabib, Hendrik Spruyt, and Adom Getachew, will be our guides. We will also interrogate the underbelly of the ‘human rights’-talk that sought to transcend Westphalia’s statism, but masked the erasure of economic and social rights on the part of minority populations, as Samuel Moyn has pointed out – an erasure that was enshrined in the original Treaty of Westphalia itself. Of interest to students of Citizenship Studies, Security and Border Studies, Post-Sovereignty and Democracy Studies, and trans-statist theories related to immigration, Environmental and Internet Studies, Refugee Studies, International Law, and Human Rights who might seek to embed their work in a longer historical arc.
No detailed description available.
Thursdays 2:00 - 4:50pm, HIB 411

Why has everyone agreed that nineteenth-century American poetry is boring?  "Conventional," "popular," "generic," "sentimental," "political"--the adjectives used in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to dismiss most nineteenth-century American verse tell the story of what modernist literary criticism has valued.  Were Whtiman and Dickinson really proto-modern exceptions to "conventional" nineteenth-century rules, or were they instead representatives of their time?  In this seminar, we will reconsider the bad reputation of nineteenth-century American poetry.  Our working thesis will be that American literary criticism was made out of the materials of nineteenth-century American poetics, but in order to disguise that debt, that poetics has been left behind.  Why?  By marginalizing nineteenth-century American poetry, modern critics could also marginalize the racism, settler colonialism, and misogyny that formed that poetry's (and that criticism's) core.  We will try to restore that core by reading the poets that modern criticism has forgotten:  the Black Romantics Phillis Wheatley Peters, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, George Moses Horton, James Monroe Whitfield, Alberry Allston Whitman, and Paul Laurence Dunbar; the Poetesses Lydia Hunttley Sigourney, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, Helen Hunt Jackson, Pauline Johnson, and Alice Dunbar Nelson; the White "Fireside" and "Schoolroom" poets William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Russell Lowell, and others.  And yes, we will read the queer exceptions to every rule, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.  We will also read several key examples of American literary criticism that rely on the false but foundational tale of the racist history of American poetry that now informs our discipline: Cleanth Brooks, F. O. Matthiessen, Roy Harvey Pearce, Harold Bloom, and others.  Because understanding nineteenth-century American poetics means understanding historical prosody, there will be a fair amount of prosodic work with the poems we study, and because understanding the negative dialectics of nineteenth-century American poetics requires some theoretical framing, we will also read Adorno, Rancière, Moten, Mufti, Rankine, Terada, Ngai, and Berlant.