Course Descriptions


Spring Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
Post-Theory and Auto-writing
Graduate seminar
Spring 2023
Liron Mor

Course description

What does writing—theoretical, personal, or fictional—mean today?

The crisis of theory has been announced, surmounted, spun, and critiqued repeatedly for several decades now. The political rejection of universal Theory has led to its diversification in the form of vernacular theories and theories “from below.” It has also yielded an unprecedented centering of the self in the production of theory and criticism. The current auto-theoretical moment was accompanied by a similar shift in the literary world and in culture more broadly: although authors have always drawn on their biographies and personal experiences, contemporary autofiction writers do so explicitly, intentionally exposing, styling, and foregrounding the “real” self behind their writing, just as social media influencers do. Finally, the contemporary recentering of the self is related to another rapidly intensifying process: automation. As automation invades ever growing terrains of life and as nature is exhausted by the intensifying demands of capitalism, the gaze seems to turn inward while corporations move on to excavating our inner world—with self-help books, machine learning, data mining, and targeted advertising, informed by algorithms.

By reading literary, visual, and theoretical texts—some of which belong to the newer genres of theory and have therefore appeared in more “public facing” venues and formats—this course asks: what is the contemporary meaning of writing? And of theory? Why have the twin notions of the self and realism become so central to literature and theory these days? Do they work differently in different geographical contexts and across positions with divergent colonial and racialized histories? When both sociality and depth are eroded, what modes of critique or theorizing are left? And what happens to writing under conditions of automation—how might digitization, search engines, automatic writing and editing tools, and the increasingly perfected writing skills of artificial intelligence affect the future of writing and academic production? By contextualizing and historicizing some urgent debates regarding literature and theory, the course aims to introduce the field and to offer opportunities for reflection on contemporary disciplinary methods and practices. How and why do we do what we do? And how might we do it differently?

Possible readings include works by Immanuel Kant, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, bell hooks, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Bruno Latour, Rita Felski, Hortense Spillers, Eva Illouz, Audra Simpson, Sarah Brouillette, Tau Lin, Andrea Long Chu, Salley Rooney, Lauren Fournier, Mitsuye Yamada, Ahdaf Souf, Adania Shibli, Marguerite Duras, James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon,  Saidiya Hartman, Christopher Harris, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Lisa Marie Rhody, Younès Rharbaoui, and others. The course will also involve viewing episodes of recent TV shows and experimenting with apps, such as Wattpad, and the GPT-3 playground (an AI tool).
No detailed description available.
No detailed description available.
No detailed description available.
COM LIT 210:  Alternative Literacies in the Americas
Spring 2023
David Colmenares

Before the European invasion, the American continent was a vast inscribed surface. Peoples throughout the continent inscribed, incised, scarred and painted animal and human skin, stones, deserts, mountains, and even the sky. Many of these practices survived and new ones arose during the Colonial period, and have continued to evolve until the present day. Long dismissed as deficient or underdeveloped writing systems vis-a-vis the purported superiority of alphabetic writing, these alternative literacies stand today as challenges to Western onto-theology and logocentrism. By following the social life of inscribed lines as they interlace surfaces, bodies, landscapes and topographies, the course dialogues with the anthropology of images (Aby Warburg, Carlo Severi), poststructuralist critical theory (Gilles Deleuze, Andrea Bachner), Indigenous studies and poetics (Edgar García) and the anthropology of lines and symmetry (Tim Ingold, Dorothy K. Washburn). We examine these and other theoretical and philosophical responses elicited by the encounter with non-glottographic graphism throughout the Americas, including Mesoamerican pictorial codices, Andean quipu or knotted strings, Nazca geoglyphs in southern Peru, modern Kuna pictography in Panama, abstract body marks among Amazonian “graphic peoples,” Anishinaabe pictography, and Plains ledger art. At the end of the course, we turn our attention to the work of contemporary artists and poets, including Raúl Zurita (b. 1950) , who inscribed his poetry across the Chilean sky and deserts, and Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948), who continues to explore the creative potentials of the quipu.
CL 210

Negativity and the unconscious. This title seems paradoxical since Freud affirms several times that the unconscious doesn’t have any sense of time or death. “The processes of the system unconscious are timeless”, he claims.  “At bottom, he goes on,  no one believes in their own death…” We might then conclude that the unconscious is alien to the any notion of negativity. However, as Deleuze rightly points out, “Freud supposes the unconscious to be ignorant of death time and no, yet it is a question only of these three in the unconscious.” In fact, the unconscious is all about these three. We will even see, through our readings of Freud, that the unconscious is perhaps nothing other than the different relationships of the psyche with its own destruction. Studying the different forms of unconscious negativity : repression, trauma, forclusion, disavowal, anxiety, deathdrive, we will is nothing else than the various relations of the psyche maintains with its own destruction. Through the study of the different forms of negativity, we will see that Freud is increasingly pessimistic as to the tendency of humanity to destroy itself. We will then see how Lacan dialectizes self-destruction through the three terms of the imaginary, the symbolic and the real. We will end with Fanon's critique of psychoanalysis. Traditional psychoanalysis, he says, has studied all forms of negativity but one: the assimilation of the Black to a non-being.
No detailed description available.
No detailed description available.