2014-2015 Courses

For general catalog descriptions, click here.

For expanded course descriptions, see below.

Fall 2014

CRI 200A - Approaches to Critical Theory

David Simpson
Tuesdays, 12:10-3:00
Location: 248 Voorhies
CRN: 63651

We will attempt a survey of some of the core texts of modern critical theory, using the Norton Anthology of Criticism and Theory supplemented by a course reader where necessary. Topics will include Writing, Psychoanalysis, Master and Slave, Ideology and the Aesthetic, Literacy, Sexualities, and Machines. Major authors will include Derrida, Freud, Lacan, Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Hegel, Marx and Engels, Schiller, Bakhtin, Foucault, Butler, Cixous, Benjamin, Haraway, Horkheimer and Adorno (this is not a complete list).

A 20pp. paper will be required, along with participation in all classes.

CRI 200B-001 - Problems in Critical Theory: Comedy and Philosophy

Scott Shershow
Mondays, 3:10-6:00
Location: 248 Voorhies
CRN: 63650

Can comedy and laughter be philosophized at all? Or on the contrary, as Bataille argued, is laughter the “ultimate given” of philosophy and thought? As has often been observed, philosophic approaches to comedy are surprisingly rare across the whole tradition. In this seminar, we will read a selection of theoretical texts combining the well-known “standards” of comic theory (Bergson, Meredith, Freud) with a few less obvious choices, including some notable recent books. In the tentative reading list below, I’ve grouped the titles and indicated dates to suggest how most of the selections (for reasons yet to be discussed) cluster around three broad historical moments: the turn of the 20th century, the 1950s, and the last ten years.

Tentative reading list:

Nietzsche, Selections from Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Gay Science.
George Meredith, An Essay on Comedy and the Uses of the Comic Spirit (1877)
Henri Bergson, Laughter (1900)
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy (1900)
Sigmund Freud, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905)
Jacques Lacan, Seminar, 1957-8, “The Formation of the Unconscious.”
Georges Bataille, “Hegel, Death and Sacrifice,” “Nietzsche’s Laughter,” “Non-Knowledge, Laughter and Tears,” and selections from Inner Experience (1950s).
Jacques Derrida, “From Restricted to General Economy: A Hegelianism Without Reserve” (1967)

Selections from:
Simon Critchley, On Humour (2002)
Graham Harman, “Humour,” from Guerrilla Metaphysics (2005)
Alenka Zupančič, The Odd One In: On Comedy (2008)
Anca Parvulescu, Laughter: Notes on a Passion (2010)
Stewart Lee, How I Escaped My Certain Fate: The Lives and Deaths of a Stand-Up Comedian (2010)

CRI 200C - History of Critical Theory: Form before formalism

Seeta Chaganti
Thursdays, 12:10-3:00
Location: 248 Voorhies
CRN: 64372

This course will explore early literary and philosophical theories that have shaped our understanding of poetic form. Students will gain familiarity with important classical and medieval discourses surrounding the idea of poetic form, but the course will also encourage participants to set such theories in dialogue with new and emerging ideas about form in contemporary critical theory. For example, I propose to discuss canonical ancient texts on memory, such as Cicero’s and Quintilian’s, specifically in terms of the way that memory discourse inflects the experience of poetic form and the problem of length, duration, and formal apprehension; but to this inquiry I would add Cathy Gallagher’s well-known essay on contemporary formalism and time. Similarly, I am interested in using what are often thought of as the workmanlike treatises on medieval poetry – mainly Vinsauf, Garland, and Deschamps – to complicate some of the assumptions of new formalist study. This contemporary critical discourse has emerged largely within the context of early modern studies and Romanticism, but I will encourage students to generate an alternative premodern history with which to think about conceptualizations of poetic form. Throughout the course, we will look at well-known examples of early poetry in a variety of genres and structures to enrich our discussion of the critical material. The course offers students in a variety of fields a useful foundation in classical and medieval theory charged with a timely thematic focus. It additionally provides English PhD students an opportunity to study texts listed for the preliminary examination topic in poetics.

Sample Readings (Latin, Italian and French texts will be read in modern English translation, using dual-language editions where possible; Chaucer and the anonymous lyrics will be read in the original Middle English):

Aristotle, Poetics
Cicero, De oratore
Dante, La vita nuova
Deschamps, L’Art de dictier
Geoffrey of Vinsauf, Poetria nova
Horace, Ars Poetica
John of Garland, Parisiana poetria
Quintilian, Institutio oratoria

Anonymous Middle English lyrics
Chaucer, The Book of the Duchess
Deschamps, Selected Poems
Petrarch, Il canzoniere
Poetry by Horace and Catullus

Allen, The Ethical Poetic of the Later Middle Ages
Cannon, The Grounds of English Literature
Carruthers, The Book of Memory
Gallagher, “Formalism and Time”
Johnson, Practicing Literary Theory in the Middle Ages
Lerer, “The Endurance of Formalism”
Levinson, “What is New Formalism?”
Smith, “Medieval Forma: The Logic of the Work”
Spearing, Textual Subjectivity
Wolfson, Formal Changes

Winter 2015

CRI 101 - Introduction to Critical Theory (Cross-listed with COM 141)

Joshua Clover
Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:40-3:00p
Location: Cruess 107
CRN: 93404

This course introduces students to the basic concepts and methods of critical and literary theory. Drawing on Culler's Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, the class will explore the theoretical ramifications of a small group of literary and cultural texts, including Nanni Balestrini's The Unseen; Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat; and Toni Morrison's Beloved. Students will be asked to write a series of guided essays, culminating in a final project of theoretical analysis.

Reading List:

Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction
Toni Morrison, Beloved
Nanni Balestrini, The Unseen (2nd Edition)
; translated by Liz Heron
Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat (2nd Edition)
translated by Louise Varése

CRI 200A - Approaches to Critical Theory

Jeff Fort
Tuesdays, 3:10-6:00p
Location: Wellman 109 ROOM CHANGE: SPROUL 522
CRN: 67942

This course will introduce a variety of theoretical texts and approaches, organized around the theme of "subject formation" / "subjection" / "subjectification" particularly in relation to bad conscience, guilt, and law. Taking the theorization of "the subject" as paradigmatic for modern philosophy and critical theory, we will trace in particular the ways in which guilt and bad conscience form subjects by situating them in relation to authority and the law, and thus to the field of social norms, and in doing so, we will trace the multiple forms in which one is called or interpellated into (or out of) the social order. Readings will include: Kant on the moral law; Nietzsche on guilt and bad conscience; Freud on the super-ego and civilization; Heidegger on the "call of consicence," uncanniness and anxiety; Derrida (and Kafka) on the law; Adorno and Horkheimer on the culture industry; Lacan on the mirror stage and "the phallus"; Marx on exchange value and commodity fetishism; Althusser on interpellation; Foucault on panopticism and discipline; Butler on subjection, norms, and performativity; Mulvey (and Hitchcock) on gender and the gaze in film; Benveniste (and Beckett) on saying "I".

Reading list:

Kant, selections from Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and The Critique of Practical Reason
Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, essays 1 and 2
Freud: "Mourning and Melancholia"; selections from The Ego and the IdCivilization and its Discontents
Heidegger, selections from Being and Time
Kafka, "Before the Law" and other selections from The Trial; "In the Penal Colony"
Derrida, "Before the Law" and additional selected essays
Adorno and Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry” from Dialectic of Enlightenment
Lacan, "The Mirror Stage"; "The Signification of the Phallus"
Marx, selection from Capital, vol. 1
Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses"
Michel Foucault, "Panopticism" and other chapters from Discipline and Punish ; [Butler on       Foucault and bodily inscription; Kafka, Penal Colony]
Judith Butler, selections from Bodies that Matter and The Psychic Life of Power
            “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution”; selection from Excitable Speech
Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema"; Hitchcock, Rear Window (with some reference to Vertigo)
Emile Benveniste, "The Nature of Pronouns," "Subjectivity in Language"
Samuel Beckett, CompanyNot I


Neil Larsen
Wednesdays, 12:10-3pm
Location: 111 Wellman ROOM CHANGE: SPROUL 104
CRN: 93405

This "problems in Critical Theory" seminar will engage intensively with two of the great, later and so-called “mature” works of Karl Marx, Capital Volume I and the so-called Grundrisse, or “basic outlines” and notebook entries in which Marx worked out the fundamental content of what were eventually to be the three published volumes of Capital—along with a great deal more material found nowhere else in Marx's opus.. Reading of secondary sources will be kept to a strict minimum so as to accommodate what will be a very carefully focused and guided reading of Volume I of Capital, undertaken in tandem with a similarly premeditated and meticulously excerpted reading of the better part of the "Chapter on Capital" from the GrundrisseOnly insofar as time and energy allows, we will also read—perhaps via small groups assigned to read and present the material to the seminar as a whole—selections from earlier works of Marx, including the so-called Economic and Philosophical [or “1844”] Manuscripts; “On the Jewish Question”; and The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.  This is not a seminar for the timorous when it comes to the sheer volume of reading over a mere 10.5 weeks. But a lengthy set of carefully focused and interlocking study & reading questions, all available from the outset, will attempt to come to the rescue of the overwhelmed and besieged reader and student. A less ambitious and more piecemeal, graduated approach to Marx’s opus would be easier, if time allowed. But the times demand something more: the fullness of Marx's thinking, as seen through his most vital contribution: the daily more and more scandalously crisis-vindicated critical theory of capital(ism) better known as the critique of political-economy. Students will be required to write weekly short response papers (500 words) and a 4,000-6,000 word take-home essay examination made up of a total of four individual 1,000-1,500 word essays in response to an individually selected quartet of questions from among a total numbering a dozen or so. Students may, in rare cases, secure permission to write a single, final seminar essay after close consultation with the instructor.

CRI 200B-002 - Problems in Critical Theory: Theories of Sexuality

Elizabeth Freeman
Mondays, 3:10-6:00p
Location: Voorhies 248
CRN: 93406

This course will explore the way that sexuality (as it overlaps with and departs from gender and other social identities) has been theorized in Western European and American culture.  The aim is less to cover all periods than to use earlier periods to estrange what we think we know about sexuality now, and to sample some of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries’ most powerful formulations.  We will examine Platonic love, sexology, psychoanalysis, Foucault, French and American feminisms, queer theory, and racialized sexualities (i.e., Plato, the sexologists, Freud, Lacan, Wittig, Irigaray,  Mackinnon and Dworkin, Foucault, Hortense Spillers, Rod Ferguson, Judith Butler, Leo Bersani).   Student presentations will be encouraged to take up more emergent topics such as asexuality, transgender theory, intersex, BDSM, and so on, and discuss them with relation to the theory.

Pre-approved CRI 200B (Problems in Critical Theory) Equivalent:

Gail Finney
Wednesdays, 2:10-5:00
Location: Olson 144
CRN: 93321

This seminar seeks to acquaint students with the complex domain of trauma studies by exploring theoretical, literary, and cinematic responses to three major types of traumatic experience: world war, the Holocaust, and family trauma.

Partial Reading List: Selections from the following theoretical works will be studied:

Cathy Caruth, ed. Trauma: Explorations in Memory (1995).
---, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (1996).
Kirby Farrell, Post-traumatic Culture: Injury and Interpretation in the Nineties (1998).
E. Ann Kaplan, ed., Psychoanalysis and Cinema (1990).
---, Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media and Literature (2005).
Dominick LaCapra, Writing History, Writing Trauma (2001).
Ruth Leys, Trauma: A Genealogy (2000).
Janet Walker, Trauma Cinema: Documenting Incest and the Holocaust (2005).
Selected works by Sigmund Freud

Pre-approved CRI 200B (Problems in Critical Theory) Equivalent:
ENL 270 - Geographies of Risk

Hsuan Hsu
Tuesdays, 3:10-6:00
Location: Voorhies 120
CRN: 93576

Pre-approved CRI 200B (Problems in Critical Theory) Equivalent:
CST 214: Theories and Technologies of the Image

Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli
Wednesdays, 10:00-12:50
Location: Hart 1106
CRN: 93184

This course will cover critical thought regarding photography, the microscope, telescope, film, video and the digital image.

Pre-approved CRI 200B (Problems in Critical Theory) Equivalent:
GER 297: Reading Freud

Sven-Erik Rose
Thursdays, 2:10-5:00pm
Location: Sproul 412B
CRN: 76316

One of the towering figures of twentieth-century intellectual history, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) has indelibly influenced constitutive disciplines and discourses of our modernity, from medicine to critical and literary theory to popular culture and popular conceptions of the self. He has also, however, shared the fate of other cultural icons in becoming far more widely "known" than actually read. In this course, we will try to forget what we know about Freud and read his works. While we will note how certain works by Freud have become key texts for later psychoanalytic theorists, our focus will remain squarely on the intricacies and textures of Freud's oeuvre. We will read works from Freud's early to late career, including his monumental The Interpretation of Dreams (1900); selections from The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1904), Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905), and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905); the case studies; the major meta-psychological papers; a range of Freud's papers on sexuality, and other essays that have been extremely influential for literary and cultural criticism such as “Screen Memories” (1899) and "The Uncanny” (1919). We will also explore Freud's seminal text on trauma, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) and two of his diagnoses of the origins and dynamics of civilization: Totem and Taboo (1913) and Civilization and its Discontents (1930).

Spring 2015

CRI 200A - Approaches to Critical Theory

Matthew Stratton
Tuesdays, 3:10-6:00p
Location: Voorhies 248
CRN: 52501

This course engages a wide variety of major texts in order to approach what Paul de Man called a “controlled reflection on the formation of method.” Assuming no prior knowledge in philosophy or critical theory and setting only useful limits for those with extensive experience, the course will schematically survey modern texts – starting with Kant and Hegel and concluding in recent days -- while reading a few ancient texts where desirable or necessary. The primary goal will be to prepare students for advanced graduate study in different areas of the humanities both by delineating a long intellectual history and by emphasizing key concepts that are contested to the present day.

The course is unapologetically a survey, and The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2nd ed.) will be supplemented with a short course reader. Students will conclude the course by individually situating their own field of interest / expertise in relation to the tradition we have mapped collectively.

CRI 200C -  History of Critical Theory: History of Emotion (also offered as COM 210)

Kari Lokke and Seth Schein
Mondays, 12:10-3:00p
Location: Sproul 822
CRN: 52502

In this survey of Western conceptions of emotion, we will consider the history of  philosophies of emotion in the context of contemporaneous literary works and current theories of affect.  Requirements: an oral presentation and a seminar paper.

Reading list: 

Plato, Phaedrus and a brief selection from Republic
Aristotle, Phaedrus and a brief selection from Republic
Euripides, Medea
Cicero, Cicero on the Emotions, Tusculan Disputations, Books 3 and 4
Seneca, On Anger,  Medea
Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (Conclusion to Book 4)
Descartes, The Passions of the Soul
Hobbes, Selections from Leviathan
Rousseau, Selections from Discourse on the Origin of InequalityReveries of the Solitary Walker
Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments
Wollstonecraft, Selections from A Vindication of the Rights of WomanThe Cave of FancyMaryA Fiction, and Scandinavian Letters
Staël, Selections from The Influence of the Passions on the Happiness of the Individual and Nations,  On GermanyCorinne, or Italy
Letitia Landon, “Erinna”
James, “What is an Emotion?”
Freud, “Mourning and Melancholia”

Selections from Current Affect Theory:

Martha Nussbaum  The Therapy of Desire,  Sara Ahmed   The Cultural Politics of Emotion,  Raymond Williams “Structures of Feeling,”  Teresa Brennan  The Transmission of Affect,  Helene Foley  Female Acts in Greek Tragedy,  Rei Terada  Feeling in Theory,  Juliana Schiesari  The Gendering of Melancholia,  Silvan Tompkins  Shame and its Sisters,  Eve Sedgwick  Touching Feeling,  Patricia Clough  Introduction to The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social, Todd and Barker-Benfield on sensibility.

Prerequisite: Graduate standing in Comparative Literature, English, or a foreign-language literature, or consent of instructor (kelokke@ucdavis.edu).

Format: Discussion - 3 hours; Term Paper.


  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, A Discourse on Inequality, translated by Maurice Cranston  (Penguin Classics, 1985)
  • Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments  (Penguin Classics, 2010)
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Anger, Mercy, Revenge, translated by Robert A. Kaster and Martha C. Nussbaum  (University of Chicago Press, 2012)
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Six Tragedies, translated by Emily Wilson  (Oxford University Press, 2010)
  • Marcus Tullius Cicero, Cicero on the Emotions, translated by Margaret R. Graver  (University of Chicago Press, 2002)
  • Euripides, Euripides' Medea: A New Translation, translated by Diane J. Rayor  (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Pre-approved CRI 200B (Problems in Critical Theory) Equivalent:

Gail Finney
Tuesdays 1:10-4
Location: Olson 144
CRN: 53492

No knowledge of German is required.

A two-track seminar: Seminar conducted in English, primary texts available in German and English, theoretical texts read in English.

The purpose of this seminar is twofold:

1. To acquaint students with the field of narratology, or the theory and study of narrative, as elaborated by theorists and critics such as Mieke Bal, James Phelan, David Herman, Brian McHale, Dorrit Cohn, Gérard Genette, Wayne Booth, Richard Brinkmann, Franz Stanzel, Eric Downing, Hayden White, Robert Holub, Susana Onega, Patrick O’Neill, Monika Fludernik, Gerald Prince, and Seymour Chatman.

2. To familiarize students with the tools of narrative analysis as well as with major types of narrative and narrative technique, for example, the epistolary novel, the frame narrative, the realist novel, the unreliable narrator, narrated monologue, stream of consciousness, autonomous monologue, literature as case study, the nouveau roman or new novel, and autobiographical fiction, as illustrated through German-language narrative works from the late eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. Authors studied include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Ludwig Tieck, Georg Büchner, Franz Grillparzer, Theodor Storm, Theodor Fontane, Arthur Schnitzler, Peter Handke, and Christa Wolf.

Pre-approved CRI 200B (Problems in Critical Theory) equivalent:
STS 250 - The Politics of Networks/Networked Politics

Kris Fallon
Mondays, 1:10-4:00p
Location: Art Annex 112
CRN: 51268

Description: From social networks to transportation networks to information networks, the network as a concept has become one of the dominant metaphors of the digital age. But are networks themselves benign forces capable of equalizing social relations and undoing the established hierarchies which they seek to undermine? Or are they instead an ever-more perfect panopticon, reinforcing existing regimes of surveillance and selective marginalization? This course will investigate the alternately radical and repressive power of networks. Rather than approaching networks as an abstract relation among individual entities or an ontological description of material relations, we will focus our attention on the space between. As a metaphor for describing the world, the figure of the network has served to structure evolving social and political structures, and as these structures have shifted they have in turn altered our conception of what the network is, and what it can be. To find this middle ground we will study both the theory and reality of different networks.

Required Texts

Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social

Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Multitude

Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks

Alex Galloway, Protocol

Niklas Luhmann, Social Systems

Manuel Castells, Rise of the Network Society Networks of Outrage and Hope

Tiziana Terranova, Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age

Thacker & Galloway, The Exploit

Daniel Kriess, Taking our Country Back

Fred Turner, From Counter Culture to Cyberculture

All other readings listed on the syllabus will available via a shared zotero library, and can be printed in a course reader upon request

Pre-approved CRI 200B (Problems in Critical Theory) Equivalent:
SPA 274 - Theories of Iberia and Latin America

Rob Newcomb
Thursdays, 4:10-7:00p
Location: Olson 144
CRN: 50276

This seminar will focus on Iberian and Latin American essays of national interpretation that question received definitions of Iberia and Latin America as geographic, historical and cultural entities. Chronologically, we will focus on the turn of the twentieth century. This period saw Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking writers on both sides of the Atlantic respond to dramatic international changes and domestic crises, by offering radical reexaminations of history and identity, and by proposing novel paths out of the quagmire of protracted national and continental “decadence.” Salient events include: Spain’s short-lived First Republic (1873-74); Brazil’s republican revolution (1889); Great Britain’s “Ultimatum” to Portugal regarding competing African claims (1890); the desastre of the Spanish-American War (1898); and the overthrow of the Portuguese monarchy in favor of the Republic (1910).

Many of the period’s finest writers, in responding to rapidly changing conditions “on the ground,” bypassed literary genres such as the novel and poetry, and instead utilized essayistic texts (essays, articles, interpretive histories, etc.) to dialogue directly with their audience on questions of national and international significance. This move toward literary non-fiction in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world resulted in some of peninsular and Latin American literature’s most incisive works on questions of national and regional identity, including the following, which we will read together: Antero de Quental’s Causas da Decadência dos Povos Peninsulares (Causes of the Decline of the Peninsular Peoples, 1871), Oliveira Martins’s História da civilização ibérica (History of Iberian Civilization, 1879), José Martí’s “Nuestra América” (1891), Miguel de Unamuno’s En torno al casticismo(1895), José Enrique Rodó’s Ariel (1900), and Sérgio Buarque de Holanda’s Raízes do Brasil (1936). Unfortunately, these fundamental texts are often excluded from the canons of peninsular and Latin American literary studies because of the genre in which they were written – this despite their aesthetic and intellectual value, and their specific potential to illuminate the intellectual, cultural, and historical backdrop against which some of the Portuguese and Spanish languages’ finest fictional and poetic works were written.

Class discussions will be conducted primarily in Spanish. Good reading knowledge of Portuguese is helpful, but not required. English translations will be available for Portuguese texts whenever possible. Students who have taken POR 31G (Portuguese for Spanish-speaking Graduate Students), or who have comparable experience studying Portuguese, should read Portuguese-language texts in the original. In addition to the primary readings listed above, we will read secondary sources including Edward Said (on public intellectuals), Theodor Adorno (on the essay), Hayden White (on literary non-fiction), and Alfredo Bosi (on colonial and post-colonial culture).