2015-2016 Courses


For general catalog descriptions, click here.

For expanded course descriptions, see below.

Fall 2015

CRI 200A - Approaches to Critical Theory

Evan Watkins
Thursdays, 12:10-3:00pm
Location: 308 Voorhies Hall
CRN: 47714

In this course I would like to balance some basic work in critical theory with opportunities for each of you to configure course readings and discussion toward your specific research and teaching interests. Typically this course enrolls students from several different departments, which offers wonderful opportunities for collaborative learning, but also some special responsibilities. I will of course expect you to keep up with readings and SmartSite postings, and do your individual papers. I will also ask you to work closely with others in the class and be respectful of their interests that may well differ considerably from yours.

For roughly the first half of the term we’ll work out of the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism and Volume 1 of Capital with what I would think of as instrumental texts, i.e. texts rarely referred to directly anymore because “everybody” assumes that “everybody” already knows them—which usually means that nobody can admit not knowing them. We can’t do all of these of course, but we’ll try to do enough that everyone in class gets to be included in that “everybody.”

Around midterm I’ll have you turn in a relatively short (6-8 pg.) paper on specific concepts in these texts that you feel have had a strong influence on your own area of interest and on your teaching.

In the second meeting of the term we will discuss topics and tentative group assignments for the second half of the term. Each group will assign and post readings one week in advance and then lead class discussion for your topic. I’ll try to work very closely with each group to decide on the readings and how best to present them to the class. At the end of the term, I will ask for another short (6-8 pg.) paper from each of you, focused on your individual take on the discussion/readings in your group in relation to your research interests.

External Electives

GER 297: Early Marx (Preapproved CRI 200B equivalent)

Sven-Erik Rose
Tuesdays, 2:10-5:00pm
Location: 5 Wellman Hall
CRN: 55974

Marx's radical social critique was forged and refined in a rich and volatile context of Left Hegelian thought in Germany in the late 1830s and 1840s. Throughout his years of university study, while still hoping to attain an academic position, to his turn to radical journalism to his embrace of communism and political activism, Marx worked out his ideas in a series of collaborations, and heated polemics. So imbricated are Marx's early ideas with those of the thinkers and colleagues he thought with and against that it is impossible to appreciate them fully without delving into the conceptual and rhetorical dynamics of the wider political and philosophical discourse. We will explore the evolution of Marx's thinking alongside texts by major figures from whom Marx borrowed and whom he critiqued, including G. W. F. Hegel, Bruno Bauer, Arnold Ruge, Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach, Moses Hess, Max Stirner, and Jean-Paul Proudhon. We will also read classic and contemporary assessments of Marx's early thought by scholars and thinkers including György Lukács, Louis Althusser, David McLellan, David Leopold, and Warren Breckman.

CST 214: Surveillance & Democracy: Privacy, Surveillance and "sousveillance" (Preapproved CRI 200B equivalent)*


Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli and Anupam Chander
Tuesdays, 10:00am-1:00pm
Location: 144 Olson Hall
CRN: 73012

Social media is often praised for its ability to connect individuals, open up a space for creativity, disseminate information, and allow for free speech, but all those opportunities are closely framed, and often constrained, by the conditions and terms of use that social media wraps into the contracts that its users are asked to sign. Given the image of the Internet as an open space, it is paradoxical that rights to free speech, public protest, and civil disobedience are substantially less clear there than in traditional, physical public space. In addition to limitations to what an individual can do, such contracts also allow social media platforms to store, use, and sell the traces of what one does while operating in those virtual spaces. Surveillance is added to censorship.

This course will cover the history and legal theory of the right to privacy, the establishment of the surveillance state, and the various types of activism and political resistance to surveillance.  We will look at landmark cases, emerging technologies and how the use of visual imaging technology by individuals in public places evokes a different set of images: the “up-skirt photographer,” the publication of intimate moments occurring in public places, the paparazzi, and concerns about privacy, exploitation, and voyeurism. State use of advanced camera networks to constantly monitor public space counterpoises our deep desire for safety and our commitment to a free and open society that demands some limits on state access to information about citizens’ activities. Monitoring aging family members and domestic workers as well as connecting educational and work environments raise complicated questions about the privacy of all those who pass through these visually wired environments.

Readings from: The Patriot Act, The Civil Contingencies Act, Orin S. Kerr, “Searches and Seizures in a digital World,” Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Society of Control,” SivaVaidhyanathan, “Naked in the Nonopticon,” Kevin D. Haggerty & Richard V.
Ericson “The surveillant assemblage,” Helen Nissenbaum, “Hackers and the contested ontology of cyberspace,” Kelly Gates, “The Securitization of Financial Identity,” historical case studies of the 4th amendment.

SPA 274 - Problems of Knowledge in Luso-Hispanic Literature (Preapproved CRI 200B equivalent)

Rob Newcomb
Mondays, 4:10-7:00pm
Location: 263 Olson
CRN: 73496

This seminar will consist of an inquiry into a series of epistemological and ethical questions concerning problems of knowledge: what can we know, and what can we learn from literary texts? What conditions determine what we know and what we learn? What should we know – as human beings, as members of political, intellectual and other communities, and as readers? Are there things that we should not know? What are the consequences of knowledge? Are there differences between literary, historical, and other forms of knowledge? How should we understand truth and lying? How do issues of trauma, exile, and memory condition the acquisition and processing of knowledge?

Primary readings include novels and short stories by Machado de Assis (Dom Casmurro), Jorge Luis Borges (Ficciones), Miguel de Unamuno (Niebla), Alejo Carpentier (El reino de este mundo), Eça de Queirós (A Ilustre Casa de Ramires), Lídia Jorge (A Costa dos Murmúrios), Roberto Bolaño (La literatura nazi en América), Horacio Castellanos Moya (El asco), and Bernardo Carvalho (Nove Noites). Secondary readings by Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, Plato, Gilles Deleuze, Paul Ricoeur, and Hayden White. Readings will be in Spanish and English, and discussions will be in Spanish. Portuguese-language texts will be read in translation when available.

Winter 2016

Office Hours Winter 2016 (pdf)

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

Stefan Hoesel-Uhlig
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:40-3:00p
Location: Olson 244
CRN: 18216

Course Description: This course provides an introduction to some basic intellectual challenges of complex texts and works in other media. With Jonathan Culler’s Literary Theory as our guide, each week will feature primary works in dialogue with readings drawn from influential theorists. Students will write a set of short responses and a final project paper. Our primary examples will be drawn from the works of Marina Abramović, Samuel Beckett, Alfred Hitchock, Franz Kafka, and William Wordsworth.

Prerequisite: One upper division literature course or consent of instructor (shuhlig@ucdavis.edu).

GE credit (Old): Arts & Humanities and Writing Experience.
GE credit (New): Arts & Humanities, World Cultures and Writing Experience.

Format: Lecture/Discussion - 3 hours; Term Paper.


Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction [2nd Edition]  (Oxford University Press, 2011)

CRI 200A - Approaches to Critical Theory

Evan Watkins
Thursdays, 3:10-6:00p
Location: 248 Voorhies
CRN: 18217

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- Critical Theory and Film Theory; with a focus on re-thinking the work of Siegfried Kracauer; and with a postscript on Television

Neil Larsen
Thursdays, 6:10-9:00p
Location: 822 Sproul... ROOM CHANGE: 144 OLSON as of Feb 11th
CRN: 18218

This seminar will speculate with synthetic aspirations on the potential elements of a critical theory of film that, by and large, are neither numerous nor consistent enough for any explicit or systematic development within the larger intellectual formation of Critical Theory, colloquially known as the Frankfurt School and more formally the Institute for Social Res.earch (Institut für Sozialforschung).  Here I refer specifically to works appearing from the early 1930’s into the 1960’s—a corpus now most often identified by the writings of T,W, Adorno,  Max  Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse and (though material credit for his extraordinary trajectory owes very little to the Institute for Social Research when Horkheimer and Adorno were, formally or informally, at its helm)  Walter Benjamin. (The subsequent history of the Frankfurt School from Habermas down to the present has no bearing on the central question occupying us here.) There are, of course, exceptions to this relative deficit of film theory within Critical Theory during its ‘golden age’: above all Benjamin’s great essay “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility” and various shorter writings by Adorno in which both film and television are discussed in broad strokes under the umbrella category of the ‘culture industry,’

But, although the historical legitimacy of its ‘Frankfurt’ credentials may remain at issue for intellectual historians, the single most significant exception here is the work of Siegfried Kracauer, especially in From Caligari to Hitler: a Psychological History of the German Film (1947);Theory of Film: the Redemption of Physical Reality (1960); and a multitude of other, shorter works. Because Kracauer’s post-war writings retain an outwardly ‘nominalist’ character, seemingly unconcerned with general theoretical and philosophical questions and, especially during his long and seemingly untroubled residence in the United States throughout the Cold War period, the fact that a published work such as Theory of Film betrays little to no explicit concern with ‘theory’ in its Marxian (which is not to say its historicizing or anything but materialist) context the postwar work of Kracauer—in this respect inviting an analogy to the postwar liberalizing turn away from Marx unmistakable in the works of one time ‘Frankfurt’ fellow-traveler Erich Fromm—contributes still more to its estrangement from the ‘canon’ of Critical Theory.  

Thus the increasing concentration of Kracauer’s work on film theory in particular, instead of helping to fill the evident gaps in Critical Theory in the area of film, has, on the contrary, seemed to make of Kracauer an ironically less and less conspicuous presence in an initially very gradual but steadily accelerating post-1960s (and especially post-Cold War) upsurge of interest in Critical Theory and especially in the works of Benjamin and Adorno. Moreoever, to make matters still worse for our interest in Kracauer as both film ând critical theorist, the fact that radical and vanguard directions in film theory from the 1960s onward have drawn heavily, as did ‘Theory’ in general, on French structuralism and  poststructuralism and embraced an Althusserian Marxism as antithetical to the Hegelian Marxism of Critical Theory as can be imagined, the result for the film theory of Kracauer has been to discount it twice over. Born too soon to play the role of anything much more than an elder brother or mildly embarrassing uncle to those whose names and works were to appear as the stars on the Frankfurt School marquee while film theory per se, in the wake of the ‘linguistic turn,’ follows the leader and merges with a Theory that, so to speak, leaps over film as artistic medium or form, much less as technique and transacts directly with the ‘sign,’ having, for a time at least, little or nothing to do with Frankfurt School Critical Theory, Kracauer suffers the fate of the twice forgotten, a shadow of a shadow.

But not in perpetuam. With interest in Kracauer now detectably on a slow boil, we will seize the opportunity to (re)examine carefully the work of Kracauer, particularly on film and film theory, vis a vis (1) the general hypothesis that any contemporary effort both to evaluate as well as to elaborate further on the Marxian mode of social and cultural theory and critique  identified with Critical Theory as specified above must make both film and, to a greater and greater degree, television into far more important objects of analysis and critique than they have hitherto been; and (2) that, with all its apparent disadvantages, this process has both its most obvious but at the same time most promising conceptual starting point in what is, in the work of Kracauer, the basic principles of what might count as—indeed, what might be meant by a realist theory and critique of film, Note that such points of departure neither presuppose the acquittal of Kracauer as critical-theorist of film of the charges that his work indeed has its serious flaws, including simply its alleged obsolescence in the face of enormous technological changes in the reproduction of images that Kracauer did not live to witness; nor does it necessarily convict his most severe critics (the otherwise profoundly admiring Adorno evidently among them) of doing Kracauer an injustice. We will, towards this end, read widely across the writings of Kracauer on all forms of mass and quotidian culture, but especially on photography and, so to speak, on the sociology of what he saw, in the Germany of Weimar, as an emergent film audience, writ small as well as large. But our focal point will, logically, be the central premises and axioms of the work in which Kracauer himself claims the mantle of film theorist, namely Film Theory. Nor will the currently most widely legitimated, ‘textbook’ works of film theory in the face of which Kracauer is generally found wanting be ignored or taken lightly, but rather,to the extent possible, both typified and taken in panoramically. Last but most emphatically not least, we will view, discuss and analyze in light of the seminar’s central hypotheses a limited number of films and of television programming as well, from the alpha of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) to the omega of, inter alia, Avatar (2009). Other film viewings and the selection of television programming all, at this point,  TBA.

Course requirements: a) oral presentations on assigned portions of the readings, one per registered student; b) moderately brief bi-monthly written responses to pre-distributed prompts (500-750 words); c) the option of a final seminar paper to be designed in consultation with the instructor; or of a take-home, four essay examination, consisting of responses to a much greater number of questions/prompts, similar in format to PhD qualifying examination questions. Average word length in both cases: 4,000-6,000 words. Auditors welcome depending on enrollment of registered students and classroom space. Advanced undergraduates also welcome, with permission of instructor. Questions?  Email me at: nalarsen@ucdavis.edu

The seminar’s core readings will include:

1.    All or excepts from the near entirety of Kracauer’s not overly large opus, both the earlier works in English translation and the later, which he wrote almost without exception in English during his long, final residence in the United States. Complete bibliographical data to be supplied with the course syllabus, these are:

• multiple selections from The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays (a collection of essays first written during the Weimar years, but first published as a collection, in German,in 1963)
•The Salaried Masses, first published in book form under the title of Die Angestellten: aus dem neuesten Deutschland in 1930
•From Caligari to Hitler: a Psychological History of the German Film (1947)
•Film Theory: the Redemption of Physical Reality (1960)
• Selections from Siegfried Kracauer’s American Writings: Essays on Film and Popular Culture; a collection of shorter works dating from as early as 1941 and as late as 1961, originals in both English and German (2012)

2.    Selected works by Walter Benjamin and T.W. Adorno touching on film and/or television, among which:

•Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibilty”(second version, 1936)
•T.W. Adorno, “Prologue to Television”; “Television as Ideology” from Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords (1998); both selections originally published in German in 1953
•T.W. Adorno, selections and shorter excerpts from Minima Moralia (1951; English translation first published in 1974)
•T.W. Adorno, selections of shorter excerpts from Aesthetic Theory (first published posthumously, 1970)
•T.W. Adorno & Walter Benjamin, selections from Complete Correspondence (2001)

3.    Selections from a number of current anthologies of Film Theory and Film Studies; ditto for television; all, at this point, TBA.

CRI 200C - History of Critical Theory

Scott Shershow
Tuesdays, 12:10-3:00p
Location: 248 Voorhies
CRN: 43521

In this course we will read a relatively small number of texts closely with particular interest in fundamental questions of political and ethical philosophy.  We’ll follow the genealogy of the classical theory of right from its beginnings in Plato all the way to the totalizing synthesis of Hegel.  At the beginning and the end of the course we'll depart from our primarily historical focus and read a few more recent texts.  Evaluation will be based on class participation, a short explanatory paper, and a concluding term paper, in which students can, if they wish, bring their own research interests to bear on the course readings.

Tentative Reading List:

Plato, Republic
Hobbes, Leviathan
Rousseau, The Social Contract
Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals
Hegel, The Philosophy of Right
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community
Jacques Derrida, “Force of Law,” “Ethics and Politics Today,” “Declarations of Independence,” and “To Arrive - At the End(s) of the State” from Rogues

External Electives

CST 214: Surveillance & Democracy (Preapproved CRI 200B equivalent)*


Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli

Spring 2016

CRI 200A - Approaches to Critical Theory

Sheldon Lu
Wednesdays, 3:10-6:00p
Location: 822 Sproul
CRN: 38069

This course will provide students with a survey of important, representative approaches to critical theory in the modern era.  We will read selected core texts from the late 18th century to the present day. The class follows a roughly historical sequence in order to track the rise and flourish of certain theories.  We will begin with the establishment of the category of the aesthetic in the modern bourgeois era, and tackle historically influential critical approaches: varieties of historicism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, structuralism, poststructuralism, postcolonial criticism, and feminist criticism.   Students will read the writings of a large number of theorists and critics, including Kant, Schiller, Hegel, Marx, Lukács, Benjamin, Freud, Lacan, Althusser, Foucault, Derrida, Bakhtin, Fanon, Habermas, Jameson, Said, Butler, and others.   We will discuss a full range of issues in critical theory such as the autonomy of art, ideology and the aesthetic, base and superstructure, historical interpretation, dialectics, the Frankfurt School, the formation of subjectivity, the linguistic turn in 20th century theory, and so on.

CRI 200B-001 - Problems in Critical Theory: Michel Foucault's Lectures at the College de France (1974-79)

John Marx
Thursdays, 12:10-3:00p
Location: 248 Voorhies
CRN: 62892

Some decades after they were initially presented, Michel Foucault's Lectures at the College de France began to be published. This event renewed interest in Foucault's work at a moment when his lecture topics of biopolitics and neoliberalism were becoming ubiquitous in fields from anthropology to media and literary studies. In this seminar, we shall ask what to make of the new/old Foucault. We will concentrate on the arc of lectures running from 1974-1979 (published in English translation 2003-08).

Part of what has interested scholars since the appearance of these lectures is the question of how they invite us to reread Foucault. The instructor will work with enrolled students to collate essays on this topic relevant to their respective disciplines. Authors might include Nancy Armstrong (English and Gender Studies), Robyn Wiegman (Queer Theory), Roberto Esposito and Warren Montag (Philosophy), Wendy Brown and Partha Chatterjee (Political Science), Dierdra Reber (Affect Theory), Alexander Weheliye (African American Studies), Daniel Zamora and Thomas Lemke (Sociology), Mark Hansen and Tiziana Terranova (Media Studies), etc.   

Required books by Foucault:
Abnormal (lectures 1974-75)
"Society Must Be Defended" (lectures 1975-76)
Security, Territory, Population (lectures 1977-78)
The Birth of Biopolitics (lectures 1978-79)

CRI 200C - History of Critical Theory

Neil Larsen
Tuesdays, 4:10-7:00p
Location: 822 Sproul
CRN: 38070

Rather than proceed panoramically, this seminar will focus intensively on ancient and early modern philosophical works that have both preconditioned but have also been occluded by the modern philosophical and analytical currents grouped under the heading of “Critical Theory.” These works will be: Plato's PhaedrusSymposium and selections from The Republic; Aristotle’s Poetics, and selections from the Nicomachean Ethics and Metaphysics; Descartes’ Discourse on Method and the Meditations on First Philosophy; selections from Hobbes’ Leviathan; and Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason. Key notions to be traced include mimesis, ancient ideas of ethics, love, reason and the subject, and pre- and early modern concepts of society and the state. Secondarily, we will sample works of contemporary Critical Theorists that take up certain of these precursors, among them Adorno’s lectures on Metaphysics. Extensive class participation, 5-6 short response papers, one oral presentations and a final seminar paper or take home examination (approximately 5,000 words ) required.

External Electives

STS 250-001: Technogenesis: media technology and subjectivity under digital capitalism (CRI 200B Equivalent)

Timothy Lenoir
Mondays, 2:10-5:00p
CRN: 61632
Location: 1246 SocSci

Addresses key issues in cultural studies of computational media. Central themes include the materiality of media; media configurations and the co-evolution of human being; computational media and recent discussions of posthumanism; the merger of nano-bio-info-technology and the ubiquity of code; media convergence and the political uses of new media. Explores concerns about uses of big data, machines of surveillance and the potential industrialization of consciousness. Examines media technologies from a transdisciplinary perspective, drawing upon fields of deconstruction, psychoanalysis, Marxism, media studies, new materialist feminisms, evolutionary anthropology, cognitive science, and biotech. Builds upon existing expertise in film, critical theory, and media studies to analyze how media determine our situation and what might constitute conditions for political and existential rupture.

STS 250-002: Technologies of the Self (CRI 200B Equivalent)

Kris Fallon
Tuesdays, 1:10-4:00p
Email Heidi Williams hlwilliams@ucdavis.edu to request a PTA
Location: Art Annex 107

Course Description: While current social and digital media appear to signify an unprecedented focus on celebrating “me”, the ability to explore and document the self using technology is an enduring interest that stretches back to the earliest cameras and beyond. Indeed the self-portrait is a longstanding gesture in Western Art that has found unique expression in a variety media. As the medium of the self-portraiture has shifted, the definition of the self has evolved alongside the technological and artistic means for doing so. This course will explore four models of the self that have emerged alongside various technologies and scientific theories in the 20th century. Readings will include selections from Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Gilbert Simondon, Norbert Weiner and others. Alongside these texts we will consider a variety of forms of self-portraiture, including photography, documentary film and digital/social media.

Syllabus: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1I7OXvmUkeTX7rWKGy-r4lWRQW6hOur1BJ7S1n4o2TSs/edit?usp=docslist_api

POL 219CContemporary Political Theory (CRI 200B Equivalent)

Shalini Satkunanandan
Thursdays, 12:10-3:00p
CRN: 62949
Location: Kerr 593

This is a seminar in which we will try to make the ancients speak to the late moderns. The seminar is devoted to Plato’s Laws – his much neglected but central text – and its intricate account of law’s polity-constituting capacities. While we will attempt to read the text on its own terms, we will do so with an eye to seeing how different Plato’s conception of law’s possibilities is from that of contemporary political and legal theorists. Thus this course is an engagement in both ancient and late modern political theory.

Additional Courses of interest:

COM 210 - Trauma

Gail Finney
Tuesdays, 1-4 pm
Location: Sproul 412B
CRN: 62985

*This course is not a preapproved elective, but students may request approval via the standard process, including submitting the final paper.*

Course Description: 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.

Selections by theorists such as Sigmund Freud, Cathy Caruth, Marianne Hirsch, Michael Rothberg, Susanne Radstone, Kirby Farrell, Eric Santner, E. Ann Kaplan, Dominick LaCapra, Ruth Leys, and Janet Walker will be studied.

With the aid of these and other theorists, students will investigate the representation of traumatic experience and its aftermath in works by such authors as Sophocles, Erich Maria Remarque, Wolfgang Borchert, Elie Wiesel, W.G. Sebald, and Paula Vogel and films such as All Quiet on the Western Front, The Murderers Are Among Us, Night and Fog, Sophie’s Choice, and Monster’s Ball.

Consideration of these works will be complemented by contributions from students’ respective areas of specialization.

Format: Discussion – 3 hours; Term Paper


Wolfgang Borchert, The Man Outside, trans. David Porter  (New Directions/Norton, 1971)

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, trans. A.W. Wheen  (Ballantine/Vintage, 1987)

W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants, trans. Michael Hulse  (New Directions, 1997)

Sophocles, The Three Theban Plays (Oedipus the King), trans. Robert Fagles  (Penguin, 1984)

Paula Vogel, The Mammary Plays (How I Learned to Drive)  (Theatre Communications Group, 1997)

Elie Wiesel, Night, trans. Marion Wiesel  (Hill and Wang, 2006)