Comparative Literature Graduate Course Descriptions


Spring Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
This course will examine key moments in the development of Althusser’s thinking, from his rereading of Marx with his students and his encounter with Lacan in the early ‘60s through his later work on “aleatory materialism.” It will also consider some aspects of his enormous and multifarious influence—in the first place on his students and contemporaries (including Foucault, Derrida, Balibar, Badiou, and Rancière) and then, partly via his students and partly in spite of them, on subsequent generations. Special attention will be paid to Althusser’s antihumanism and to the disagreement between Althusser and Foucault over the pertinency of the concept of ideology. (While Althusser and Foucault agree that power cannot be properly grappled with when it is conceptualized as essentially repressive, Althusser’s solution of adding “Ideological State Apparatuses” to the traditional Marxist picture of the state as “repressive apparatus” does not satisfy Foucault. According to Foucault, no matter how radically Althusser may have revised it, the concept of “ideology” remains terminally tied to a picture of power as fundamentally repressive.) Is there anything in the emphases of Althusser’s antihumanism that might help clarify antihumanist themes and positions in theory today? And what issues remain unresolved and interesting in Althusser and Foucault’s disagreement about “ideology”?
Deleuze’s Cinema 2, Spring 2020
Comp Lit 210
Euro St 201
Th 3:00- 5:50p

This is the first of a 2-part seminar on Deleuze’s groundbreaking cinema books. Each seminar can be taken independently. Spring 2020 will focus on Cinema 2.

For Deleuze, philosophers construct concepts, while filmmakers construct images, so much so that filmmakers can be classified in terms of the type of image they create. The cinema books do not give us a ‘philosophy of cinema’, or treat filmmaking as ‘thinking in images’. Rather, ‘thinking’ and ‘image-making’ are seen as independent but related activities; which is why the books on cinema can complement and extend Deleuze’s philosophy in important ways. Taking a hint from Bergson, Deleuze organizes cinematic images into two main types, the Movement-Image (Cinema 1), and the Time-Image (Cinema 2). The Movement-Image is not the same as the ‘image of movement’. For one thing, it is related to perception and affection, which may or may not entail any discernible movement. What it produces, even at a very early stage in the history of cinema, are destabilizations of various kinds. The perception-image and the affection-image prepare the ground for a provocative and surprising discussion of the third type of Movement-Image, the action-image. Everywhere, the stress falls not so much on classification but on transformation. Hence, Cinema 1 ends with a discussion of ‘the crisis of the action-image’, which is the hinge between the two cinema books and absolutely crucial for an understanding of cinema today. The seminar will also have occasion to discuss the work of important filmmakers

The seminar will not encumber students with excessive readings. Students will keep a journal on the subject of the seminar, based on lectures, discussions, and further research; do class presentations; and submit a final term paper of around 2500 words.
Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (with its two editions, 1781 and 1787) has been and still is a foundational text for philosophy, but also for politics, ethics, history and anthropology. No  important theoretical contribution can avoid the confrontation with it. For better or for worse.The seminar will offer close readings of the most important sections of the book, as well as openings onto the diverse receptions for it in the XXth century : Heidegger, Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, Adorno, more recently Bernasconi, post-colonial and decolonial thinkers, and even more recently speculative realists.
The general issue of “objectivity” will orient our reading of the Critique of Pure Reason. Following this leading thread will 1) lead us to study the intricacy of two orders of concepts; those of Reality (Realität and Wirklichkeit) and those of Objectivity proper (Dingheit (Thinghood), Objekt, Gegenstand, Appearance, Noumenon, Thing per se, and Objekt X); 2) interrogate the difference between experience (through which "objects" are given) and conditions of possibility of experience (thanks to which objects are regulated and ordered); 3) interrogate the meaning of the "transcendental" as its constitutes the central concept of Kant's redefined and regrounded epistemology and metaphysics.