- Course Number: ENGL 236
- Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 236
- Quarter: Fall 2019
If the aim of critical theory is to generate new concepts that can help explain the reality in which we live, how useful are the new directions critical discourse has taken recently, from affect theory to dark ecology, from posthumanism to new materialism? What are the main concepts of critical analysis today and how do they help us to navigate the present? Disaster and postpolitics are perhaps the two key terms of this time. The discourse of disaster runs along two parallel and at times intersecting trajectories, that of environmental catastrophe and of the catastrophe that Neoliberalism, as an economic, political social, and cultural event has produced during the past forty years. Neoliberalism has put in place a new subjectivity (homo oeconomicus, trained to see itself as human capital), new forms of power and of governance, along with what Mark Fisher calls “capitalist realism”, the foreclosure of any alternative to what is. While Felix Guattari invites us to think transversally across the environmental, the social, and the personal, the theoretical analysis of the present seems to run along two parallel tracks: 1) a historico-materialist critique of Neoliberalism in all its aspects, particularly the cultural/human one; and 2) a discussion of the posthuman centered on a refusal of human exceptionalism in the name of “life”, defined not as bios but as zoe, non-human process. The aim of the seminar is to examine these two parallel discourses through their key concepts in order to recognize/assess their possible points of contact (for instance their shared opposition to capital) as well as the moments of friction. New materialist vitalism, as an immanentist philosophical discourse, focuses on a collaborative ethic between human and nonhuman: what about politics as a collective practice of confrontation, antagonism, struggle? Should we speak the language of the posthuman, originating in the discourse of science, when more and more human and civil rights are taken away from women, queer, people of color, and other “expendable” others? Last but not least, what is the position of the aesthetic, (art, literature), in the simultaneously extreme (the environment) and bland, or simply blah, panorama of postpolitics and disaster? Can aesthetic, as some critics suggest, be a locus of dissent and refusal, where change can be dreamed up vis-à-vis the contemporary move to euphoria or despair, utopia or apocalypse? We will discuss the posthuman and the posthumous, the multitude and empire, debt, trancorporeality, postpolitics; the creolization of the arts; transversality and transgender; the return of the erotic; pharmapornography and the pornographization of society; neocolonialism, migration and securitization.
Readings from, among others, Antonio Negri, Silvia Federici, Paolo Virno, Maurizio Lazzarato, Melinda Cooper, Rosi Braidotti, Claire Colebrook, Timothy Morton, Paul Preciado, Jack Halberstam, Jody Dean, Byung-Chul-Han, Franco Berardi; Inderpal Grewal.