- Course Number: ENGL 236
- Advisory Enrollment Information:
- Quarter: Winter 2024
If the working body, continually changed by new forms of labor and technology, has taken the center stage in contemporary critical discourse, the body at pleasure seems to have receded into silence. Desire, a keyword of the 1960s, and its invocation of an aesthetic dimension of life, seems to be out of sync with the contemporary scenario of precarity and scarcity, where change has been made unimaginable, and pleasure has come to coincide with work. In this reality, all desire appears to be fully saturated and all pleasure sublimated into productivity. On the one hand, the jocularity and social-sexual experimentations of the 1960s and 1970s have been taken over by capital’s “creativity;” on the other, it has become more and more difficult to imagine a different world, something that is not-yet, now presented as both unnecessary and impossible, in a context where every desire has been, allegedly, fully satisfied. This seminar investigates the disappearance of desire from today’s cultural and political vocabulary, in order to affirm, instead, its proximity to utopia and its revolutionary potential, its power of refusal, of the work ethic, of authority, of oppression, as well as of “positivity”—the positivity of the contemporary New Age culture of wellness and self-improvement, for example. In learning from the 1960s and 1970s particular relevance will be given to women’s and queer’s struggles, and to anticolonial resistance, keeping in mind theoretical efforts, then and now, to rethink desire away from the dialectic, as visible in Deleuze and Guattari’s writing and in Mark Fisher’s Spinozian “psychedelic reason,” in the protest of Autonomia and the Punk movement in England, and in contemporary elaborations of new pedagogies.
Readings from Paul Lafargue, Silvia Federici, Audre Lorde, the Combahee River Collective, Françoise Vergès, Monique Wittig, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard, Guy Debord, Italo Calvino, Franco Berardi, Lauren Berlant, Kathy Weeks, Byun-Chul Han, Jennifer Cotter, Bruce Robbins and others.