In this course, we will focus on the critical theoretical legacies of the French thinker, Michel Foucault, paying special attention to his accounts of the modern techniques of knowledge, power, and pleasure that have come to manage human life since the end of the eighteenth century. We will begin by reading two of his most famous studies, Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality, Volume One. From there, we will turn to the recently published series of lectures he delivered at the College de France in that same period, wherein he develops in greater detail his notions of “biopolitics” and “governmentality” as they relate to liberalism as the pre-eminent strategy of modern government. Along the way, we will situate his arguments in relationship to other contemporary theorists such as Judith Butler, Giorgio Agamben, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Roberto Esposito, Ann Laura Stoler, and David Halperin. As Foucault is an eminently historical theorist of power and knowledge, we will also seek when possible to consider how his writings might reframe our perspectives on the formations of colonialism, capitalism, fascism, globalization, and neoliberalism. We will also consider his contributions to such influential paradigms as queer theory, biopolitics, and critical race studies.
We will delve into Victorian literature and culture, focusing on the years 1830-1900. We will learn about the British Empire and opposition to it in this period. We will also study scientific, artistic, and sexual movements of these decades, as well as economic and political ideas. We will consider the figure of the "New Woman” in life and art, as notions of gender equality changed in Britain and beyond. We will also reflect on current debates in Victorian studies: what counts as Victorian literature? Who decides and on what basis? In terms of reading, expect to sample gothic horror and marriage plots gone awry; imperialist and anti-imperialist fiction and history; poems, plays, essays, and more. Specific historical topics include Chartism, the Opium Wars, the Indian Mutiny, Orientalism, and the Morant Bay Rebellion, among others. Writers will include: Mary Prince, Mary Seacole, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Dinabandhu Mitra, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Friedrich Engels, Charles Darwin, Anthony Trollope, Vernon Lee, Sarah Grand, Tekahionwake, William Morris, and Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, among others.
Being surveilled may be one of the quintessential experiences of modernity, and works of creative literature have grappled with experiential, affective, political, and philosophical aspects of surveillance since its inception. In recent decades, surveillance studies has emerged as an academic field that attempts to theorize surveillance across the traditional disciplinary boundaries of the social sciences, computer/data sciences, humanities, and fine arts. In this course, we will explore the possibilities that works of literature from the early 19th century to the present offer for theorizing surveillance, and track the changes how creative texts register public perceptions of surveillance as a set of practices and category of experience over time.
The first weeks of the course will focus on the origins of surveillance as a cultural practice of population management that developed simultaneously to the novel. The remaining weeks will be organized topically around how questions of race, gender, geography/borders, scopic regimes, citizenship status/documents, the secular, sexuality, privacy, and risk, as well as those questions raised by specific surveillance technologies and data analytics prevalent under what has been termed surveillance capitalism, shape surveillance literature’s aesthetics. (This rather ambitious list may be pruned to some degree according to the expressed interests of students as they develop their semester projects.) As we read, we will also consider how the historical surveillance of Black, anti-colonial, and leftist novelists and playwrights by state intelligence agencies is encoded in the works of literature those artists produced.
This class counts as an elective for the Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory interdisciplinary graduate minor.
Primary authors currently under consideration: Elizabeth Gaskell, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Claude McKay, Elizabeth Bowen, Raymond Chandler, Seamus Heaney, Han Kang, G Willow Wilson, Anna Burns, Claudia Rankine, Colston Whitehead, Anna Burns, Deepak Unnikrishnan, Kei Miller, Kamila Shamsie
Required for first year students; meets every other week. “How to graduate-student.”
Meets every other week; preparation of application materials, approaches to the process, all career paths.
Please see instructor for updates.
Following Saidiya V. Hartman’s ground-breaking work in Scenes of Subjection, this course examines abject representations of the black body in early visual and written narratives. We will study a range of narratives that the address the enslaved and captive black body. We will also read critical texts, such as Winthrop Jordan’s White Over Black and Edward Said’s Orientalism, that examine through a critical lens the social and cultural use value of the abject black body. Additionally, we will read slave narratives and study visual representations of black bodies in pre-1900 texts. Our primary concern in this course is how images and words come together to produce a black ontology of crisis and suffering and continue to contribute to what Roland Barthes calls a “history of looking” at abject black bodies.