The Craft of Critical Writing

Did you ever wonder how other people get their work done? Or where they get their ideas? Are you curious about the best strategies and habits for clear, forceful, and engaging writing? This seminar about writing and publishing is for you. You must have a seminar paper that you wish to revise for publication in the course of the semester. You must also commit to sending your revised essay out for review by a journal at the end of the semester. The vast majority of our time will be spent discussing the written work of the seminar members.

Studies in Renaissance Literature

In his reading of Rabelais, Mikhail Bakhtin foregrounds an imagistic style that reflects the “fullness of life” in a dialogic and carnivalesque manner. At the same time, he observes that early in the history of followers and imitators of Rabelais, this use of images starts to “disintegrate”; that “Rabelaisian images become petty”; that they “begin to acquire the character of genre and manners”, that their “universalism is considerably watered down”; and that they “began to serve the purpose of satire” where “a weakening of the ambivalent image’s positive pole takes place.

Studies in Literary Theory

In this seminar, we’ll study the relationship between literature and modern discourses on psychopathology. We’ll ask how literature informs and inspires psychoanalysis, schizoanalysis, and psychiatry. But, conversely, we'll also ask how these clinical practices alter the production and reception of literature. How do modernist and later writers respond to the claims of clinical knowledge, whether to borrow from, channel, suspend, complicate, contest, or refuse them?

Studies in Symbolist & Modern Literature

"How do humans read? This question has preoccupied literary critics and historians alike, yet rarely do scholars of the two disciplines join in discussing this foundational question. In this seminar we will bring together theoretical and historical analyses and offer various modalities to conceptualize the practice of reading.

The Life of Sound

The study of sound–in relation to music, literature, media, and performance–has required scholars to reconceive their objects of study and, in many cases, the very grounds of interpretation. In this seminar we aim to build a shared vocabulary to consider how material encounters are interwoven with symbolic exchanges to produce that experience we commonly call sound. Perhaps because sound has so often been overlooked as fundamental to cultural life, it also has served repeatedly as the adhesive for community formations organized in opposition to dominant cultures.

The Novel & Sociological, Linguistic Anthropological, and Other Forms of Knowledge

What are the resources novels marshal to produce knowledge of different kinds? How does the social location from which they emerge impact what they say, the knowledge they can hold. Along with six novels, we will pursue a set of readings from sociology and linguistic anthropology, as well as some key essays from the literature on critical sexuality studies and decolonial thinking. Among the concepts that will be of central concern for us will be point of view, forms of capital, cultural fields, and language ideologies.

Methods of Teaching Literature and English Composition

This seminar offers practical support for Graduate Student Instructors beginning to design and teach Reading and Composition (R&C) courses on the UC Berkeley campus. Together and in dialogue with other instructors, we will explore a spectrum of theories and practices related to teaching literature and college composition, while testing and critiquing these against our own expanding experiences as students, writers, and teachers.

Adorno's Aesthetic Theory

This seminar (""co-listed"" as Critical Theory 205) is not an introduction to Theodor W. Adorno’s work; rather, it will involve sustained reading and discussion of Adorno’s last major text, which he was still finishing at the time of his 1969 death: AESTHETIC THEORY (1970). We will be reading Robert Hullot-Kentor’s English translation of ÄSTHETISCHE THEORIE. Though we will sometimes briefly consider the original German text, knowledge of German is not required (though it would of course prove very helpful).

Obscure Life

This introduction to comparative literary study at the graduate level will also be a seminar on how to read what Michel Foucault calls “obscure life.” Foucault uses this phrase to refer to what he takes to be the object of “literary discourse” as we know it, a discourse whose emergence he locates (debatably) at the end of the seventeenth century.

Poetic Justice

In this joint seminar we will examine some of the conceptual and thematic places where literature and law cross over into each other’s domain. The focus will be on novel reading – Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, and Lolita – and on texts where crime, judgment and punishment assume particular procedural, narrative, moral or metafictive importance. We will pay particular attention to the themes of transgression, healing and vengeance and how they play out in legal and metafictive fora.