Unit 1: Modes of Reading

Week 1: Discipline and (“Post”-)Theory

Tuesday, August 20

Week 2: From the New Criticism to the New Formalism

Tuesday, August 27

  • Terry Eagleton, “The Rise of English”, from Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983)
  • Cleanth Brooks, “The Heresy of Paraphrase,” from The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (1947)
  • Caroline Levine, “Introduction: The Affordances of Form”, from Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network (2015)
  • Virginia Jackson and Yopie Prins, “General Introduction”, from The Lyric Theory Reader: A Critical Anthology (2014)

  • NO RESPONSE DUE: Instructor example

Week 3


Week 4: The Hermeneutics of Suspicion 1

Tuesday, September 10

  • Paul Ricoeur, pgs 32-36 from Ch 2 “The Conflict of Interpretations,” from Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation (1965)
  • Karl Marx, selections from The German Ideology (1846, 1932), Grundrisse (1857-58, 1939-42), and Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) (all bundled together as “Marx – selections from Norton” in course readings folder)
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense,” from The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings (1873, 1896)
  • Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny” (1919)
  • Fredric Jameson, Preface from The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (1981)

Week 5: The Hermeneutics of Suspicion 2

Tuesday, September 17

  • Michel Foucault, Part One and Part Two, from The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction (1976, 1978)
  • Toni Morrison, Ch 1 “Black Matters”, from Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992)
  • Eve Sedgwick, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading; or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Introduction is about You,” from Novel Gazing: Queer Readings in Fiction (1997)

Readings removed from syllabus because of class cancellation:

  • These readings are NOT assigned; I have left them on the syllabus so you can refer to them if needed
  • Claude Lévi-Strauss, “A Writing Lesson,” from Tristes Tropiques (1955)
  • Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cock Fight,” from Interpretation of Cultures (1973)
  • Henry Louis Gates Jr., Ch 1 “A Myth of Origins: Esu-Elegbara and the Signifying Monkey,” from The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism (1988)

Week 6: The “Anti-Hermeneutic Turn”

Tuesday, September 24

  • Rita Felski, Ch 1 “The Stakes of Suspicion”, from The Limits of Critique (2015)
  • Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus, “Surface Reading: An Introduction,” Representations 108.1 (2009)
  • Heather Love, “Close But Not Deep: Literary Ethics and the Descriptive Turn”, New Literary History 41.2 (2010)
  • Anne Cheng, “Skin, Tattoos, and Susceptibility,” Representations 108.1 (2009)
  • Keywords essay: Choose one of the NYU Keywords volumes listed here: Select “Essays” and/or “Web Essays” (the format varies slightly), and select one of the essays available online to read for next week.

Unit 2: Theorizing the Present: Hartman and Berlant

Week 7: Notes on Methods in Cultural Criticism

Tuesday, October 1

  • Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies,” originally published in Cultural Studies, eds. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, Paula Treichler (1992)
  • Lauren Berlant, “Collegiality, Crisis, and Cultural Studies,” Profession (1998)
  • Patricia Saunders, “Fugitive Dreams of Diaspora: Conversations with Saidiya Hartman,” Anthurium 6.1 (2008)

  • NO RESPONSE DUE: Instructor example
  • Come to class ready to report the keyword you have chosen to write about in your keyword essay.

Friday, October 4: Keyword essay due

Week 8: Subjectivity and Subjection

Tuesday, October 8

  • Saidiya Hartman, “Introduction” and Ch 1 “Innocent Amusements: The Stage of Sufferance,” from Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (1997)
  • W. E. B. Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” from The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
  • Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience” (1949)
  • Frantz Fanon, Ch 5 “The Fact of Blackness,” from Black Skin, White Masks (1952, 1967)
  • Louis Althusser, pgs 181-194 from “On Ideology,” from Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (1971)

Week 9: Black Feminism, Black Aesthetics

Tuesday, October 15

  • Saidiya Hartman, “A Note on Method,” “A Minor Figure,” “An Atlas of the Wayward”, “1909. 601 West 61st Street. A New Colony of Colored People, or Malindy in Little Africa,” and “Wayward: A Short Entry on the Possible” from Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (2019) (assembled together as “Hartman - Wayward Lives Week 9” in course Box folder)
  • Hortense Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” from Black, White, and In Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture (1987, 2003)
  • Fred Moten, “Resistance of the Object: Aunt Hester’s Scream”, from In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003)
  • Christina Sharpe, Ch 2 “The Ship: The Trans*Atlantic”, from In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (2016)

Week 10: Queer Worlding

Tuesday, October 22

  • Saidiya Hartman, “Mistah Beauty, the Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Woman, Select Scenes from a Film Never Cast by Oscar Micheaux, Harlem, 1920s,” “Family Albums, Aborted Futures: A Disillusioned Wife Becomes an Artist, 1890 Seventh Avenue,” and “The Beauty of the Chorus” from Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (2019) (assembled together as “Hartman - Wayward Lives Week 10” in course Box folder)
  • Eve Sedgwick, pgs 44-59 from “Introduction: Axiomatic,” from Epistemology of the Closet (1990)
  • Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner, “Sex in Public”, Critical Inquiry 24.2 (1998)
  • José Esteban Muñoz, “Introduction: Feeling Utopia” from Cruising Utopia (2009)
  • Jack Halberstam, “Minor Revolutionaries: A New Chapter in Queer Studies,” Los Angeles Review of Books, July 21, 2019:

Week 11: Affect

Tuesday, October 29

  • Lauren Berlant, pgs 1-5 and 23-31 from “Introduction: Intimacy, Publicity, and Femininity,” and Ch 1 “Poor Eliza,” from The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (2008)
  • Sigmund Freud, “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917)
  • Raymond Williams, “Structures of Feeling”, from Marxism and Literature (1977)
  • Sara Ahmed, Introduction, “Feel Your Way,” from The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004)

Week 12: Crisis Ordinariness

Tuesday, November 5

  • Lauren Berlant, Introduction “Affect in the Present,” from Cruel Optimism (2011)
  • Lauren Berlant, “The subject of true feeling: Pain, privacy, and politics,” from Transformations: Thinking Through Feminism, eds. Sara Ahmed, Jane Kilby, Celia Lury, Marueen McNeil and Beverley Skeggs (2000)
  • Anne Cvetcovich, Ch 1 “The Everyday Life of Queer Trauma”, from An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (2003)
  • Saidiya Hartman, “The Anarchy of Colored Girls Assembled in a Riotous Manner,” from Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (2019) (titled “Hartman - Wayward Lives Week 12” in course Box folder)

Week 13: Assembling an Archive 1: What does it mean?

Tuesday, November 12

  • Heather Love, “What Does Lauren Berlant Teach Us About X?”, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 9.4 (2012)
  • Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts”, Small Axe 26.12.2 (2008)

  • Come to class ready to report the final project option you have chosen.

Week 14: Assembling an Archive 2: How do you do it?

Tuesday, November 19

  • Class party: food and drink
  • Saidiya Hartman, “Riot and Refrain” from Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (2019) (titled “Hartman – Wayward Lives Week 14” in course Box folder)
  • Lauren Berlant, Ch 2 “Intuitionists: History and the Affective Event,” from Cruel Optimism (2011)

  • Final project abstract due: email me by class

Week 15


Week 16

Tuesday, December 3

  • No class meeting: extended office hours. Please email Lindsay to arrange a time to meet to discuss your final project.

Tuesday, December 10: Final project due