Indiana University Bloomington

Courses

 

Fall 2021

CTIH-T600, Special Topics in Critical Theory: “The Feeling Body: Psychoanalysis, Phenomenology, and Embodied Cognition.”

Professor Patricia C. Ingham, Dept. of English

Thursdays, 11:30am - 12:45pm, BH 317

What is the place of psychoanalysis in the age of the brain? If cognitive science once seemed to render psychoanalysis yesterday’s news, recent neuroscientific conceptualizations of embodied or distributed cognition have returned us to perplexing questions familiar from a century of psychoanalytic work: what is the nature of the unconscious? What explains the persistence of psychic trauma in excess of history, or the event? How are we to understand how and why emotional states (depression or anxiety, e.g.) are ‘catching’? What is the role of ‘mirroring’ in art, in mothering, or in our motor neurons?

This course will stage a conversation across three fields: psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and cognitive science, so as to assess a recent set of integrative accounts of body and mind. Rather than duplicate stale oppositions of biology to history, organism to environment, or neuroscience to psychoanalysis, we will read neuroscience alongside psychoanalytic theory. How and why does Norman Doidge’s “Psychoanalysis as a Neuroplasic Therapy” return us to Freudian theory and praxis? What are the implications of Catherine Malabou’s account of ‘negative plasticity’ (in The New Wounded) for a reading of Freud’s account of the repetition compulsion in Beyond the Pleasure Principle?

Attention to the affordances as well as to methodological and evidentiary differences will frame our turn to recent work on embodied cognition, particularly some persuasive models of ’enactivism,’ those mixed accounts that accommodate both the body in environment and the effect of thinking and feeling on accounts of both. We will read Giovanna Colombetti’s The Feeling Body (2014) and Elizabeth Wilson’s Gut Feminism (2017) alongside the standard psychoanalytic theories with which they engage. Topics under discussion include trauma (and trauma theory); aesthetics and aesthetic experience; biologism and its vicissitudes; models of the unconscious; theories of interpersonal attunement; attachment theory. No previous familiarity with either psychoanalysis or neuroscience is expected, but everyone should come with an open mind.

 

CTIH-T600, Special Topics in Critical Theory: “Derrida’s Of Grammatology and Deconstruciton: Coloniality and Post-Coloniality, Technics and the Human, Language and Materiality”

Professor Patrick Dove, Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese

Mondays, 1:15pm - 5:45pm, BH 010

This course will embark on a deliberate and thorough reading of Jacques Derrida’s major work Of Grammatology (1967). A landmark in deconstruction, this book provides a set of fascinating and instructive case studies for understanding both what deconstruction does as a critical practice and how it differs from the institutional discourses with which it engages (Continental Philosophy, political thought, structuralism, to name just a few). A careful reading will thus prepare us to talk about how deconstruction in fact distinguishes itself in subtle but important ways from “similar” concepts such as negation and critique.

By the same token, this engagement with Of Grammatology will help us to appreciate what I will call the historical scope of Derrida’s critical practice. The returns to canonical works and thinkers of the philosophical tradition (Plato, Descartes, Leibnitz, Kant, Rousseau, Hegel) does not seek to undermine and dismiss, as deconstruction is often said to do, but rather to seek out and exploit the internal gaps, lacunae, and intervals within those philosophical discourses and systems. What I call “intervals” are not contradictions in the ordinary sense—they are not resolvable through logic—and their importance for Derrida has to do with an unstated but sustained attempt to repeat the Heideggerian gesture of the Anfang, the articulation of an “other beginning” that would inaugurate a new way of thinking and experiencing history. The deconstructive wager, in other words, is an attempt to reexamine the interrelatedness of present, past and future; an attempt to pose anew the question of what happens in our world and how thought and language are involved and implicated in history.

While Of Grammatology can serve as an instructive guide book for understanding deconstruction as critical practice, it can also be read as an important engagement with the conceptual foundations of European colonialism and modernity, humanism and the distinction between the human and technology, and the question of language in distinction from materiality. The implications and ramifications that Derrida’s text has for these contexts will be developed through supplementary readings by Saussure, Lévi-Strauss and Leroi Gourhan, as well as with works by thinkers for whom Of Grammatology has proven influential, such as Bernard Stiegler’s writings on technics and time, Gayatri Spivak’s early writings on coloniality and subalternity, and Catherine Malabou’s work on plasticity. With each of these “supplementary” thinkers, we can see how Of Grammatology has opened up a space for innovative theoretical work in which the point is neither to reproduce instituted forms of knowledge nor to do away with what has been written and thought in the past, but to return to the archive in an effort to uncover new possibilities for thinking that have not yet been accounted for and assimilated into the tradition.

 

Spring 2022

CTIH-T600, Special Topics in Critical Theory: “Love.”

Professor Constance Furey, Dept. of Religious Studies

Time TBD

This course will examine various theoretical explorations of what we call, simply, “Love.” Hannah Arendt, who wrote her doctoral thesis on love in St. Augustine, declares love a non-political force, crucially and necessarily sequestered to the private realm. The Christian insistence on the binding force of love, she argues, has expanded love’s jurisdiction and diminished the space for politics, properly understood. And yet in recent years, numerous theorists have identified love as a crucial correction to critique and a necessary element of politics. Eve Sedgwick’s call for reparative reading and Slavoj Zizek’s endorsement of a politics of love demonstrate both the importance and the appeal of this move.

This course will take David Nirenberg’s broadside, “The Politics of Love and Its Enemies” (Critical Inquiry 2007) as a starting point, to highlight the reasons why love might be deemed as dangerous as it is powerful in the related realms of politics and critique. The first book, to which we will devote at least three weeks, will be Hannah Arendt’s remarkable and still understudied thesis, Love and St. Augustine (1929; Eng. trans. 1996), with some comparative readings of her arguments about love and religion in The Human Condition. Our plan is to then to explore one genealogy of a politics of love with sources that will include selections from Luther; Hegel’s First Jena Lecture; Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity; Gillian Rose’s Love’s Work: A Reckoning with Life; and Zizek’s brief for Christian love, The Fragile Absolute. Simone Weil and Eve Sedgwick are also likely to find their way onto the syllabus.

 

CTIH-T600, Special Topics in Critical Theory: “Repetition”

Professor Jennifer Fleissner, Dept. of English

Time TBD

The topic of repetition is the abjected other to the notion of modernity as progress. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, from the eighteenth century to the present, it has captured the attention of philosophers, theorists, and artists across various media. This class presents an introduction to some of the most important strands within the conceptualization of this underappreciated subject, demonstrating its continued relevance for thinking through questions from habit to history, compulsion to pleasure, difference to stereotypy. Readings will likely include: Hume, Hegel, and Ravaisson on habit; Kierkegaard on “recollection forward”; Nietzsche on eternal return; Freud and Lacan on the compulsion to repeat; Bergson on laughter and the mechanical; Deleuze on difference and repetition; Snead and Moten on the “cut” in music; and Beauvoir and Butler on repetition and gender. If we have time, we’ll also look at a few salient artistic examples, such as the writings of Beckett, Tom McCarthy’s novel Remainder, and/or Jacques Rivette’s film Céline et Julie vont en bateau.

 

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