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Originally Taught: Unknown

Postcritique’s proponents see in it an escape from the circular logics of critique and the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion,’ claiming the positive articulation of new values that, they say, revive questions about literature, interpretation, affect, and aesthetics. Its detractors see postcritique as a discourse that encourages lazy interpretations, languishing between unstable metaphysics on the one hand and an untenable synthesis of empiricism and phenomenology on the other.

This course asks: what are the properties of postcritique, what is its object and what are its conditions of possibility? Starting with Sedgwick’s famous introduction to Novel Gazing (1997), these questions will take us through metaphysics as varied as Marxian materialism, Derridean poststructuralism, actor-network theory, whatever it is that Wittgenstein does, and the idealist aesthetics of Kant and of Hegel. It will ultimately connect the discourses of critique and postcritique to the two commodities at the center of all universities, education and research, leading us to the revelation that postcritique is not symptomatic of crisis in the Humanities, but a crisis of crisis as such.

Week 1: Critique, postcritique, and Literary Studies

  • Rita Felski and Elizabeth Anker, Critique and Postcritique (2017), “Introduction”
  • Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy (1970), “Problematic: The Placing of Freud”
  • Anahid Nersessian, “For Love of Beauty?”
  • John Guillory, Cultural Capital (1993), “Canonical and Noncanonical: The Current Debate”

Week 2: Eve Sedgwick, suspicion! and Cultural Studies

  • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading (1997)
  • Bill Readings, The University in Ruins (1997), Intro, Chapter 7

Week 3: Rita Felski and Derek Attrdige: sociology versus singularity, ontology and experience

  • Rita Felski, “Context Stinks!” (2011)
  • Rita Felski, Uses of Literature (2008
  • Derek Attridge, The Singularity of Literature (2004), “Introductory”

Week 4: Charles Altieri: the politics of idealist aesthetics; valuation and evaluation

  • Charles Altieri, Reckoning With the Imagination (2015), Introduction
  • Sarah de Rijcke and Bart Penders, “Resist calls for replicability in the humanities,” Nature (2018) 
  • Chad Wellmon and Andrew Piper, “Publication, Power, and Patronage: On Inequality and Academic Publishing,” Critical Inquiry Blog, 21 July 2017 (updated 2 October 2017)

Week 5: Crisis, ‘The University’

  • Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon, Permanent Crisis (2021), Introduction
  • Simon During, “Stop Defending the Humanities,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 2019
  • Moten and Harney, The Undercommons (2013), “The University and the Undercommons”