WGSS 322
Introduction to Critical Theory Spring 2018
Division II Writing Skills Exploring Diversity Initiative
Cross-listed WGSS 322 / PHIL 321
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

“Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason-that is the motto of Enlightenment.” Thus the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant exhorts his contemporaries to muster the courage to cultivate their capacity for reason. Modern faith in the prospects of universal human dignity, rational autonomy, the rights of man, individual liberty, democracy, open scientific inquiry and social and political progress depend upon it. Yet in 19th and 20th centuries we find the promise of Enlightenment tempered by the rise of nationalism and the persistence of racism, sexism, genocide, terrorism, and religious extremism as well as the emergence of wars of mass destruction, environmental degradation, and the potential for manipulation of populations by consumerist mass media. Can the promise of Enlightenment be redeemed? In this tutorial we begin with short readings by Kant, Hegel and Marx, key sources for critical social theory in the 20th century. Possible topics may include: alienation, authoritarianism, “pathologies of reason,” and reification, as well as recognition, the idea of socialism, and progress. Possible other figures read may include: Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin, Jurgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, Amy Allen, Noelle McAfee, Judith Butler, Elizabeth Grosz, Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard, and Gilles Deleuze, Georgio Agamben, Frantz Fanon, Edward Said and Achille Mbembe, as well as current critiques of neoliberal capitalism. Although we will not directly address diversity issues except insofar as cultural, racial, class, sexual and other differences are bound up within power or domination relations, insofar as the course examines social and political power, oppression and domination, and the possibility or viability of the idea of human emancipation it meets the EDI requirement. This tutorial will be adapted for WGSS students seeking to meet a theory requirement.
The Class: Format: tutorial, students will work in pairs and meet for 75 minutes each week with the professor
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3940
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: each student will write and present a 5- to 6-page paper every other week and a commentary on their partner's essay on alternate weeks;
Extra Info: evaluations are based on written work as well as level of preparation and intellectual engagement in tutorial meetings
Extra Info 2: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: demonstrated background in modern philosophy, critical theory, political theory, or continental philosophy
Enrollment Preferences: current and prospective Philosophy majors and students with a sufficient background in political or critical theory
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Exploring Diversity Initiative
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
WGSS 322 Division II PHIL 321 Division II
Attributes: PHIL History Courses
WGSS Theory Courses

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