Studies in Literary Criticism and Theory: Slow Modernity

Course Number: ENGL 236
Prerequisites: Graduate Standing
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 236
Quarter: Winter 2015
Instructor: Boscagli, Maurizia
Day(s): R
Time: 11:00 AM – 1:30 PM
Location: SH 2617
Description:

     If the 20th century, as the time of two different phases of capitalist growth, is considered by the critics as the time of modernization, progress, energy, high productivity, work, and speed, could we instead trace the lineaments of a “slow” history of 20th and 21st century modernity? What would this narrative of an alter-modernity centered on slowness, waste, not-doing, passivity make visible? Can this cultural response to the injunction to produce (value, oneself, and the world) be considered a form of resistance, a way to reclaim time and life, particularly today, at a moment when, in a neoliberal perspective, life has come to fully coincide with work? Furthermore, what could theorizing slowness, at the moment of global economic “de-growth”, imply for the materialist cultural critic? What new understanding of subjectivity, power, space and time would this theorizing allow?

    The seminar addresses these questions first by studying different figures of refusal: from the fin de siècle aesthete, to the dysfunctional modern white collar worker, the employee, to the Surrealist bohemian, to the Situationist flaneur, among others. At the same time we will examine the issue of slow modernity in a number of contexts, which include the refusal of work (1960s Autonomia); “black study” (Stefano Harney and Fred Moten); the refusal of futurity (Lee Edelman); queer failure (Jack  Halberstam); the contestation of the work ethic; space and the spectacle (Georges Perec); and, last but not least, the “uselessness” of the humanities, in order to engage with current theoretical and critical conversations on the “end” of modernity spurred by the current financial and environmental crisis.

Readings by Paul Lafargue, Georges Bataille, Walter Benjamin, Mario Tronti, Roland Barthes, Teresa Brennan, Jonathan Crary, Wendy Brown, Nigel Thrift, David Harvey, Judith Butler, Frederic Jameson, Franco Berardi,