Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of English
Spring 2012
Home > Graduate > Courses > Past courses > Spring 2012

ENG 802:  Criticism Theory and Method

Professor McCallum

Monday, 4:10 - 7:00 PM

This course is a reading course in foundational texts of literary, critical, and hermeneutic theory. Our focus in this version will be on the tensions between the operations of language and the understanding or conceptualization of the human.Our approach is neither comprehensive nor a survey of critical theory; rather we work in depth in a number of key texts that instigated the lines of thinking that emerged as “theory” in American university literature departments in the late 20thcentury. From these predominantly German-language philosophical and psychoanalytic texts, we will tarry with poststructuralist theory, promulgated by French-language scholars in the mid-20thcentury, and then finally we will turn to more recent works that have developed the questions limned by continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, and linguistics.

A core objective of the course will be to develop skills in close reading—as a process of reading, writing, and analysis. Close reading undertakes a demonstration of how the text works, by attending to such formal elements as the actual words on the page, their order within a sentence, their valence as figures of speech, the patterns that emerge from their repetition, and the sets of associations generated around them.The aim is not simply to master the content of the text (although certainly that will not be incidental), but to employ this interpretive methodin order to change how we understand the text and elucidate the questions that arise out of the text's concerns.Because close reading attends to detail, anyone who can read French or German is strongly exhorted to have a go at the translated texts in their original, regardless of your level of fluency.

ENG 819:  Special Topics: Theorizing the World

Professors Harrow, Hassan, and Schoonover

Tuesday, 7:10 – 10:00 PM

Do the concepts of the world, the globe, the planetary, and the earth operate as synonyms? How do theorizations of the world overlap with and/or challenge the thinking about globalization? Do recent critiques of "world literature" and "world cinema" encourage us to reconsider world-making and global imagining? How do we understand the idea of one world in the context of globalization, transnationalism, internationalism, and cosmopolitanism? This course addresses these questions and others by examining theoretical writings that question the political order and also the cultural paradigms that have relied on the idea of the world as an organizing principle. To this end, the course will include readings by the following theorists and critics, among others: Wallerstein on World Systems, Said on worldliness, Schmitt on the Nomos of the Earth ("Old World and New World"), Moretti on world literature model and Spivak on other worldings, Appadurai on global cultures, Appiah on counter cosmopolitanisms, Cheah and Robbins on "cosmopolitics," and Jameson on "cognitive mapping." In addition, we will consider the various qualified uses of the concept of the world, for example in fractures such as the Arab World, the Third World, and the Fourth World. For cinema and media we will undertake similar considerations of "world cinema," Third Cinema, and the work of cultural theorists who propose means of conceptualizing the Global South including Shohatt and Stam, Chow, Ferguson, and Mattelart. We will also question redemptive paradigms of transnationalism that figure fragmented and hybrid experience as the harbinger of a post-national and stateless utopia. Related notions of Empire, internationalism, human rights, and systems of networks will be explored.

ENG 820:  Modern Psychonautics

Professors Michaelsen and Rachman

Sec 002, Monday, 7:10 - 10:00 PM

By 1800 the great classical, medieval, and early modern experiments in psychonautics (from the Greek ψυχή [psychē = "soul/spirit/mind"] and ναύτης [naútēs = "sailor/navigator"]) had seemingly come to an end. William Blake was writing, but few were paying attention. Francis Barrett published The Magus in 1801, but it was little more than regurgitated Agrippa. The Age of Reason had made everyone so…“reasonable”! The triple threat of modern Biblical hermeneutics, astronomy, and emergent evolutionist science seemed to have forever smashed the myths and ghosts of the past.  Romanticism offered a critique of Enlightenment that privileged the visionary but, sensing a need for new cosmologies, it sought novel directions and syntheses; and, during the Victorian and Gilded Age eras, an insurgency of new religions emphasized exciting avenues of research for psychonauts: drugs, sex, the “discovery” of Buddhism and Hinduism, and the general rediscovery and reinvention of magic (neoplantonism, kabbalism, hermeticism, gnosticism, Pythagorianism, and the like). In this milieu, common sense, the technologies of everyday reality, and Cartesian certainty were put at risk. Adventurers practiced sex magic and yoga, took opium and hash, and hazarded auto-asphyxiation and radical solitude, as methods for speculatively probing the limits of the real. In the 19th century, the forms of psychonautic writing included the illuminated book, automatic writing and drawing, the modern grimoire, the self-help manual, and the inward epic. As the 20th century advanced, psychonauts began to experiment with popular literary forms: the weird tale, horror, and science fiction, and, ultimately, the graphic novel at the turn of the 21st century. The discursive reach of these "pioneers of inner space" provide an opportunity to explore the relations between the occult and fundamental formations of culture and literature. From romanticism to the "free love" movements of the early twentieth century to the Beats and beyond, the psychonautical remains a kind of peripheral alternative discourse that has sought and continues to seek to reorient our relations to the "real," imaginary, fantastic, material/spiritual, known, and the unknown.  This course navigates these strange seas, and attempts to map them in relation to mainstream intellectual, cultural and literary currents. Dead ends or new doors of perception? Kooks or prophets or profiteers? Whithersoever, we’ll cast new light (and darkness) on modern literary production during our semester together.

The following is a list of some possible texts.  The list is already too long, so please e-mail either of us regarding what you’d like to see in the final selection (rachman@msu.edu, smichael@msu.edu):

Emmanuel Swedenborg.  Selections

William Blake.  Selections

Francis Barrett.  The Magus (1801)

Thomas de Quincy.  Confessions of an Opium Eater (1821)

Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Nature (1836)

Edgar Allan Poe.  Eureka (1848)

Eliphas Levi.  Paradoxes of the Highest Science (1856)

Fitz Hugh Ludlow.  The Hasheesh Eater (1857)

Paschal Beverly Randolph.  Sexual Magic (1861-75)

Mary Baker Eddy.  Science and Health (1875)

Madame Blavatsky.  Isis Unveiled (1877)

Friedrich Nietzsche.  Thus Spake Zaranthustra (1883-5)

J.K. Huysmans.  La-Bas (Down There) (1891)

Ira Craddock.  Heavenly Bridegrooms (1895)

William James.  The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)

Aleister Crowley.  The Book of the Law (1904), The Book of Lies (1913)

William Hope Hodgson.  The House on the Borderland (1908)

Austin Osman Spare.  The Book of Pleasure (Self Love) (1913)

Arthur Machen.  The Hill of Dreams (1907)

Charles Fort.  The Book of the Damned (1919) or Lo! (1931)

David Lindsay.  A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)

HP Lovecraft.  Cthulhu cycle  (1926-35)

L. Ron Hubbard.  Typewriter in the Sky (1940), Dianetics: The Original Thesis (1951)

Theodore Sturgeon.  More Than Human (1953)

Aldous Huxley.  The Doors of Perception (1954)

Georges Bataille.  Inner Experience (1954)

J.G. Ballard.  Memories of the Space Age (1962-85)

Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, et al., The Psychedelic Experience (1964)

Carlos Casteneda.  The Teachings of Don Juan (1968)

William S.  Burroughs.  Nova Express (1964), The Third Mind (w. Bryon Gysin) (1977)

Philip K. Dick.  The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich (1965)

Robert Anton Wilson.  Cosmic Trigger 1 (1977)

Grant Morrison.  The Invisibles (1994-2000)

Alan Moore. Promethea (1999-2005)