Courses available in French




French 274: Traditions of Critical Thought — French Theory


See Course Description.

Course Description:

This seminar will introduce students to recent theoretical texts written in French and investigate their relationships with the “French Theory” of the 1960s and 1970s. Starting with a few key readings in French Theory, we will map out the different theoretical positions and philosophical traditions that the term covered, while also interrogating this very denomination to replace it in the American context of its creation, and the French context of its production. This will be a point of departure for a study of major theoretical texts written in French from the 1990s onwards, which will be contextualized in relation to earlier tendencies in French thought (reading, for instance, Rancière with and against Althusser, or Mbembé in relation to Foucault and Deleuze), and analyzed in relation to the more recent theoretical trajectories they participate in creating. After an introduction to contemporary theory centered on Derrida’s Spectres de Marx (1993), the seminar will be organized in four sections, which are designed to cover some of the central texts and issues in contemporary theory:  1) The question of community in a post/neo-Marxist, neo-capitalist context. 2) Race and biopolitics. 3) Globalization. 4) Contemporary renewals in the relations between philosophy, the aesthetic and the political, through some of Jacques Rancière’s key writings. For their oral presentations, students will be asked to study theoretical texts in relation to a literary or cinematic work. Ample room will be devoted to refining the methods we use when bringing texts and images in dialogue with theory. In addition to oral presentations, students will write a final research paper related to their own area of specialization. The seminar will be conducted in English. Readings will be in French.

We will most likely read (the entirety or excerpts of) the following texts:

Catherine Malabou, La plasticité au soir de l’écriture

Jacques Derrida, L’écriture et la différence

Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité I, La volonté de savoir

François Cusset, French Theory

Jacques Derrida, Spectres de Marx

Maurice Blanchot, La communauté inavouable

Jean-Luc Nancy, La communauté désœuvrée & La communauté affrontée

Giorgio Agamben, La communauté à venir

Achille Mbembé, Critique de la raison nègre

Etienne Balibar & Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Classe. Les identités ambiguës.

Jean-Luc Nancy, La création du monde ou la mondialisation.

Jacques Rancière, La leçon Althusser; La mésentente; Politique de la littérature, La fable cinématographique.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes