Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG418H1S L0101

ENG418H1S L0101 MW 10-12
Advanced Seminar Group 1: Wild Theory
Philip Sayers
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Jackman Humanities Building, Room TBA

Brief Description of Course: The border between literature and theory is a porous one: so-called theorists such as Roland Barthes, Frantz Fanon, Avital Ronell, and Paul B. Preciado write texts that could just as easily be read as literature, whilst contemporary writers such as Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, and Chris Kraus produce literary work that is highly theoretical. The aim of this seminar is primarily to give students new ways of thinking about the relationship between theory and literature. It does so by focusing on what Maggie Nelson calls wild theory: works that straddle the literature/theory border, and that “cannot be easily domesticated into a single discipline.” Along the way, students will gain familiarity with some of the most vital strands of contemporary critical theory (including queer and feminist theory, biopolitics, and critical race theory), and their key antecedents.Our readings and discussions will be focused on the following questions: Where do the boundaries lie between theoretical and literary discourse, and how do texts that defy those boundaries change our understanding of what theory is, and what literature is? What kinds of readers do these thinkers write for, and how does their anticipated readership affect their writing? We will also think about what it means to write critically and theoretically: what lessons from thinkers like Barthes, hooks, or Benjamin can we bring to bear on our own academic writing?

Required Reading: Selections from: Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts; Claudia Rankine, Citizen; Chris Kraus, I Love Dick; Kate Zambreno, Heroines; Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida and The Neutral; Walter Benjamin, One Way Street and The Arcades Project; Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks; Chris Kraus and Sylvère Lotringer (eds), Hatred of Capitalism: A Semiotext(e) Reader; Avital Ronell, Crack Wars: Literature, Addiction, Mania; Paul B. Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era; bell hooks, Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black; Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Studies; Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life and blog posts from

Method of Evaluation: Presentation: (15%); theoretical writing assignment: (20%); research paper proposal: (10%); research paper: (40%); participation: (15%).

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