Worlding, Writing: New Critical Genres
Affiliated Faculty: Judy Farquhar, Bernard Harcourt, Joe Masco, William Mazzarella and Patchen Markell
This module explores new modes of writing and reading—not in an effort to affirm expertise but to imagine productive idioms for critical engagement and assemble novel ways of attending to socio-political phenomena. Through the pursuit of what Bruno Latour calls “interobjectivity” and by encouraging promiscuous disciplinary entanglements, the fundamental purpose here is to generate fresh genres of writing and ways of reading that transgress discipline-bound conventions and induce frame-shifting environments. We ask: What are the new media conjunctures (such as blogging, tweeting, 24-hour news, and e-movements) for communicating thought, and how and when do these operate to cultivate political action (if they do)? How should we imagine the relations between reading rigorously and reading openly? What does it take to construct a knowledge environment in which it matters how people know about their worlds because these worlds demand curiosity and generate new questions?
It is also worth asking what these clustered questions might have to do with the many public, economic, and institutional crises concerning the university’s function that are emerging locally and globally right now. These pose questions as to which kinds of experimental knowledge are supported and which seen as trivial, immaterial, or destructive; how vocational versus intellectual training is valued and for whom; whether and when arguments about education as a public good will include anti-normative knowledge; how research as a vocation should be supported in relation to teaching; who ought to be "served" by education—a consuming public, a general public, other researchers, etc. Each of these quandaries transforms what kinds of register and medium academic work would employ: all of them assume that knowledge production maintains, sustains, and engenders worlds. A project of writing differently inevitably raises the question of reconceiving the historical present. World-making happens amidst the urgencies that mark the present as a space in transition. Producing knowledge amidst transition requires a vigorous experimentality that attends to what is unfolding, what seems discontinuous, and what remains suspended in the poetics of mediation itself.
The Worlding/Writing Project at the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT) presents our 2012-2013 lecture series:
On Affirmation and Criticality
This year, the Worlding/Writing Project of 3CT resumes its interest in experimental critical theory by asking questions of criticism itself. Does criticism only destroy its objects? How do theorists juggle their critical engagements with their conceptions of attachment, resilience, and well-being? How does the form and the tone of criticism impact readers and worlds? What does the insult "merely academic" have to do with our own traditions of associating seriousness with a tragic and morally disciplinary stance? Is the affirmative always naive? This series extends last year's investigation of non-sovereignty by asking how relations defined by negativity—by dramas of the intractable, the impossible, the critical—affect the attachment to forms of life.
Segment I: "Love, Love Will Tear Us Apart?: On Critical Theory and The Urge to Repair"
This series will look seriously at the relation of the critical to the affirmative by way of idioms of love, sex, and care. Its speakers will address and reflectively perform in relation to genres of critical theory and politicized ideas of attachment. Speakers include Michael Hardt (on Love and the Commons as political concepts); Ghassan Hage (on Philosophy, Jouissance, Deafness, and Bourdieu); Melissa Gregg (on Criticality and Care); and Lee Edelman (with Lauren Berlant, on Love, Theory, and Negativity).
Segment II: "At Odds: Critically Affirmative Culture"
Back in 1937, Max Horkheimer called for a critical theory that was always at odds with its world: “Although it itself emerges from the social structure, its purpose is not, either in its conscious intention or in its objective significance, the better functioning of any element in the structure. On the contrary, it is suspicious of the very categories of better, useful, appropriate, productive, and valuable, as these are understood in the present order, and refuses to take them as nonscientific presuppositions about which one can do nothing.” The usefulness of critical theory was its refusal of usefulness. Non-critical ‘traditional theory’ was, by contrast, naively affirmative of the world that produced it. By comparison with the principled alienation of critical theory, affirmative thought was eager to please, keen to fit in.
Does this opposition still make sense to us? Does the commandment to criticality not involve its own affirmations, consolations, and pleasures? And does affirmation necessarily involve anti-critical disavowal? What impact does our response to this question have on the ways we mediate knowledge: in teaching, performing, entextualizing? Are we, as critical theorists, attached to keeping ourselves at odds with the world, perhaps at the cost of looking closer at the places where we are at odds with ourselves in the work of thinking and writing? We predict that the discussions to follow will dent both the ways we view the place of critical theory and criticality in the “crisis” of the humanities and interpretive social sciences and the ways we encounter our singular practices. Speakers will include Sianne Ngai, Eric Hayot, Alexei Yurchak, and Jamie Currie.
- Where Did Lenin Go?
- May 09 2013
- On Sonic Gravity
- February 21 2013
- Academic Writing, I Love You. Really, I Do.
- February 07 2013
- Modest Livelihood
- January 23 2013
- Occupy Wall Street: Bartleby and the (In)Humanities
- November 29 2012
- Literary Gimmicks
- November 20 2012
- On Criticality and Care
- November 01 2012
- Outside Domestication
- October 30 2012
- The Right to the Common
- October 16 2012
- In a Rut
- April 20 2012
- Rolling the Dice: The Art of Chance
- February 3–4 2012
- Losing It: Chaos and the Arts of Attention - Writing Workshop
- November 05 2011
- Losing It: Families, Chaos, and the Arts of Attention - Conference
- November 04 2011