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Theory as the Letter B: What do Badiou, Bakhtin, Barthes, Benjamin, Beauvoir, Borges and Butler have in common?

ENGL 294.402
also offered as: COML 291.402
TR 12-1:30

This course will offer an introduction to modern and contemporary theory by using a simple constraint. The serendipity of the alphabetical order has gathered for us some of the most important authors whose works collectively define theory today. Limiting our readings to authors whose names begin with a B, we will read nine foundational theoreticians of the 20th century and of today. We will begin by examining three founders of modern theory: Walter Benjamin, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Roland Barthes. Then the works of Jorge Luis Borges, Georges Bataille, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Blanchot, which combine fiction and philosophy, offer another spin on writerly aspects of theory. Finally two contemporary thinkers, Alain Badiou and Judith Butler, will allow us to engage wit discussions about feminism, psychoanalysis, Marxism, cultural politics and “inaesthetics.” As Wallace Stevens would say: “Let B. be finale of seem.”

Most of the texts are online. Bibliography: Alain Badiou, A Handbook of Inaesthetics  (2005); Mikhail Bakhtin, The Bakhtin Reader (1995); Roland Barthes, A Barthes Reader (1983) and How To Live Together (2012); Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess (1985); Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (2011); Walter Benjamin, Illuminations (1969), Maurice Blanchot, The Station Hill Blanchot Reader (1995); Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths (1962); Judith Butler, Gender Trouble (1990).

Requirements: one oral presentation, one short paper (8 pages) and a final paper (10 pages).

fulfills requirements
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major