(Below is the description for my spring doctoral seminar at NYU. Consortium students in the New York area are welcome to join us.)
French Theory Since 1989
(MCC-GE 3010 Special Topics in Critical Theory)
Thursdays 2:00 – 4:50 pm.
Prof. Alexander R. Galloway
New York University
French theory has exerted considerable influence on the world stage in recent decades. French intellectual exports from the post-World War II period, particularly in the area of feminism, semiotics, and post-structuralism, helped form an entire generation of theoretical inquiry in the English-speaking world. Even today, after the high water mark of postmodern theory has receded, the significance of figures like Michel Foucault or Roland Barthes has not so much faded as insinuated itself deeply into literary canons and course syllabi across the humanities and liberal arts.
This course focuses on recent French theory and philosophy published roughly during the last two decades, work that in some way deviates from the “greatest generation” of 1960s and ’70s theory. Our aim is to avoid some of the more familiar texts from the past, and instead seek out a new collection of thinkers, and indeed a new incarnation of critical and philosophical questions more apt for the contemporary landscape.
Starting with work of Catherine Malabou, Isabelle Stengers, Bruno Latour, and Tristan Garcia, we broach the question of materialism, specifically how best to understand the materiality of bodies, societies, and worlds. Then, in turning to a series of more explicitly rationalist and formalist texts, we examine a series of assessments of contemporary philosophy (specifically, ontology) from Quentin Meillassoux, Alain Badiou, and François Laruelle.
We treat this new roster as a divergent conversation of numerous voices, not a unified school with a single set of interests. Two particular questions guide the seminar: how does the author engage with ontology, and how does the author engage with the political. Several additional themes will structure the conversation, including new materialism, speculative realism, scientific rationalism, and generic science. The course will benefit from a number of recent English translations, and students are encouraged to consult the original French texts if their language skills allow it.