Speculative Web Space

PoMo Critical Theory

aka 'critically reading critical reading'

Fortnightly discussion with Dr Bill Pascoe, commencing June 1st 2017 – 12 noon (bring your lunch) – in the Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing room, MC101 or MC102.

This will focus on Post Structuralism and Post Modernism. A lot of people are a bit confused or put off by these topics, and they get a lot of bad press for using obfuscating language, which is unfortunate because there's some really interesting stuff that can change your way of looking at things, so the plan is to have a look at a few key moments in some brief texts, and start making sense.

We might also look at a brief history of Critical Theory and what's coming next: Neoliberalism, Material Turn, EcoCriticism, Post Human, New Sincerity, Left Bowdlerism, Microcultures, Fandom, Digital Humanities.
Non Eurocentric literary theory: China, Japan, South Asia, Persian and Arabic, Subsaharan Africa, Pre-Columbian American, First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples
or anything else relevant.

What's the difference between post-structuralism and postmodernism? Post-structuralism is more a philosophy and approach to critical theory whereas post modernity is a descriptive term applied to cultural developments and artefacts in the 20th Century after Modernism. Post structuralism is suited to a discussion about ideas, where as post modernity is suited to discussion around its themes and characteristics, with examples. So, for example, in Post Structuralism we might deconstruct a text, or elaborate the concept of differance, while in Post Modernism we might look at a movie and talk pop culture, anachronism and intertextuality. Neither has anything like a stated manifesto that individuals adopted, rather we use these terms to describe various thinkers and cultural phenomena that have various things in common.

Bring questions.

Some Terms and Concepts



1/6/2017 A brief history of Critical Theory: Classical Poetics, Trivium, Renaissance Humanism, Enlightenment, Baroque, Mannerism, Rococco, Romanticism, Neoclassicism, Realism, Decadence, Modernism (and its many isms, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, Russian Formalism, etc), Marxism, Positivism, New Criticism, Feminism, Post-colonialism, Post-structuralism.
8/6/2017 Barthes, The Death Of The Author
The previous link dissappeared, so here's two more instances:
(A starting text for many PoMo courses.)
22/6/2017 Baudrillard, The Precession of Simulacra, in Simulations and Simulacra.
(In particular the bit under heading "Hyperreal and Imaginary" - to paraphrase Baudrillard, 'Dreamworld exists to convince everyone that Brisbane is real')
13/7/2017 Haraway, Donna. A Cyborg Manifesto
(If it's too long read the last bit, 'Cyborgs: a myth of political identity')
27/7/2017 Saussure, Course In General Linguistics
(This is a founding text of structuralism and semiology, which became semiotics. This link is a good selection.)
TBA Derrida, chapter 'Différance' in Margins of Philosophy
(Derrida can be difficult, but if you start with this one, where he explains concepts relatively clearly, the rest starts to make sense. We read Saussure beforehand because to understand Derrida we must defer to Saussure and see how he differs.)
TBA Foucault, chapters 'The Body Of The Condemned' and 'Panopticism' in Discipline and Punish
(this a bit long, but Foucault is a clear and engrossing writer)
TBA Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, chapter 'Introduction: rhizomes' in A Thousand Plateaus.
(wtf? It's all about the rhizomes. Deleuze and Guattari are the exemplars par excellence of the kind of obscure language, bordering on profound sounding nonsense, that people complain about in Post Structuralism, but the rhizome metaphor has been very influential, makes a lot of sense, makes you rethink your assumptions at the root, and is very zeitgeisty.)

Further reading:

Some Light Entertainment

Here's a few enjoyable cultural artefacts that make a lot of sense from a PoMo point of view: