Theatres of Operation: Conflagrations of Contemporary Theory and Criticism - Dan Mellamphy
This course will expose students to four major ‘theatres of operation’ that continue to be dominant conceptual arenas in post-continental theory and criticism today: the theatre of ‘temporalization’ or chronological cross-examination, the theatre of ‘transmission’ or communicational cross-examination, the theatre of ‘attention’ or (sub)conscious cross-examination, the theatre of ‘incorporation’ or corporeal cross-examination. The course-title is drawn from military discourse, a ‘theatre of operation’ defining the parameters of polemos, the coordinates of conflict or conflagration. But as the young Descartes suggested in the very first line of his cogitationes privatae, it also defines the arena of critical contestation and theoretical debate: an arena or stage onto which the tactician always advances ‘masked’, ‘camouflaged’ (larvatus prodeo). We will examine both the larval lineaments and more developed articulations of our operative theatres (chronological, communicational, conscious and corporeal).
The aim of the course is not to give students an exhaustive compendium but rather a broad overview of some of the major works and theorists (many of whom are included on the CSTC comprehensive-exam list) that deal with these areas and arenas of post-continental thought. With/in our first theatre, these will include the theory and criticism of Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Lévinas, Jean-François Lyotard, Gilles Deleuze and Bernard Stiegler (along with a novel by Philip K. Dick). With/in our second theatre, these will include the theory and criticism of Walter Benjamin, Georges Bataille, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva and Jean Baudrillard (along with a novel by Samuel R. Delaney). With/in our third theatre, these will include the theory and criticism of William James, Henri Bergson, Norbert Wiener, Gilbert Simondon, Gregory Bateson and Thomas Metzinger (along with a novel by R. Scott Bakker). With/in our fourth theatre, these will include the theory and criticism of Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, Peter Sloterdijk, Katherine Hayles, Manuel DeLanda and Manabrata Guha (along with a novel by R. Negarestani).
Since this was originally designed as a full-year course dividing its four ‘theatres of operation’ in two sets -- ‘temporalization’ and ‘transmission’ in the first term, ‘attention’ and ‘incorporation’ in the second -- the first half will be offered in the Winter term, with gestures toward the second half and encouragements in that direction with respect to future reading.
The Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism’s ‘Theatres of Operation: Conflagrations of Contemporary Theory and Criticism’ and ‘Globalization of Terror: Life as Insecurity’ courses (THC 9612 & THC 9609) will be going on the Second-Ever CSTC Road-Trip, this time to The New School in NYC to attend the First International Cyclonopedia Symposium (http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/events.aspx?id=61278), where many issues taken up in THC 9609 & THC 9612 will be discussed. Upon their return they will be conducting a conference of their own, the 9609-9612 end-of-term conference ‘Enter the Fray: Theory & Criticism in the Newtork-Centric World’ (see the poster-jpeg), to which all are welcome.
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