This is week 4 of the semester, and in the interests of maintaining a sense of what we are doing and where we are headed let’s review:
So far we’ve covered the key features of the contemporary period (see earlier posts) and have waded into the deeper waters of Terry Eagleton’s After Theory. With AT we are hoping to get a sense of the changes in both the way that people think about the world and how that world itself has changed in the last 40 years. The first 4 chapters of the book are the most crucial for these purposes, so if you haven’t read them then do so as soon as possible.
Eagleton’s project is to lay out the state of the field– what shape inquiry into the condition of the world has taken. He is concerned that the innovations of cultural theory have passed into a new orthodoxy, and in order to challenge that tendency, he submits theory (criticism) to a new round of criticism. What we are dealing with here, then, is criticism of criticism (of criticism). So that we do not lapse into overly familiar and unproductive patterns of thinking, so that we do not lose our critical edge, we must undertake to revitalize our theoretical stance, to transform it as the conditions it seeks to understand change. Thus his return to such categories as truth, objectivity, and virtue– concepts familiar to any student of the very origins of western philosophy. Does this mean theory is ‘over’? No. What it means is that the world has changed since theory first arose and it is incumbent on those of us who would attempt to analyze the present to adapt to new circumstances.
This week we’ll look over Raymond Williams’s short meditation on hegemony, review what we’ve covered thus far, and begin JM Coetzee’s novel Waiting for the Barbarians. This marks the end of what we could consider as the preliminaries. Now we undertake to examine cultural texts which are the product of the contemporary period.
You’ll have noted that there’s an element of “current events” to the course. The main purpose of this aspect of the class is to encourage all of you to become/stay aware of significant trends in contemporary life. Your personalized news.google.com page should help with this exercise.
Starting this week I will give assignments for the week in advance, probably by Sunday evening.
Also, please be advised that I hold office hours every Monday and Wednesday from 2.10 to 3.00 at the tables in front of Cafe Rosso just outside the Humanities building. If you’re unable to come to office hours due to scheduling conflict, then please contact me and we’ll arrange a time more convenient to you.