Graduate Level, 1995-2015*
From Lettrism to the Situationist International
The seminar discusses one of the most radical, and influential, experiments in 20th century art, literature, film, and politics – the Situationist International (1957-1972). Founded by Guy Debord (“The Society of the Spectacle”), the SI has a predecessor in certain left wing tendencies within so-called “Lettrism”, an artistic and literary movement led by the Romanian-born French poet and visual artist Isidore Isou in 1940, and closely linked to Dada and Surrealism. The seminar will be grouped around key concepts developed by Lettrism and the SI, from “spectacle” to “détournement”, “dérive”, etc. One of the main emphases will be the relationship between art and politics as it was envisaged by members of the group, as well as the relevance of their ideas today. The seminar will function as a reading group in which participants share their ideas and research.
Aesthetics of Contestation
Contemporary takes on aesthetic theory and its links with critical art.
Critical survey of Marcel Duchamp’s work, with an emphasis on his links to a variety of scientific traditions.
Representation, Power, and the Future of Critical Theory: Reading Foucault
Study of Foucault’s seminal works in their philosophical and discursive context.
Examines the phenomenon of Dada in the context of the European Avant-gardes.
Course Flier Syllabus
Calculating Images: Representation by Algorithm in Science and Art
This interdisciplinary seminar investigates the history of computing, and the way in which that history intersects with modern literature, art, and, science. I am particularly interested in the technological and epistemological break constituted by the invention of mechanical computing machines in the 18th century (Leibniz, Pascal, Slonimsky), and the way in which that invention affected the way we think about culture and its generation.
The class investigates “repetition” and the way in which this complex operation affects, shapes, or programs the relationship between the historical avantgarde and the neo-avantgardes of the late 1950s and 60s. Postwar art and philosophy during that time–from Foucault to Derrida and Lacan–seem to be re-playing the historical avantgarde, from constructivism to Dada and surrealism. Art from Los Angeles during the 1950s and 60s, too, “replays”–at various speeds and with various degrees of intensity and background noise–Russian constructivism of the 1920s, creating an unlikely axis between Central Russia and Southern California. Meanwhile Moscow artists of the 1960s, oddly, seem to be engaged in a rerun both of the Russian Avantgarde (TRACK 1) and of its Southern Californian remix (TRACK 2). The class will investigate the different modes and motivations of this complex East/West re(p)lay, and the way it relates to innovation and difference.
Syllabus 1 Syllabus 2
The Big Archive
The seminar investigates various theories of remembering, storage, and archivization (psychoanalysis, deconstruction) and the relations they maintain with post/modernist art. From Duchamp to Beuys and Kabakov, different techniques of archivization have engaged aesthetic theory and practice intensely over the last four decades. The seminar investigates the representation of the archive, but also the archivization of representation that it seems, at times, to imply. Readings by Derrida, Lacan, Freud, Benjamin, Deleuze, Foucault, Duchamp, and many others.
Syllabus 1 Syllabus 2
Crash: Trauma, Rupture Art
Explores the intersection between neo-avantgardist artistic practise and philosophy at a point where both of them reach their limit. Trauma marks the point at which experience is no longer subject to recording, the point where the programs that allow for such experience literally “crash”. To view postwar art, literature, and philosophy from the point of view of this crash is to view art as rupture, and language as radically discontinuous. Apart from philosophical texts by Sigmund Freud, Soshana Felman, Jacques Derrida, Antonin Artaud, Jacques Lacan, T. Adorno, the seminar examines works by Anselm Kiefer, Piero Manzoni, Andy Warhol, Viennese Actionism, Dan Graham, Gerhard Richter, Samuel Beckett, Michel Butor, and others.
Surrealism, Psychoanalysis, and Beyond
Few moments in the history of 20th-century art and literature have engaged as many disciplines and discourses-from Marxism to psychoanalysis, theoretical physics, and 19th-century psychiatry-as surrealism. This seminar investigates key figures and strategies of surrealist practice at the point where they intersect with their theoretical elaborations. Readings by Freud, Breton, Aragon, Dali, Eluard, Duchamp, Bataille, Picabia, Caillois, Leiris, Bellmer.
Undergradate Level, 1995-2014*
Contemporary Art in Eastern Europe
Survey of neo-modernist art in the countries of Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia, with an emphasis on conceptual trends (1960s and 70s).
The Avantgarde in Russia
The Russian avantgarde in its European context. The avantgarde and the revolution of 1917. Analysis of key figures and movements of the Russian avantgarde.
Contemporary Art in Russia
Study of central intellectual and aesthetic trends in the late Soviet period and in contemporary post-Soviet Russian and Central/Eastern Europe. Analysis of literary texts and the visual arts.
Literature of Central Europe
Survey of literature of central Europe (“Mitteleuropa”) during the 20th century. Readings of Kafka, Schulz, Hashek, Roth, Musil.
A condensed survey of Freud’s work and legacy, based on close readings of his texts.
The class investigates select texts by Fyodor M. Dostoevsky. Close attention will be paid to the philosophical implications of Dostoevsky’s ideas.
The class offers a detailed discussion and analysis of select novels by Vladimir Nabokov, inviting students to see his works both as important models and as critiques of modernist literature in general.
The course studies Russian film in a historical perspective and in its cultural, social, and technological settings.
Russian Thought and Philosophy
Study of key texts and movements in the development of Russian thought, from the Enlightenment to the revolution: Enlightenment, Mysticism, Schellingianism, Chaadaev, Slavophilism, Hegelianism, the 1860’s, Populism, Soloviev, Marxism.
This class investigates the phenomenon of zero in a variety of contexts, from mathematics to literature and science to media studies.
The class examines the cinema of Sergey Eisenshtein within the context of contemporary media culture, literature, philosophy, and technology.
Russian Literature and the Police
The police as a symbol of Russia’s westernization. Narrative closure in the nineteenth-century novel. The notion of the law in Russian thought. Readings by Gøgøl, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Mayakovsky, Prigov, Derrida, Foucault, D.A. Miller.
Modern Polish Literature
A comprehensive overview of modern Polish literature, with special attention to famous authors such as Czeslaw Milosz, Bruno Schulz and Zbigniew Herbert.
*All classes offered through Art History; Art; and/or Comparative Literature.