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5:30pm Life After Theory – A Critique of Posthumanism and Surface Reading

March 15, 2017 @ 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

A recent panel on posthumanism and post-theory at the MLA convention in Philadelphia attempted to challenge contemporary theorizations in the field of literary and cultural studies by providing a critical counter-history. Since there is still unbounded enthusiasm for a post-theoretical project, and especially for the concept of ‘surface reading,’ it is necessary to continue an informed critique of its foundational texts. For while posthumanism claims to radically challenge anthropocentric and paranoid readings of literature it in fact questions critical approaches to literary and cultural texts. Yet nothing could be more important in the era of ‘post-truth’ than a revitalized ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ and a theory of praxis that trains students and scholars across the disciplines in depth-models of reading.

For this purpose, this reading group will focus on close readings of (short) post-theoretical texts and excerpts dealing with the so-called hermeneutics of suspicion, complemented by critical responses and background texts. All texts will be made available as PDFs or links.

Meeting Location: IPLAI (3610 McTavish), 2nd floor Room 21-2

Meeting Times

Friday, February 3 @ 3PM

Wednesday, February 15 @ 5:30PM

Wednesday, March 15 @ 5:30PM

Wednesday, March 29 @ 5:30PM

Wednesday, April 19 @ 5:30PM

Session 1 – Criticizing the Postcritical Project (February 3)

Felski, Rita. “Introduction.” The Limits of Critique: 1-13.

Brennan, Timothy. “Borrowed Light.” Borrowed Light: Vico, Hegel, and the Colonies: 197-234.

Recommended reading (optional):

Felski, Rita. “Introduction.” Uses of Literature: 1-22.

Parry, “What’s Wrong With Literary Studies?” (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Mullins, “Are We Postcritical” (LA Review of Books)

Session 2 – A Suspicious Reading of ‘The Hermeneutics of Suspicion’ (February 15)

Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?” (Critical Inquiry)

Recommended reading (optional):

Felski, “Critique and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion” (M/C Journal)

Session 3 – A Depth Approach to Surface Reading (March 15)

Best and Sharon, “Surface Reading: An Introduction” (Representations)

Recommended reading (optional):

Baskin, “Soft Eyes: Marxism, Surface, and Depth” (Mediations)

Bartolovich, “Humanities of Scale: Marxism, Surface Reading—and Milton” (PMLA)

Session 4 – Political Stakes of Apolitical Reading (March 29)

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “The Climate of History: Four Theses” (Critical Inquiry)

Recommended Reading (optional):

Felski, Rita. “The Stakes of Suspicion.” The Limits of Critique: 14-51.

Session 5 – The Limits of The Limits of Critique (April 19)

Felski, Rita. “In Short.” The Limits of Critique: 186-218.

Lukács, “Epilogue: On Postwar Irrationalism.” The Destruction of Reason: 765-855.

Recommended Reading (optional):

Ferriss, “Post-Truth and Chaos” (Chronicle of Higher Education)


For more info, please contact:

Felix Fuchs, PhD student (English) felix.fuchs@mail.mcgill.ca

Sara Farah, MA student (English) sara.farah@mail.mcgill.ca


March 15, 2017
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm


3610 McTavish, 2nd floor
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1Y2 Canada
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