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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2006

E 387M • Marxism in Rhetorical, Cultural, and Lit. Theory

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35675 TH
6:00 PM-9:00 PM
BEN 1.118

Course Description

Marxian theory and politics have been continually derided as a dead letter, continually consigned to the "dustbin of history." (This is Leon Trotsky's phrase, later repeated by capitalist apologists like Francis Fukuyama and Tom Brokaw, apparently with neither cognizance of nor ironic reference to its author.) Yet Marxism keeps appearing as a ground for various theoretical and political projects, particularly among humanities scholars in rhetorical, cultural, and literary studies. This seminar will explore the persistent themes of Marxian politics and theory as well as the various efforts to build on, utilize, alter, and mobilize the Marxian tradition. We will assume that there is no one Marxism, but rather a lengthy conversation about a political/intellectual movement whose beginnings happen to coincide with and rely heavily on the writings of one thinker- Karl Marx. Working from that assumption, we will traipse through a conversation that includes, among many others, Georg Lukacs, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Jurgen Habermas, Antonio Gramsci, Stuart Hall, Louis Althusser and more recently Frederic Jameson, James Aune, and David Harvey. While this reading will provide the kind of overview needed for one to engage the Marxian tradition, it will also focus on what Marx would call "use value," the social cost and function of a labor. Specifically, we will examine the applicability and effects of Marxism to three present disciplinary realms: rhetoric, culture, and literature. We will also examine what Marx would call "praxis," the pragmatic-political work that one engages by simply being part of a social formation. In rhetorical, cultural, and literary studies, the question of praxis brings us to the methods of analysis- how does Marxism encourage us to look at a variety of texts, and what political work does that (do these) mode(s) of analysis perform in a specific moment of history?


Reading will be heavy and heavily theoretical. Students will and revise write brief (2 pp.) response papers for every class, and two substantive (7-10 pp.) analyses based on the theoretic material read in class.


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