In the mid-nineteenth century, a young Karl Marx wrote, in the form of a published open letter to Arnold Ruge: “But if the designing of the future and the proclamation of ready-made solutions for all time is not our affair, then we realize all the more clearly what we have to accomplish in the present—I am speaking of a ruthless criticism of everything existing, ruthless in two senses: The criticism must not be afraid of its own conclusions, nor of conflict with the powers that be.” In this course, we will explore how Marx developed this “ruthless criticism” over the course of his life as a scholar, journalist, and activist. ...
Although Marcel Proust wrote much of the colossal In Search of Lost Time from the confines of a cork-lined room, it is a book that somehow seems to bridle with the energy and variety of an entire world set down in prose. In this course, centered on Swann’s Way, the first installment of Proust’s novel, we’ll study how In Search of Lost Time illuminates concerns both intimate and vast. What does it mean to know another person? How do we name our desires and what are the pleasures and perils in store for us when we do? ...
Does every “great” city possess a waterfront? Historical hubs of trade, waterfronts inculcate cultures that structure and permeate modern urban space—cultures of capital, labor, leisure, sex, and, in a de-industrial age, decay. Inextricable from the history of cities, waterfronts are, by extension, inextricable from the history of transnational capitalism. What can we learn, on the waterfront, about how waterways, transportation, and the city relate? How do port cities, and the networks that connect them, extend and endlessly transform global systems of production and accumulation? ...
As the highest grossing consumer product in the world, how should we understand video games: as substitutes for frustrated social existence, as methods for knowing and thinking, as machines for feeling, as models and visions of 21st century life—or as something else altogether? In 2007, game designer Clint Hocking coined the term “ludonarrative dissonance” in a blog post critiquing the critically acclaimed and popular video game, Bioshock. For Hocking, there is a “powerful dissonance between what it [Bioshock] is about as a game, and what it is about as a story”—that is, between the game’s narrative-philosophical critique of libertarian ideology and the practical gameplay constraints that compel the player to act selfishly. ...
“Architecture,” wrote the late critic Michael Sorkin, “is produced at the intersection of art and property, and this is one of the many reasons it so legibly records the history of communal life.” This drawing together of the aesthetic imagination and material relations is also, perhaps, why the radical tradition has looked to architecture to anticipate and dramatize a world that could be otherwise. If the bourgeois revolutions of the nineteenth century found expression in the broad boulevards of Paris and the eclectic historicism of Vienna’s Ringstrasse (Ring Road), alongside this also emerged a radical, utopian counter-tradition that looked to architecture to elucidate, embody, and engender the aspiration for a world beyond capitalism. ...
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Practical Criticism/(Pop) Cultural Marxism Crossover: Stop Making Sense
In this very special crossover episode, the compound cast—Isi, Rebecca, and Ajay—are back together after hiatuses of various lengths to discuss the Talking Heads and A24’s recent re-release of Jonathan Demme’s much-celebrated 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense. Kicking off with some reunion talk (to wit: research rabbit holes, early modern gardens, avant-garde architecture, automata, […]