John James Audubon, Band-tailed Pigeons

New Materialisms: an Introduction

Instructor: Rebecca Ariel Porte
The Barnard Center for Research on Women
3009 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

From the subatomic to the the cellular to the socioeconomic to the celestial, matter creates and organizes our experience of the world. Materialisms from pre-Socratic philosophy to Marxism have attempted to understand how matter matters. In conversation with these enduring questions about how matter operates, contemporary theorists, often informed by commitments to feminist and queer bodies of criticism, have developed a range of approaches that fall, loosely, under the rubric of “new materialisms.” The questions posed by new materialisms include: To what degree can we attribute agency, vitality, or animacy to matter? To what extent does an account of matter, especially with reference to art and literature, help us understand questions of interpretation, labor, and exchange? And in what ways can a vibrant theory of matter animate queer and feminist politics?

This course, an introduction to new materialist thought, will take up these queries with reference to the work of theorists including Sara Ahmed, Karen Barad, Jane Bennett, Mel Chen, Gilles Deleuze, Elizabeth Grosz, and Karl Marx. We’ll read these thinkers in tandem with a range of literary and artistic examples, which will include poetry, fiction, film, and music. How have conceptions of matter changed over time? What should be the relationship of a new materialism to the many and varied traditions of “old” materialism? Why do feminist and queer theories seem to ask for a theory of matter? And what does an adequate materialism really look like?

Course Schedule

Wednesday, 6:30-9:30pm
April 04 — April 25, 2018
4 weeks


Registration Open

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