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2017 Dissertation Symposium

critical theory dissertation symposium flyer

Critical Theory Cluster Dissertation Symposium: What is the use of theory?

February 16-17, 2017
Northwestern University
Kresge Hall 1515, 1880 Campus Drive, Evanston IL 60208

In the humanities, theory remains both contentiously defined and controversially practiced. To wager one definition, theory is a set of ceaselessly reflexive questions about humanities inquiry tied (perhaps paradoxically) to a canon of significant figures and movements (i.e., psychoanalysis, Marxist theory, deconstruction, etc.). For thinkers like Terry Eagleton, the era of theory is finished; for David Bordwell and Noël Carroll, we live in a "post-theory" moment; and Bruno Latour famously wondered whether criticism has "run out of steam."

But if theory became obsolete in the 1990s, why do the latest issues of flagship publications in the humanities still contain familiar emblems of theory (i.e., Lacan, Marx, Derrida, etc.)? What role, if any, does theory play in the present? Must theory be defended, as Rosi Braidotti does? Can theory itself be resistance to theory, as Paul de Man argued? Is theory a liberatory practice, as bell hooks claims? Alternately, has the perceived menace of theory been replaced by that of the digital humanities, thereby transforming theory into a hermeneutic ally? Or has theory, without strong defenders or opponents, lost its controversy?

These debates impact humanities practitioners at all career stages but are uniquely consequential for graduate students who must develop their first original research statements from within them. This symposium brings Northwestern graduate students together with peers from other institutions to debate the use of theory in the humanities with their in-progress dissertations as the primary material for thought.

Co-sponsored by a Mellon Cluster Catalyst Grant, Music Studies, and Graduate Leadership and Advocacy Council.


Thursday, February 16

12:00 – Whitney Pow (Northwestern) –"Illegible Subjects: A Phenomenology of the Other in Video Game Studies"

1:00 – Emily Coyle (Rutgers) – "Ophelia's Theory of Embodiment: Narration and the Actor's Body"

2:00 – Folahan Olowoyeye (Northwestern) – "(non) plus ultra: Theory & the Avant-Garde"

3:00 – Kristen Wright (Cornell) – "Anowa's Daughters: Tracing the Arc of the Circumscribed Black Woman from Aidoo to Morrison"

4:00 – Sabrina Jaromin (Northwestern) – "Translations in Hunting"

Friday, February 17

12:00 – Anastasia Baginski (UC Irvine) – "The Psychic Economy of Racism, as Recounted with the Aid of Beloved"

1:00 – Javier Burdman (Northwestern) – “Between Hiddenness and Shallowness: Arendt on Evil, Disclosure, and Responsibility for Action”

2:00 – Morganna Lambeth (Northwestern) – "Imagination and Causality in Hume, Kant, and Heidegger"

3:00 – Caitlin Cawley (Fordham University) –"Who is the Soldier?: Documenting American 'Grunts' from Dispatches to Restrepo"

4:00 – Peter Raccuglia (Yale) - "Critique and the Golden Spike"

5:00 – Reception

8:00 – Get together at The Teal Room (Pub 626 in Rogers Park)