"Postmodern" is one of those adjectives that everyone seems to have some vague sense of but that no one seems able to fully define. During the first half of this semester, we will we will follow the history of the postmodern debates, and explore how the web of ideas known as postmodernism came to be applied to everything from geography to politics to -- of course -- media. After that, we'll turn our attention to the status of the subject within the postmodern, and in particular, to the relationship between the subject and the systems of power with which s/he is constructed.


Blog (20%): Each of you will participate in a group blog for this course, posting in it regularly, using that space as an ongoing portfolio of your reading responses (which will make up at least one post weekly), thoughts about the course discussions, links to material relevant to the course, drafts of writing done for course papers, and anything else you'd like to contribute. This part of the course also requires you to keep up-to-date on your fellow students' blogs, and to comment frequently on their posts. The point of the blog is the free exchange of information it can produce and the interactions it can foster; you'll only get as much out of this part of the course as you put into it. Your grade for the blog will be determined by the quality of your participation in the blog; some portion of that quality has to do with quantity, but I'm not going to name a number of required posts for the semester. Instead, what I want you to think about are the consistency of your posts each week, your engagement with the ideas you're writing about, your generosity in reading and commenting on your peers' posts, and so on. You'll receive a blog grade each week for the first four weeks of the class, which will be posted to Sakai for your information; after that, you can request updated assessments of your work on the blog as you desire, but my hope is that you'll have a sense of how you're doing.

Midterm paper (15%): For your midterm project, you will write an 8 to 10-page paper in which you perform a close analysis of any issue as explored in several of the texts we have read to that point. More information about this paper will follow.

Term paper (30%): The final project, due at the end of the semester, will be a 15 to 20-page term paper, involving substantial research and making a complex, well-defined argument about the interconnections of the theory we will read and the culture that it explores. You will submit a proposal and an annotated bibliography for this term paper several weeks in advance of the paper itself; shortly before the paper itself is due, you will submit a draft to a peer reviewer. Again, more details to follow.

Presentations (20%): Each member of the class will give two in-class presentations. The first presentations will revolve around the material we are reading this semester; for these presentations, you will be asked to introduce the class to the material and to facilitate our discussion of it. Your final presentation will be a brief exposition of your final project. These presentations will be graded both as to content and as to form, and will receive one grade at the end of the semester; this grade will take improvement into account. More information to follow.

Attendance and participation (15%): See policies below for more information. Bear in mind that participation doesn't mean simply doing the work, or simply speaking up in class, but actively working to make the class a positive learning experience for you and your fellow students.

N.B.: There are currently no quizzes or exams scheduled for this class. I reserve the right to change my mind about this, however, if I feel an insufficient number of people are completing the readings each week. Do your friends a favor: do the reading, talk in class, and avoid a nasty final.


My grading policy is pretty straight-forward, and comes in two parts:

The grade of B+ is yours to lose. Here are ways that you can lose it:

1. Miss more than one day of class. I know you all have a lot going on, but this class is your job this semester, and I want you to take it that seriously. You each have one day of vacation or sick leave -- that is, one day that you can miss without penalty, for whatever reason. Use it wisely. Further absences will affect your final grade in unpleasant ways.

2.Show up late to class more than once. It drives me absolutely bonkers when people walk into class after it's already begun (and if I'm talking, even if just to make preliminary announcements, class has begun). It's both rude and distracting. Get to class on time; three late arrivals will add up to one unexcused absence.

3. Turn your assignments in late. You each have three grace days to use as needed. For instance, if the term paper proposal is due on a Monday, but you have a big exam that day, you can use a grace day and turn that proposal in on Tuesday. Please note, however: a "day" is twenty-four hours long, and ends at 5.00 pm. If you don't turn the proposal in until Wednesday morning, that's two grace days. Any lateness beyond these three grace days will count against your grade. Please note that because these grace days are freebies, I will give no extensions. Don't even ask.

4. Don't take the blog seriously. The blog assignment is a key element of the course; aside from the papers, it represents the vast majority of the writing you will do, and it counts for a hefty chunk of your final grade. The blog is taking the place of formal, print-on-paper reading responses, and it's also a space in which you can feel free to explore your ideas about the class material in whatever way most appeals to you. There is no particular quantity of posts that will get you a decent grade on the blogging requirement (though certainly more than one post per week, plus commenting, is desirable). However, not posting regularly, not displaying a real engagement with the material, and not reading and commenting upon your classmates' posts constitutes a failure to take the blog seriously.

5. Fail to do the reading. Much of our in-class work is built around discussion, and you cannot participate fruitfully in a discussion if you aren't prepared. Read carefully, take notes on the reading, post your responses on your blog, and participate in class discussions. With respect to which:

6. Fail to participate collegially in class discussions. You don't need to speak every day. And you absolutely must not monopolize the discussion. But both never speaking and appearing to overly enjoy the sound of your own voice constitute a failure of collegiality. Our discussions are a group endeavor, meant to help each member of the class reach the greatest possible understanding of the material.

7. Turn in a weak, ill-thought-through, unpolished, dull, pointless, or generally mediocre paper. Need I say more?

8. Give a scattered, unpolished, unengaged, or OVERLY LONG presentation. Again, 'nuff said, except about the length question: I'm dead serious about this. I will stop you when time is up, and if I have to stop you, your grade will suffer. Practice your presentation, and time yourself carefully.

9. Plagiarize. Academic dishonesty in any form will result in automatic failure of this class. Period. If you have any concerns about what constitutes academic dishonesty, refer to your student handbook, or ask me.

The grades of A- and A must be earned. Here are ways to earn them:

1. Produce excellent papers. What constitutes excellence? Doing more than simply completing the terms of the assignment. An excellent final project is sophisticated, nuanced, engaging, and insightful. It is technically polished and free of any kind of errors. It shows evidence of a substantive, thoughtful engagement with the course materials. It is, above all, interesting, designed to draw the reader/viewer/user into full engagement with its content and its form.

2. Maintain an excellent blog. Make me look forward to visiting your blog often, and stimulate thoughtful conversation in your comments.

3. Participate excellently in class. Excellence in class participation means not simply speaking frequently, but contributing in an active and generous way to the work of the class as a whole, by asking questions, offering interpretations, politely challenging your colleagues, and graciously accepting challenges in return.

4. Deliver an excellent presentation. An excellent presentation is one that is focused, organized, engaging, and to the point. It has what my predecessor, Brian Stonehill, used to refer to as "heart, smarts, and sparkle."


The following books are available at Huntley. Additional required readings are available as downloadable pdf files below (you must be logged in to access these files).

Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity
Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation
Jean Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality
Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology
Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power
Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer
Mark B. N. Hansen, Bodies in Code


Part 1
September 10 Background
Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" [pdf]
Adorno and Horkheimer, "The Culture Industry" [pdf]
Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" [pdf]
Derrida, "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences" [pdf]
September 17 Debate
Habermas, from The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere [pdfs: 1, 2, 3]
Lyotard, from The Postmodern Condition [pdf]
Habermas, "Modernity -- An Incomplete Project" [pdf]
Lyotard, "Answering the Question: What Is Postmodernism?" [pdf]
September 24 Definition
Jameson, from Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism [pdf]
Harvey, from The Condition of Postmodernity [pdf]
Soja, from Postmodern Geographies [pdf]
October 1 Interpretation
Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity
Proposal for midterm paper due [assignment]
October 8 Expansion
Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto" [pdf]
Huyssen, from After the Great Divide [pdf]
Hutcheon, from The Politics of Postmodernism [pdfs: 1, 2]
Benhabib, "Feminism and Postmodernism: An Uneasy Alliance" [pdf]
October 15 Simulation
Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation
Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime
Midterm paper due by noon, Friday, Oct. 19
October 22 No class: Fall break
Part II
October 29 Foucault, The History of Sexuality
November 5 Deleuze & Guattari, from A Thousand Plateaus [pdf]
Deleuze & Guattari, from Anti-Oedipus [pdf]
Term paper proposal due [assignment]
November 12 Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology
November 19 Butler, The Psychic Life of Power
Annotated bibliography due [assignment]
November 26 Agamben, Homo Sacer
Term paper draft due to peer reviewer [assignment]
December 3 Hansen, Bodies in Code
Edelman, from No Future [pdfs: ch. 1, ch. 2, ch. 4]
Commented draft due to author [assignment]
December 10 Final presentations
Concluding thoughts
Term paper due [assignment]