Seminar in Criticism and Theory: Autotheory

Section 02
Becca Hayes
Course Description

What is autotheory? What does it do? What has prompted the “autotheoretical turn”? What traditions and scholarship has autotheory emerged from? (How) is contemporary autotheory different from those genealogies from which it emerged?  What does autotheory make possible? What does autotheory offer emerging scholars and writers? These are some of the questions we'll explore in this graduate seminar. 

Following the publication of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts in 2015, the term “autotheory” began trending in the literary world. Autotheory is often used to describe critical work that blends memoir, autobiography, theory, and philosophy. In this course, we’ll examine the politics, ethics, aesthetics, and citational, narrative, and methodological practices of autotheory. In addition, we’ll trace its origins from relevant works in feminism, Black studies, psychoanalysis, and critical theory.

Texts may include work by: Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Julietta Singh, Maggie Nelson, Yiyun Li, Bhanu Kapil, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Saidiya Hartman, Monica Huerta, Christina Sharpe, Claudia Rankine, Virginie Despentes, Paul Preciado, Sara Ahmed, Ann Cvetkovich, Kathleen Stewart, Lauren Berlant, Frank Wilderson, Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, and Walter Benjamin, among others. 

Independent and collaborative assignments may include weekly reading and responses, short experimentations with our own autotheoretical work, book reviews, presentations, and a final project.