Fundamental Concepts in Critical Theory

For decades faculty and students at Wesleyan have been interested in critical theory and a few years ago that interest led to the development of a Certificate in Cultural and Critical Theory. This program “aims to facilitate a coordinated, inter-disciplinary program of study that encourages students to seek out theory-intensive courses in a wide range of disciplines with the aim of developing proficiency in the study of critical theory.” Thanks to the leadership of Assistant Professor of English Matthew Garrett, next week begins a series of lectures on some of the major concepts behind work in these fields. Here are some of the theory talks this semester on Wednesdays at 4:30 in Downey 113 (Hobbs):

ALIENATION– Ulrich Plass, Associate Professor of German Studies (2/11)
MEANING – Joseph Fitzpatrick, Visiting Assistant Professor of Letters (2/18)
HARMONY – Stephen Angle, Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the College of East Asian Studies (2/25)
DIFFERENCE – Amy Tang, Assistant Professor of American Studies and English (3/25)
UTOPIA –¬† Eirene Visvardi, Assistant Professor of Classical Studies¬† (4/8)

The Center for the Humanities has been a home for Critical Theory since the 1960s. On Monday night the Center begins its lecture series on mobilities, focused on “a new approach to the study of mobilities [that] has emerged involving research on the combined movement of peoples, animals, objects, ideas, and information. This can be viewed through the lens of complex networks, relational dynamics, and the redistribution or reification of power generated by movement.” You can read more about the theme here. Lectures take place in the Daniel Family Commons on Monday nights at 6 p.m. The first talk is scheduled for February 9 by Professor Enda Duffy, University of California at Santa Barbara, and is titled “Rush: Adrenaline, Stress, and Modernist Velocity.”

Essays on Living With the Past

Very exciting news for me today. A new collection of my essays arrived at Broad Street Books. Memory, Trauma and History: Essays on Living With the Past has just appeared from Columbia University Press ( Some of the essays, like those on the history of medical thinking about memory disorders, date from several years ago. I wrote others, like those on photography, critical theory, and liberal education, since returning to Wesleyan as president. It’s a thrill to see them collected in this volume, especially with the cover image by my friend David Maisel, a wonderful California photographer. You can see more of his work at: