English 250

Research Seminar: The Rhetoric of Technique

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Spring 2018 Lavery, Grace
Thurs. 3:30-6:30 107 Mulford British 19th-Century
Literary Theory
Graduate Courses

Book List

Butler, Samuel: Erewhon; Eliot, George: Romola; Hardy, Thomas: Jude the Obscure; Johnson, B. S.: Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry; Miller, D. A.: Place for Us; Preciado, Paul B. ["Beatriz Preciado"]: Testo Junkie; Rose, Gillian: Love's Work


“Sex is boring,” Foucault declared in an interview published posthumously in 1986, before expressing his interest in those “intentional and voluntary actions by which men […] make their life an oeuvre that carries certain aesthetic values, and meets certain stylistic criteria,” actions that he called “techniques of the self.” A particular sexual habit or lifestyle might indeed exemplify such a technique, but so might bonsai gardening, crossword puzzles, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, “weird Twitter,” or slam poetry. Yet although such techniques raised, for Foucault, the utopian possibility of stylistic individuation – of “coming into one’s own” – we know, too, that anything that can be improved can be monetized. Under the conditions of capitalist modernity, the drive to perfect the technical dimension of labor both accelerated the expropriation of surplus values from laboring bodies, and further muted what Marx and Engels called the “charm” of pre-capitalist labor. In the modern sense, then, we might understand technique as the product of a collision between these two contradictory compulsions: style (understood as nonscalable, free, and self-creating), and efficacy (understood as measurable, exchangeable, and generic). In this class, we will examine the development of a modern, aesthetic sense of technique through a range of literary and narrative objects, from the mid nineteenth century through until the present day, in a diverse range of genres and texts. 

In addition to the usual suspects, reading for this course will likely include: Roland Barthes, Cleanth Brooks, Thomas De Quincey, George Eliot, Charles Fourier, Thomas Hardy, L. Ron Hubbard, Henry James, B. S. Johnson, Walter Pater, I. A. Richards, Gillian Rose, John Ruskin, and  D. W. Winnicott.

This course satisfies the Group 4 (Nineteenth Century), 5 (Twentieth Century), or 6 (Non-historical) requirement.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2019
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Philosophical Idealizations of Art and Modernist Practices Altieri, Charles F.
Fall, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/3 Research Seminar: Textual Communities and the Modern Picciotto, Joanna M
250/4 Research Seminar: Evolution and Literary Form, 1800-1900 Duncan, Ian
Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/2 Research Seminar: Ways of Knowing, Ways of Representing in Eighteenth-Century English Fiction Sorensen, Janet
250/3 Research Seminar: Milton and the English Civil War Kahn, Victoria
250/5 Research Seminar: Black Abstraction Best, Stephen M.
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Victorian Cultural Studies Puckett, Kent
250/2 Research Seminar: How to Write a Book Kahn, Victoria
250/3 Research Seminar: Paranoid States: Empire and the Rise of the Surveillance State Saha, Poulomi
250/4 Research Seminar: Gender, Sexuality, Modernism Abel, Elizabeth
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Wordsworth and Coleridge in Collaboration Goodman, Kevis
250/2 Research Seminar: Modernism in Poetry and in Art Altieri, Charles F.
250/3 Research Seminar: Idols and Ideology—Readings in Augustine, Milton, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Kant, Marx, Freud, Althusser Kahn, Victoria
Fall, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Representing Non-Human Life in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Britain Picciotto, Joanna M
250/2 Research Seminar: Ethnic Modernisms Lee, Steven S.
250/3 Research Seminar: Literature and the Brain Gang, Joshua
Spring, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Capitalist Crisis and Literature Gonzalez, Marcial
250/2 Research Seminar: The Limits of Historicism Best, Stephen M.
250/3 Research Seminar: How It Strikes a Contemporary: Reading the Novel in the 21st Century Snyder, Katherine
Snyder, Katie
250/4 Research Seminar: Modernism's Metaphysics Blanton, C. D.

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