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Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory
Fall 2007 Colloquium


All readings will be on electronic reserves, listed under UNIT 2007, Rothberg.


Monday September 17, 8:00 pm
Gregory 100

Lauren Berlant, English, University of Chicago
"After the Good Life:  Toward an Aesthetics of the Impasse in the Neoliberal Present"

Reading: Berlant, Lauren. "Cruel optimism." Differences: a journal of feminist cultural studies 17.3 (2006).

Berlant, Lauren. "Unfeeling Kerry." Theory and Event. 8.2 (2005).


Friday and Saturday, September 28-29

Beckman Institute

Thinking Affect: Memory, Language, and Cognition
Graduate Student Conference

Monday October 22, 4:00 pm
Campbell Alumni Center

Annual Humanities Lecture
David Roediger, History
“'Playing One Race Against the Other': How the United States Managed Labor”

Co-Sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Illinois Project for Research in the Humanities.

Reception to follow.


Thursday October 25, 8:00 pm
Levis Faculty Center

Martin Jay, History, University of California, Berkeley
“The Virtues of Mendacity: On Lying in Politics ”

Introduction: Manuel Rota, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese

The recent outcry against political mendacity draws on a long tradition of similar denunciations. Rather than falling back on the conventional alternatives, moralistic condemnation or realistic cynicism, this paper seeks to explore other ways of explaining and perhaps even defending deceit in the political realm. It does so by unpacking various meanings of "the political," especially those that stress its aesthetic and rhetorical dimensions, and pondering their different implications for truth-telling as a principle of political behavior.


Monday December 3, 8:00 pm
Levis Faculty Center

Affect Across the Disciplines: A Panel Discussion

Justine Murison, English
Gabriel Solis, Music
Samantha Frost, Political Science and Gender and Women's Studies
Yasemin Yildiz, German

Why affect, why now? Fredric Jameson has claimed that we live in a time of “waning affect,” yet a growing number of scholars working within and across various disciplines have challenged this view. Especially since 9/11 and the ensuing “war on terror,” affect, emotion, and feeling have emerged as key sites of critical concern and political mobilization. In this panel discussion, an interdisciplinary group of scholars will initiate a debate about the theory and politics of affect. Drawing on their own projects and disciplinary formations, the speakers will address such questions as: What is affect? How is it different from emotion, feeling, or passion? What role does affect play in individual research projects? How does affect work in and across disciplines? Can we study affect historically? What are the politics of affect? How are certain affects racialized or gendered? How do affects lend force to ideas and ideologies, to causes such as the anti-globalization movement or the recent surge of nationalist sentiment in the U.S. and other countries? What does affect bring to the study of theory and criticism?

A large collection of critical readings on affect can be found on e-reserves under Unit 2007. As background for this panel, we recommend especially the short, helpful essay by Eric Shouse, “Feeling, Emotion, Affect.” This essay is available on e-reserves and online at:

For more information, contact Michael Rothberg ( or consult the Unit for Criticism website: