ENG 574





Literary Form, Social Process:

A Graduate Seminar in Marxist Aesthetic Theory



Princeton University. Spring 2022.

East Pyne 215. Wednesdays 1:30–4:20pm.



Professor Paul Nadal

nadal@princeton.edu | www.paulnadal.com

Office: B29 McCosh Hall, by appt.




Course Description


Literary form, social process—how, exactly, do we read and move from one to the other? What forms of knowledge and scales of textual analysis does a reflexive reading of the literary and the social enable? Through a focused survey of Marxist aesthetic theory, this course engages students in the problem of “mediation”—understood expansively as the dialectic between literature and reality, form and history, and aesthetics and politics. We will read canonical as well as recent historical materialist approaches to race, genre, empire, and other world systems to develop interdisciplinary tools for writing about economic mediations of culture.


Course Requirements


(I) Two conference-style presentations, 15-20 minutes each. (A) A critical argument and close exegesis of the problem of “mediation” in an assigned text or group of texts of your choice; (B) an oral presentation on some aspect of your graduate research, which takes an assigned reading or author as a point of departure or as a generative intertext. Options (A) and (B) may be assigned in any order, so long as the first presentation is scheduled prior to Spring Break, the second after.


(II) Term paper—6,000-8,000 words—which expands on your conference presentation. Or: a dissertation prospectus or dissertation chapter of similar length. Dissertation materials submitted for this course must demonstrate significant engagement with seminar readings.


Since this is primarily a seminar/discussion class, your active participation is vital. As the texts will be the focal point of class discussions, please bring them to class. Papers that are not handed in by the due date will be accepted but no written comments will be made on late papers.


Semester Schedule


Wk 1: On Mediation and Other Marxian Categories

·       Hegel, “Sense-Certainty; Or the ‘This’ and ‘Meaning’” Phenomenology of Spirit (58-66)

·       Marx, Grundrisse, Introduction (81-114)


Wk 2: Hegelian Mediations

      Hegel, Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics (Chapters I-III, 3-61)

      Lukács, “On the Nature and Form of the Essay”


Wk 3: Dialectical Criticism in the Marxist Sense

      Marx and Engels, “Theses on Feuerbach” (121-123); The German Ideology, Preface and Part 1 (37-95)

      Marx and Engels, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, “Estranged Labour,” Second Manuscript, and Third Manuscript (61-147)


Wk 4: Realism and Reification

      Lukács, “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat” (esp. Parts I-II) from History and Class Consciousness

      John Berger, “The Moment of Cubism”

      Anna C. Chave, “Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power”


Wk 5: Aesthetics and Politics

      Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (Hullot-Kentor translation) (1-45)

      Adorno, “Theses on the Sociology of Art”

      Jacques Rancière, “Aesthetics as Politics,” from Aesthetics and Its Discontents

      Roberto Schwarz, “Objective Form”

      Recommended: Reinhart Koselleck, “Fiction and Historical Reality”


Wk 6: Combined Uneveness: Contradiction, Disjunction, Simultaneity

      Mao Zedong, “On Contradiction”

      Louis Althusser, “On Contradiction and Overdetermination” from For Marx

      Ernst Bloch, “Nonsynchronism and the Obligation to Its Dialectics”

      Stuart Hall, “When Was ‘the Post-colonial’?”

      Recommended: Fredric Jameson, “Modernism and Imperialism” from The Modernist Papers




Wk 7: Peripheral Realisms

·       Machado de Asis, The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas

·       Roberto Schwarz, A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism (selections)


Wk 8: Cultures of Financialization, Part I: A History of Finance

   nbsp;   Marx, Grundrisse, selections from “The Chapter on Money” (153-174)

      Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century (1-84, 300-356, Postscript: 371-386)

      Recommended: Andy Pike and Jane Pollard – “Economic Geographies of Financialization” Economic Geography (2010)


Wk 9: Capital Circulation and Spatial Form

      Manfredo Tafuri, “Reason’s Adventures: Naturalism and the City in the Century of the Enlightenment,” from Architecture and Utopia

      Seb Franklin, “Forms of Disposal” from The Digitally Disposed: Racial Capitalism and the Informatics of Value

      Neferti Tadiar, “City-Everywhere”

      Recommended: Fredric Jameson, “Spatial Equivalents in the World System,” from Postmodernism; or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism


Wk 10: Cultures of Financialization, Part II: Race, Abstraction, Personhood

      Phillip Brian Harper, “Black Personhood in the Maw of Abstraction”

      Leigh Claire La Berge, “Wages against Artwork: The Social Practice of Decommodification”

      Moishe Postone, “Anti-Semitism and National Socialism”

      Iyko Day, “The New Jews: Settler Colonialism and the Personification of Capitalism”


Wk 11: Cultures of Financialization, Part III: Art and Labor After Late Capitalism

·       Sianne Ngai, Theory of the Gimmick


Wk 12: Racial Capitalism, Culture, Literature: New Directions

·       Sylvia Winter, “Novel and History, Plot and Plantation” (8 pages)

·       Tao Leigh Goffe, “Stolen Life, Stolen Time: Black Temporality, Speculation, and Racial Capitalism”

·       Ericka Beckman, “Latin American Literature and Dependency Theory Today”

·       Glen Sean Coulthard, Introduction to Red Skin White Masks

·       Nikhil Pal Singh, “Black Marxism and the Antinomies of Racial Capitalism”