CSPT courses and seminars

CSPT students are required to take CSPT 501/601. In addition, they must choose between offered seminars CSPT 500/600, which run in Fall and Spring semesters. These vary in topics, themes and disciplinary orientations from year to year.

Core CSPT course (2020–2021)

CSPT 501: Contemporary Cultural Social and Political Thought I

Instructor: Emile Fromet de Rosnay (French)

An exploration of contemporary themes and issues in cultural, social and political thought, with an emphasis on thought that crosses traditional cultural and disciplinary boundaries.

Click here for the course outline

CSPT 601: Contemporary Cultural Social and Political Thought II

Instructor: Emile Fromet de Rosnay (French)

A continuation of CSPT 501, this seminar is designed for students proceeding to a doctoral candidacy examination in Cultural Social and Political Thought. The focus will be on themes and thinkers important to contemporary cultural social and political thought.

Click here for the course outline

CSPT seminars 2020-2021

Fall 2020

CSPT 500/600 A01: Introduction to Theory

Instructor: Dr. Stephen Ross (English)

This course will ground students in the major developments, figures, works, and ideas of the period of high theory, from about 1970-1990. It will be organized in terms of responses to the Linguistic Turn, venturing back to Saussure and Freud before turning its attention to a survey of the main theoretical “schools”: deconstruction, psychoanalysis, Marxism, feminism, queer theory, critical race theory, post colonialism, and various fusions of these. We will conclude the term by taking stock of the legacy of these strong theoretical movements in the recent move towards “weak” or “surface” practices, affect theory, post-humanism (both biological and technological), eco-criticism, and others. Students will be invited to indicate particular areas of interest, which will be worked into the syllabus if there is sufficiently concentrated interest. Throughout we will take up multiple valences of the idea of critique, taking up its various formulations by different thinkers, and attempting to position it in today’s landscape. Other key terms for exploration will include hegemony, ideology, subject, subjectivity, human, techno, and other. We will organize the term by history and approach, but recurrent themes will include ethics, politics, gender and sexuality, and above all the politics of representation

Click here for the course outline

CSPT 500/600 A02: Sound Studies

Instructor: Dr. Jentery Sayers (English)

“Readers are listening.” We’ll treat that sentence, including its many implications, as a refrain for this seminar.

Readers are listening because, as a 2018 BookNet Canada report suggests, more and more of them are purchasing audiobooks and subscribing to podcasts. Readers are listening because publishers, writers, actors, and critics are taking sound more seriously. Readers are listening because they’ve been diagnosed with print disabilities or visual impairments. They are listening because they are multitasking—listening while commuting, working at home, or engaging in hobbies. Readers are listening because they enjoy it, they need a break from screens, or they’re playing games. The list goes on, all to demonstrate that the combination of reading and listening, or the characterization of listening as reading, is not a contradiction. Listening is not “cheating,” or passive, or homogeneous, and it’s long been central to the interpretation of fiction. This seminar explores how and why by treating listening as a critical practice.

You’ll have the opportunity to test various approaches to listening by studying fiction (mostly Anglo-American) from the 20th and 21st centuries. To invite an array of expertise on the topic, I’ve selected a range of works that not only engage themes of sound and listening (as content) but also experiment with audio formats, such as radio plays, talking books, cut-ups, recorded readings, serialized drama, voice-over narration, and first-person videogames, where listeners cannot see the “source” of a sound. Each week, we’ll examine a work or two with a particular theme or technique in mind. Themes will include listening to writers read, listening to narrators speak, listening for meaning, listening for effects, listening with others, listening in place, listening against the grain, listening inside acoustic spheres, and listening with machines. Across them, we’ll consider the aesthetics and sensory politics of how readers listen to fiction and how fiction is composed to be heard. I’ll also encourage you to try writing for readers who are listening by asking you to develop a portfolio of audio work comprised of four short pieces that culminate in an audio essay or podcast episode about a seminar topic of your choice. (You can use a mobile phone or computer to record, and free audio software to edit. If you do not have access to these technologies, then the portfolio and essay can be written without producing or editing audio.)

Click here for the course outline

Spring 2021

CSPT 500/600 A01: Current Issues in Social Theory: Contemporary Materialisms

Instructor: Dr. Steve Garlick (Sociology)

Social theory has always been informed by different materialisms, and this course examines how materialist theories have persisted and re-emerged in different forms through the linguistic and cultural turns of the late 20th century, with particular concern for how these shifts inform our understandings of key sociological concepts such as power, order, freedom, and social change. The course is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on key 20th-century theorists whose work has implications for materialist theorizing. The second part takes up recent developments in new materialist social theorizing. The course offers students the opportunity to engage with some of the most important and influential social theories and theorists of recent decades.

Click here for the course outline

CSPT 500/600 A02: Current Issues in the Sociology of Gender, Racialization and Ethnicity

Instructor: Dr. Martha McMahon (Sociology)

Building on feminist sociologies this course approaches gender less as an issue of identity and more as a theoretical and politically enabling conceptual resource. Engaged as central to intersectional analysis it allows us to see things we would otherwise not see and to act personally and politically in ways we otherwise would not have been able. Thus, intersectional gendered analysis brings new understandings to issues as diverse as emotions, bodies, motherhood, food, environment, other-than-human animals, gender and climate, justice and power. This course invites you to engage new feminist ontologies and epistemologies as keys to personal and social transformation in these troubled times.

Click here for the course outline

CSPT 500/600 A03: Racial Capitalism

Instructor: Dr. Mara Marin (Political Science)

This class is an introduction to the literature on racial capitalism. We will examine historical and contemporary analyses of the capitalist processes that produce racial divisions. We will read authors such as Cedric Robinson, Eric Williams, Silvia Federici, Maria Mies, Michael Dawson, Nancy Fraser, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Patrick Wolfe, Robert Nichols, Glen Coulthard, Brenna Bhandar and Nikhil Singh.

Click here for the course outline

Past CSPT seminars

Spring 2020

CSPT 500/600 A01: Media Aesthetics
Professor Jentery Sayers (English)

CSPT 500/600 A02: The Politics of Colonialism
Professor Simon Glezos (Political Science)

CSPT 500/600 A03: Pluralism and Political Authority
Professor Avigail Eisenberg (Political Science)

CSPT 500/600 A04: Current Issues in Social Theory: Contemporary Materialisms
Professor Steve Garlick (Sociology)

Fall 2019

CSPT 500/600 A02: Research Seminar on Bakhtin
Professor Megan Swift (Germanic and Slavic Studies)

An interdisciplinary seminar focusing on the major works and central concepts of the Russian philosopher and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, as well as the application of these theories in diverse disciplines of study.

CSPT 500/600 A03: The Politics of Colonialism
Professor Rita Dhamoon (Political Science)

CSPT 500/600 A04: Current Issues in Political Sociology: Violence and Nonviolence
Professor Peyman Vahabzadeh (Sociology)

This course critically and phenomenologically probes one of the deepest assumptions about violence and nonviolence: that they are mutually exclusive and that there are modes of action that are purely one or the other.  Through close reading of key and foundational figures of both revolutionary violence and advocates and theorists of nonviolence, the course will show that these are in fact braided concepts, and the relationship between them, far from being opposites, is concentric.   The instructor’s recent book on the subject is assigned for this course, but the students will be asked to choose a topic from the course and read the supplementary materials pertaining to their topic for class discussion and their papers.  The approach is theoretical.

Spring 2019

CSPT 500/600 A02: Current Issues in Social Theory: Contemporary Materialisms
Professor Steve Garlick (Sociology)

Social theory has always been informed by various forms of materialism. This course focuses on recent developments in social theory, with particular attention to how materialist theories have persisted and re-emerged in different forms through the linguistic and cultural turns of the late 20th century, and with particular concern for how these shifts inform our understandings of power relations and social inequalities. The course offers students the opportunity to engage with some of the most important and influential social theories and theorists.

Click here for the course outline

Fall 2018

CSPT 500/600 A01: Paper Computers (Tabletop Edition)
Professor Jentery Sayers (English)

CSPT 500/600 A02: Adorno, Benjamin and Frankfurt School Critical Theory
Professor Elena Pnevmonidou (Germanic and Slavic Studies)

CSPT 500/600 A03: The Politics of Colonialism
Professor Rita Dhamoon (Political Science)

Spring 2018

CSPT 500/600: Bodies and Power
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

As a way of theorizing bodies, power and resistance in the contemporary era, the seminar will bring three important texts into conversation: Franz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, Hamid Dabashi’s Brown Skin, White Masks, and Glen Coulthard’s Red Skin, White Masks. What’s at stake in the above texts is both an acute understanding of actually happens—what deprivations, violence, and phantasmatic logic—when ‘whiteness’ becomes the universal sign of bodily presence and which forms of resistance might work to undermine the white mask of politics, culture and society. The discussion of Fanon, Dabashi and Coulthard will be deepened by reference to other critical perspectives, including Avery Gordon’s concept of the “hauntological imagination,” Homi Bhabha’s interrogation of postcolonial identity and Edward Said’s persuasive thesis that “Orientialism” is the essence of the current regime; Judith Butler’s theorization of “precarious life” and Wendy Brown’s understanding of “wounded attachments” as the real psychic energy animating the politics of white rage.

CSPT 500/600: Current Issues in Social Theory: Contemporary Materialisms
Professor Steve Garlick (Sociology)

Social theory has always been informed by various forms of materialism. This course focused on recent developments in social theory, with particular attention to how materialist theories have persisted and re-emerged in different forms through the linguistic and cultural turns of the late 20th century, and with particular concern for how these shifts inform our understandings of power relations and social inequalities. The course offers students the opportunity to engage with some of the most important and influential social theories and theorists.

CSPT 500/600: Literary Theory
Professor Steven Ross (English)

This course surveyed the major contributions to literary theory, beginning with a quick review of the history, going back to Plato. We focused on the sudden explosion of theoretical work from the 1960s on, including reading work by the likes of Ferdinand de Saussure, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Judith Butler, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Gloria Andzaldúa, bell hooks, Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud, Slavoj Zizek, Giorgio Agamben, and Jacques Rancière. We read these works as products of a particular period in the history of the institutionalized study of literature and culture, as well as inheritors of the tradition of continental philosophy (including Immanual Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, and beyond). We situated the predilection for constructivist explanations of such phenomena as identity, sex, sexuality, gender, race, class, and ethnicity against the historical and institutional backgrounds in which it emerged.

Fall 2017

CSPT 500/600: Foundations of Indigenous Nationhood
Professor Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark (Political Science)

This foundational course introduces students to the field of Indigenous Nationhood, offering a survey of the major historical and contemporary themes and issues in Indigenous governance, politics and law.

CSPT 500/600: Migrations in Global History
Professor Neilesh Bose (History)

Spring 2017

CSPT 500/600: Nietzsche for Our Times
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Nietzsche is the premonitory horizon of the 21st century, the remorseless thinker whose writings represent the future, not the past, of contemporary politics, culture and society. To read Nietzsche, particularly On the Genealogy of Morals, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and The Gay Science, is to approach closely, in word and deed, the essence of current politics and society, certainly its palpable anger, nihilism, and fierce ressentiment but also the existential situation of solitary individuals today tensely living between courageous optimism and surges of pessimism.

Fall 2016

CSPT 500/600: Media and Materiality: From Marx to Barad
Professor Jentrey Sayers (English)

Informed by new materialism, this seminar surveys critical theory from Karl Marx to Karen Barad to identify historical stress points in the articulation of media and materiality since the 1850s. Our survey accounted for how these two terms have been situated in various theories of agency, from historical materialism, semiotics, and symptomatic reading to media archaeology and agential realism.

CSPT 500/600: Adorno, Benjamin, and Frankfurt School Critical Theory
Professor Elena Pnevmonidou (Germanic and Slavic Studies)

The aim of this cross-listed undergraduate/graduate course is to introduce students to Frankfurt School Critical Theory through the writings of some of the School’s leading foundational figures as well as through an exploration of facets of cultural modernism and the German social and political context of the Weimar Period, Fascism and the reconfiguration of the public sphere in the 1950s and 1960s.

Spring 2016

CSPT 500/600: Political Theory Graduate Seminar
Professor R.B.J. (Rob) Walker (Political Science)

An examination of key issues and debates in the study of political theory. Involves a survey of the major literature in this field of political science.

Fall 2015

CSPT 500/600: Theoria/Poeisis
Professor Stephen Ross (English) and Professor Emile Fromet de Rosnay (French)

This course asserts that there is a fundamental continuity between modernist cultural practice and late-twentieth-century literary and cultural theory. Literary works frequently inaugurate lines of inquiry that philosophy, theory, and cultural studies later take up. We will both begin from and go beyond the observation that that Gilles Deleuze read D. H. Lawrence, that Alain Badiou read Samuel Beckett, or that Jacques Derrida read James Joyce (there are many other such pairings possible). Instead, students will be encourage to consider whether the later theories propounded by Deleuze, Badiou, Derrida derive from their encounters with modernism.

CSPT 500/600: Power and Resistance in the 21st Century
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Power and Resistance in the 21st century is an interdisciplinary CSPT/Political Science graduate seminar focused on postcolonial politics, critical race theory and new social movements.

As a way of theorizing power and resistance in the 21st century, the seminar brought two important theoretical discourses into conversation: the first, postcolonial theory (Franz Fanon, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha,) focused on the genealogy of contemporary patterns of racial, class and sexual domination and, the second, premonitory critical perspectives (Albert Camus, Glen Coulthard, Avery Gordon) that explore the phantasms and hauntologies of power and domination in contemporary times. Here, postcolonial narratives of critical race theory critically engage with ghostly intimations of posthuman violence in a compellingly prophetic vision of theory and events.

Spring 2015

CSPT 500/600: New Materialisms: Affect, Biopolitics, Complexity
Professor Steve Garlick (Sociology)

This seminar concentrated on work that traverses the biological, subjective, and social domains via the concepts of affect, biopolitics, and complexity. We read both foundational and contemporary texts by authors such as Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Michel Foucault, Brian Massumi, Patricia Clough, John Protevi, Nikolas Rose, John Urry, Wendy Wheeler, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Students were invited to explore linkages, parallels, and divergences among these different approaches to theorizing the ways in which bodies, materiality, and life have become crucial sites for power, politics, and emergent futures.

Fall 2014

CSPT 500/600: Trajectories of the Post-Human
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Trajectories of the Posthuman” is an interdisciplinary graduate seminar that explored the fate of the body in contemporary politics and society through the writings of critical feminist theory, including Judith Butler, Wendy Brown, Jane Bennett, Donna Haraway and Katherine Hayles.

CSPT 500/600: Boundaries, Borders, Limits
Professor R.B.J. (Rob) Walker (Political Science)

This is an advanced graduate course on the politics of boundaries, especially boundaries that take the form of (geographical but also other kinds of) borders and (legal but also other kinds of) limits. It is thus a course about distinctions, discriminations and classifications, not least among literatures seeking to understand the politics of boundaries, borders and limits. Or perhaps it might be better to say that it is a course about beginnings and endings, and the diverse ways in which claims to origin and destination are inscribed in boundaries, borders, limits, distinctions, discriminations and classifications. 

Spring 2014

CSPT 500/600: Hollywood and Global Megacities in Cinema: West by Southeast
Professor Lincoln Shlensky (English)

Fall 2013

CSPT 500/600: Power and Resistance: Kafka, Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari, and Foucault
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Fall 2012

CSPT 500/600: Ethics and Politics in the Twentieth Century
Professor Stephen Ross (English)
CSPT 500/600: Bodies and Power
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Spring 2012

CSPT 500/600: Boundaries, Borders, Limits
Professor R.B.J. (Rob) Walker (Political Science)

Spring 2010

CSPT 500/600: Legitimations of Violence
Professor R.B.J. (Rob) Walker (Political Science)

Fall 2009

CSPT 500/600: The Nietzsche Seminar
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Spring 2009

CSPT 500/600: The Culture and Politics of Emotion Theory
Professor Cheryly Suzack (Political Science)

Fall 2008

CSPT 500/600: Bodies and Power
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Spring 2008

CSPT 500/600: The Politics of Nature in an Era of Pandemic Capital
Professor Nicole Shukin (English)

Spring 2007

CSPT 500/600: The Faces of Exile
Professor Peyman Vahabzadeh (Sociology)