Structuralism, Poststructuralism, and the Technosciences
Fall 2014 Graduate Course
Mike Fortun, x6598 fortum@rpi.edu
Department of Science and Technology Studies
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Meeting time: Thursday 10-1 Sage 5711

Let us add at once that, on the other hand, the existence on earth of an animal soul turned against itself, taking sides against itself, was something so new, profound, unheard of, enigmatic, contradictory, and pregnant with a future that the aspect of the earth was essentially altered. Indeed, divine spectators were needed to do justice to the spectacle that thus began and the end of which is not yet in sight – a spectacle too subtle, too marvelous, too paradoxical to be played senselessly unobserved on some ludicrous planet! From now on, man is included among the most unexpected and exciting lucky throws in the dice game of Heraclitus’ “great child,” be he called Zeus or chance; he gives rise to an interest, a tension, a hope, almost a certainty, as if with him something were announcing and preparing itself, as if man were not a goal but only a way, an episode, a bridge, a great promise.—
Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals

--A Great Promise

This course will make you think differently and better by helping you write differently and better by having you read differently and better.

It draws on those traditions of thoughtandwriting-- largely "Continental"-- in linguistics, philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, anthropology, feminist theory, and literature that came more or less together over the course of the 20th century under the names of structuralism and poststructuralism. Writers in and between these domains developed understandings of language as a material-semiotic system of differences, simultaneously subject to severe limitations and affording quasi-infinite possibilities of affirmation, experimentation, and invention. They also developed critiques of the (platonic, hegelian) metaphysics of presence and logocentrism that founds the philosophical-scientific project, critiques that predate and differ dramatically from those of the "social construction" brand of the late 20th century.

Habits to be incorporated: close readings of texts, their structuring oppositions, their codependent insights and blindnesses, and their margins; friendship with the technosciences; transduction of reactive into active forces; relentless empiricism; just-careful-enough invention; desire for the swerving ethnographic departure; keyboarding
Course Requirements 1. Weekly writings of close readings of writings. Every week, your assignment is to produce atminimum the equivalent of 3-5 pages of text and post it in your portfolio on this wiki. Doing this 13 times without fail receives an "A," PROVIDED THAT ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS IS MET:
  1. At least half of this writing should be direct quotes from the reading(s). This has four effects: your fingers mime the material flow of the writing, its rhythms and structures; you linger over phrases and sentences and paragraphs that deserve to be lingered over again; abjuration of self through re-iteration of what wrote a writer; and we all end up with an extensive set of quotes for later samplings and remixes. It is PERFECTLY fine if EVERYTHING you do for the week is retype passages, take dictation, channel spirits and/or materials.
  2. Anything else must be severely fragmented, incomplete, uncertain, unsteady, experimental, or at some other limit of sense, yours or anyone else's.
  3. If 1 and/or 2 are met, you are then permitted to try producing something coherent and pragmatically useful.

2. Occasional seminar-style introductions of readings.

No final paper.

We will all read everything listed in the first part of each week’s section. When there are multiple texts (which is often), one of us will also take particular responsibility for a particular text, preparing yourself to present/summarize/question it. Some suggested lines of flight – a few more meager rations for life – are given in the second part of each week, as pro/life/rations. The syllabus is thus intended to be a broad foundation or guideline for the future, should these writings produce the desire to carry on in this vein: a reading course, an exam, a thesis.
Almost all texts are available electronically, including the books, with the exception of

Derrida, Jacques. 1988. Limited Inc. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
which you will need to somehow procure.


August 29

Chain chain chain...

Amitav Ghosh, The Calcutta Chromosome.



September 5

“We experiment on the truth!”

Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Blanchot, Maurice. 1993. “Reflections on Nihilism.” Pp. 136-170 in The Infinite Conversation. Translated by S. Hanson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Original edition, L'Entretien infini (Gallimard, 1969)

Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,”


Brown, Wendy. 1995. “Postmodern Exposures, Feminist Hesitations.” In States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity, pp. 30-51. Princeton University Press.

Colebrook, Clare. 1999. “A Grammar of Becoming: Strategy, Subjectivism, and Style.” In Becomings: Explorations in Time, Memory, and Futures, edited by E. Grosz. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1983 (1962). Nietzsche and Philosophy. Translated by H. Tomlinson. New York: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. Essay on Nietzsche from Pure Immanence

Keenan, Thomas. 1997. “Examples of Responsibility: Aesop, with Philosophy.” In Fables of Responsibility: Aberrations and Predicaments in Ethics and Politics. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Patton, Paul. 1991. “Nietszche and the Body of the Philosopher.” In Cartographies: Poststructuralism and the Mapping of Bodies and Spaces, edited by R. Diprose and R. Ferrell. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Patton, Paul (ed.). 1993. Nietzsche, Feminism, and Political Theory



September 12

Savage Pansies Wild Thought

Levi-Strauss, Claude. The Savage Mind (Chapter 1)

Jacques Derrida, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass. London: Routledge, pp 278-294 at http://hydra.humanities.uci.edu/derrida/sign-play.html

Wikipedia articles on Levi-Strauss http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levi-strauss and structuralism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structuralism

Chapters 1-7 of Daniel Chandler's //Semiotics for Beginners//.


Gilles Deleuze, "How Do We Recognize Structuralism?" over here, sorry about the size



September 19

The It Is Languaged Like a Structure

Because if Copjec is gonna sue me I might as well make it a party:
Felman, Shoshana. Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight (selection)

Jason Glynos and Yanis Stavrakakis (2001), "Postures and Impostures: On Lacan's Style and Use of Mathematical Science," American Imago 58(3):685-706.

Slavoj Zizek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Lacan Through Popular Culture

but I think you only need to read Part 1....


Daniel W. Smith (2004), "The Inverse Side of the Structure: Zizek on Deleuze and Lacan," Criticism 46(4):635-650

Christopher Hanlon (2001), "Psychoanalysis and the Post-Political: An Interview with Slavoj Zizek," New Literary History 32:1-21.



September 26

Reframing Framing and Quest(ion)ing

Heidegger, Martin. "The Question Concerning Technology/Die Frage Nach der Technik" (entire book is uploaded here but just read this essay from it)

Weber, Samuel. "Upsetting the Frame"

Ronell, Avital. The Telephone Book (selections)


Rheinberger, Hans-Jörg. 1998. Experimental Systems, Graphematic Spaces. In Inscribing Science: Scientific Texts and the Materiality of Communication, edited by T. Lenoir. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Ronell, Avital. “Proving Grounds,” The Test Drive, pp. 5-57.



October 3

Iterating, Reading Ethics

Derrida, Limited Inc


Caputo, John D. (ed.) Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida. New York: Fordham University Press, 1997.

Cilliers, Paul. 1998. Complexity and Postmodernism: Understanding Complex Systems. London: Routledge. (pp. 48-57)

Cohen, Sande. 1999. “Reading Science Studies Writing.” In The Science Studies Reader, edited by M. Biagioli. London: Routledge.

Derrida, Jacques. 1978. “Freud and the Scene of Writing.” Writing and Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Derrida, Jacques. 1978. “Force and Signification.” Writing and Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Derrida, Jacques. 1994. Spectres of Marx. Translated by P. Kamuf. New York: Routedge.

Derrida, Jacques. 1992. Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money. Translated by P. Kamuf. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Derrida, Jacques. 1987. The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. Translated by A. Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Derrida, Jacques. 1986. Memoires for Paul de Man. Translated by C. Lindsay, J. Culler and E. Cadava. New York: Columbia University Press.

Deutscher, Penelope How to Read Derrida

Graff, Gerald. 1995. Determinacy/Indeterminacy. In Critical Terms for Literary Study (2nd Edition), edited by F. Lentricchia and T. McLaughlin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Harrison, Bernard. 1999. "'White Mythology' Revisited: Derrida and His Critics on Reason and Rhetoric," Critical Inquiry 25.3:505-534.

Johnson, Barbara. 1995. “Writing.” In Critical Terms for Literary Study, edited by F. Lentricchia and T. McLaughlin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Plotnitsky, Arkady. 1994. Complementarity: Anti-Epistemology After Bohr and Derrida. Chapel Hill: Duke University Press.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1976. “Translator’s Preface,” pp. ix-lxxxvii in Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Ulmer, Gregory L. 1985. Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

October 10
(4S meetings)
What the?

October 17
Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony


8 October 24 This Is Not a Foucault

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (1990).The Post-Colonial Critic (at least interviews 1, 3, 8, 11, 12)

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. "More on Power/Knowledge" Outside in the Teaching Machine.


Alcoff, Linda Martin. 1999. “Becoming an Epistemologist.” In Becomings: Explorations in Time, Memory, and Futures, edited by E. Grosz, pp. 55-75. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality Vol. 1.

Michel Foucault, “Truth and Juridical Forms,” Power:Essential Works of Foucault, v. 3, ed. James Faubion. New York: new Press, 2000.

Hayden White, “Introduction” and “Nietzsche,” Metahistory.

Elisabeth Roudinesco, Philosophy in turbulent times [electronic resource] : Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida translated by William McCuaig. Columbia University Press 2010.

Smith, Barbara Herrnstein. 1988. “Truth/Value.” In Contingencies of Value: Alternative Perspectives for Critical Theory, pp. 85-124. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press.

October 31
Feminist cocktail

Butler, Judith. Excitable Speech (selection)
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofksy "Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You're So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You" in Touching Feeling.

November 7
Another Round, Bartender!

Wilson, Elizabeth. Neural Geographies: Feminism and the Microstructure of Cognition. (Chapter 1)

Wilson, Elizabeth. "Gut feminism." differences (X:Y):n-n+p
Brief and smart biographing of Evelyn Fox Keller here.

Grosz, Elizabeth, 2011. "Feminism, Materialism, and Freedom," "The Future of Feminist Theory; Dreams for New Knowledges," and "Differences Disturbing Identity: Deleuze and Feminism,: Chapters 4-6 of Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art

November 14
Faciality and Minor Literatures
1, 2, 4
3 (Intro and Chapter 3 if you must select), 4, 2


Benson, Peter, and Kevin Lewis O'neill, "Facing Risk: Levinas, Ethnography, and Ethics," Anthropology of Consciousness 18/2 (2007).

Peter Benson, "
EL CAMPO: Faciality and Structural Violence in Farm Labor Camps," Cultural Anthropology 23/4 (2008):589-629

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, Theory and History of Literature 30, University of Minnesota Press.

Todd Ramon Ochoa, "Versions of the Dead: Kalunga, Cuban-Kongo Materiality, and Ethnography," Cultural Anthropoogy 22/4 (2007):473-500.

Stanley Raffel, "If Goffman Had Read Levinas," Journal of Classical Sociology 2/2 (2002)

November 21

Tom Cohen,"Polemos: ‘I am at war with myself’ or, Deconstruction™ in the Anthropocene?," The Oxford Literary Review 34.2 (2012): 239–257.



December 5

Tim Morton, "Ecology as Text, Text as Ecology." 2010. Oxford Literary Review 32.1

Also this:

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Tom Cohen knows what he's talking about.
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And since everyone wants to dance around the gaping maw of Death with relative impunity...
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Ann H. Kelly (2012), "The Experimental Hut: Hosting Vectors," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.):S145-S160.

David Wills, Dorsality


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