The UCLA Program in Experimental Critical Theory is meant to galvanize, coordinate, and expand research and teaching in critical theory across departments and disciplines at UCLA.The Program offers the Graduate Certificate in Experimental Critical Theory, which is open to graduate students enrolled in a Ph.D. or MFA program in any participating department at UCLA.The Program also sponsors the annual ECT Colloquium, which meets twice a quarter, and various lectures and conferences.


Please join us on Tuesday April 3 at 5:00 in the Comparative Literature Seminar Room (Humanities 348) for an ECT Symposium with


Stathis Gourgouris


Professor of Comparative Literature, UCLA




Archē and Infinity of a Political Cosmos”



Stathis Gourgouris was born in Hollywood and grew up in Athens, Greece. He received his PhD in Comparative Literature at UCLA in 1990. He has taught Comparative Literature at Princeton and Columbia, and has been Visiting Professor at Yale (European Studies), the University of Michigan (Comparative Literature and the International Institute), and the National Polytechnic in Athens (Graduate Program of Epistemology). He was a National Endowment of the Humanities recipient in 2003 (as a Senior Fellow in the American School of Classical Studies in Athens), as well as Senior Fellow at the Center for Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture, Rutgers University (2000).  He serves currently on the Board of Supervisors of the English Institute, Harvard University, and has recently been elected President of the Modern Greek Studies Association.

He has published two books: Dream Nation: Enlightenment, Colonization, and the Institution of Modern Greece (Stanford UP, 1996) – translated in Serbo-Croatian (Belgrade Circle, 2005); Greek translation forthcoming (Kritiki, 2006) – and Does Literature Think? Literature as Theory for an Antimythical Era (Stanford UP, 2003) – Greek translation published by Nefeli (2005). In addition to literary writings, he has written articles on politics, psychoanalysis, music, and film studies, published in boundary 2, South Atlantic Quarterly, Thesis Eleven, New Literary History, Performing Arts Journal, Qui Parle, Cardozo Law Review, Strategies, Diaspora, Social Text, as well as in journals in Greece, France, Italy, Serbia, Turkey, and Egypt.

 He is a poet, with three books of poetry in Greek, and many poems published in English in anthologies and journals such as Harvard Review, Jacaranda Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, Compages, LA Weekly. He has translated various Greek poets in English, notably Yiannis Patilis’ Camel of Darkness (Selected Poems 1970-1990) in the Quarterly Review of Literature Book Series (1997), as well as the poetry of Heiner Müller and Carolyn Forché into Greek.




“What Can a Body Do? Psychoanalysis and the Logic of the Symptom”

The Psychoanalysis Reading Group at Cornell University invites submissions for its upcoming annual conference

 Featuring Keynote Speaker Tim Dean, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University at Buffalo (SUNY); author of Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking (2009), Beyond Sexuality (2000), and Gary Snyder and the American Unconscious: Inhabiting the Ground (1991); co-editor of A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy (2008) and Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis (2001).

 April 20-21, 2012; Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

 What does the symptom know about the body, and how much of that knowledge can it tell?   Psychoanalysis operates under the hypothesis of a body de-natured from the organism.  According to Jacques Lacan, this is why we think: as he notes, the subject “thinks as a consequence of the fact that a structure, that of language … carves up his body, a structure that has nothing to do with anatomy. Witness the hysteric.”  De-natured from its status as organism, the body emerges as parceled and the symptom as “truth taking shape” (Lacan).  The symptom “holds” the body: we do not want to let the symptom go, for the jouissance tied to its eruption props up our very being.  In analysis, then, language works on the symptom: the analyst maneuvers to fragment the chain of meaning that has sustained the subject’s individual body at the expense of its carved one, inviting the subject to encounter the truth of the structure, desire borne of language’s effects on the body. Encountering such effects, however, threatens the stability of both the subject’s “self” as well as its link to the social.

The symptom also speaks to the specificity of psychoanalysis as a clinical praxis; to the limits of its relevance for interpreting social or cultural phenomena beyond the clinic; and to the possibilities for interpretation implied by Lacan’s late reformulation, following the literary example of James Joyce, of the symptom as sinthome, “a signifier that would have no sense at all, just like the Real.”  If the clinic of the neurotic symptom is the place where psychoanalysis thinks itself, what kind of knowledge can the analysand articulate about psychoanalysis as a practice in light of the sinthome’s resistance to analysis?  To what extent does the sinthome’s relationship to knowledge and truth invite us to historicize the many ways—clinical, scientific, mathematical, political and aesthetic—the symptom both enables and limits the production of its perverse truth?

If psychoanalysis provides a support for the work of the symptom as a singular structure through which the body exerts itself in excess of both the ego’s place within the social link and discursive taming of the body, how might we theorize this work’s ability to extend into other terrains?  From Freud’s social and theological investigations (Moses and Monotheism or Totem and Taboo) to Lacan’s claim that woman is the symptom of man to Octave Mannoni’s anthropologies (Prospero and Caliban) to the Marxism of Louis Althusser (“symptomatic reading”) or Slavoj Žižek (“How Marx Invented the Symptom”) to, most recently, Tim Dean’s work on different social organizations of sexual practice, psychoanalysis moves beyond the clinic to consider the logic of bodies within and against the limits of the social world.  How does psychoanalytic thought, in its labor to enter into such practices, stay loyal to Lacan’s insistence that it is the unconscious, not the analyst, that engages in the work of interpretation?  Inversely, how might the internal logic of psychoanalytic thought depend on psychoanalysis’s ability to articulate itself to this manifold of social activities, from literature to law, aesthetics to anthropology?

 The deadline for submission of abstracts is February 1, 2012.  Abstracts should not exceed 250 words; presenters will have 25 minutes each for their presentations with ample time for discussion afterward.  Please send abstracts to the Psychoanalysis Reading Group at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  Notices of acceptance will be sent by February 15, 2012.



The UCLA Program in Experimental Critical Theory presents a symposium, co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies,

on Monday Feb. 27 at 5:30 [PLEASE NOTE TIME CHANGE]

in Royce 306 by

 Martin Treml

(Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin)


“Paulinian Enmity: A story of the correspondence(s) of Jacob Taubes & Carl Schmitt”


Between 1977 and 1980, after two decades of an intense, mutual, yet indirect acknowledgment, Jacob Taubes, philosopher of religion and rabbinically trained Jew, exchanged with Carl Schmitt, Nazi crown jurist and theorist of the state of exception, letters and postcards. Taubes as well as Schmitt are often regarded as charlatans and demonic manipulators, but both of them are also remembered by many as some of the intellectually and spiritually most fascinating figures they ever encountered. In any case, there is no doubt that Taubes has made major contributions to the scholarship of apocalyptic thinking and messianic gnosticism. He has taken the field from the mere study of historical phenomena to a penetrating investigation of the dialectics of secularization and resacralization constitutive of what we call “religion.” In a similar way, Schmitt can be credited with fundamental insights into the relationship of theology and the study of law, between decision-making and the persistent difference between friend and enemy.  The intellectual dialogue between Taubes and Schmitt in their correspondence took place before the background of a political, but also academic state of crisis in West Germany. The aftershocks of the late 1960s student movement were still evident in most if not all of the country’s institutions and discourses. This aftermath can be found Taubes’s and Schmitt’s discussions about ardent questions of political theology, such as: Saint Paul as the first illiberal Jew, Thomas Hobbes as the thinker of world civil war avant la lettre, Erik Peterson and Leo Strauss as sharp critics of the work of Schmitt, and Walter Benjamin as a mutual reference point. All of these concerns intersect with the central concerns of their respective thinking: the certainty of a liberating revelation; Catholicism as universal form; apocalyptical sentiment; the enduring power of the katechon set into the cold space of decision. Their correspondences were linked what may be called “Paulinian enmity.” The Taubes and Schmitt letters, which have been published in Germany last year, are now presented to the US academic public for the first time.

** Excerpts from the recent collection of letters between Schmitt and Taubes, edited by Professor Treml, are available here:



(Letters 1-5, 7 trans. by Timothy Edwards; Letter 6 trans. by Dana Hollander)



Call for Applications  ECT Seminar 2011-12    

Applications are now being accepted for the 2011-2012 ECT Seminar, "What is a World?"  The seminar will meet on Thursdays, 3:00-6:00 Winter and Spring Quarters.  Applications are due Dec. 2, 2011 by email to: ECT Program, c/o Michelle Anderson, Student Affairs Officer, Department of Comparative Literature, UCLA This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Please include the following information: name, email, Ph.D. or MFA program or department, year in program and expected date of degree, and thesis or graduate advisorPlease describe your background and interests in critical theory, in no more than two single spaced pages.

The ECT seminar is the core course required of students who wish to receive the Graduate Certificate in Experimental Critical Theory; more information on requirements for the certificate is available here.

What is a World?

What remains of the idea of “world” today?  Is the increasingly rapid circulation of information, money, and objects around nearly the entire earth confirming capitalism as the whole cloth from which, for better or worse, our reality is woven, and globalism as the only viable paradigm for understanding its warp and woof, its rips and patches?  And is the only alternative to globalization the new “localisms,” “regionalisms,” and “communitarianisms” that resist these expanding technological and economic networks by emphasizing the integrity of geographically limited and culturally particular areas and systems?  What is a world?  Is a world an interior, with a border that marks its difference from an exterior?  Is a world constituted by the various perspectives of the individuals who inhabit it or is there something transcendental in a world, invariant and resistant to and even constitutive of multiple perspectives?  Are worlds distinct and exclusive, or interpenetrating and inclusive?  Is our knowledge limited to and by our historical and geographical situation in a world, or do we have access to truths that link multiple worlds?  How does a world emerge? Suddenly like the Big Bang or the biblical creation story, or through gradual development, like geological accretion?  And how does a world change?  Through internal development or external pressures?  Through evolutionary modification or revolutionary rupture?  These are some of the questions that will guide our investigations of the concept of world and the functions of history, event, and truth in worlds in the ECT Seminar this year.  Winter quarter will be led by Professor McCumber and will focus on the work of Martin Heidegger and his relationship to Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Husserl; Spring quarter will be led by Professor Reinhard and will examine the ideas of Alain Badiou and his relationship to Plato, Hegel, and Heidegger.

Winter 2012 (German 265): History, Truth and World: Heidegger displaced the locus of truth from sentences, propositions and theories to the set of contextualized significances he calls “world.” This move was indispensable for subsequent philosophy, which may accept or reject it but cannot ignore it without falling back into an uncritical use of modernistic categories (pre-eminently, those of “subject” and “object”). Heidegger himself saw this displacement as prepared for in a wide variety of his predecessors, from Aristotle to Husserl; this gives his move an historical justification in that Heidegger sees himself as saying clearly (!) what they were only trying to articulate. We will look at his discussions of those predecessors, along with their actual texts, with a view to understanding and evaluating this justification.


Spring 2012 (Comparative Literature 290): Worlds, Events, Truth: In the twentieth century, Heidegger presented a critique of globalism avant la lettre in the form of a history of the concept of “world,” beginning with an authentic Greek idea of kosmos and leading to its corruption in, for example, modern notions of Weltanschauung or “world-view.”  For Heidegger, the impoverishment of the concept of world in modernity is bound up with the rapid development of technology, which has uprooted us from the world, rendering everything equally intelligible and equally meaningless.  Without succumbing to Heidegger’s reactionary fear of technology, Alain Badiou has also criticized the concept of globalism, especially in the form of what he calls the “democratic materialism” (the proposition that there are only “bodies and languages”) that forms the common ideology of the western world.  The position that Badiou calls the “materialist dialectic” agrees that a world is made up of nothing more than bodies and languages – there is no spirit beyond the material bodies and symbolic languages that constitute our worlds.  However, Badiou argues that there is indeed an “exception” to this rule, which is precisely a truth, the constitutive yet indiscernible void or excess in a world.  Truths are immanent to a particular world, according to Badiou, yet they are universal, infinite, and “trans-worldly.”  For Badiou, a world is an ontologically closed set in which the possibility of appearing is regulated by transcendental conditions, or a logic, particular to that world.  How then can we change the world?  How does a new world arise, if it is to be more than a modification of a pre-existing world?  This seminar will focus on Badiou’s Logics of Worlds, as well as other texts by Badiou on the concepts of world, event, truth, and subject.  We will consider Badiou’s idea of world primarily in relation to that of Heidegger, and possibly also in relation to other philosophers such as Plato, Hegel, and Sloterdijk.  Professor Badiou will join us for two weeks, presenting new material in seminars and public lectures.



Paul A. Bove

Thursday Oct. 13, 2011

Humanities 193 @ 5:00 PM  UCLA

“The Will to Destruction as the Basis of Allegory: Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem”

Paul A. Bove is Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and Editor of boundary 2, edited at Pitt and published by Duke UP. He is the author and editor of more than a dozen books on poetry, criticism, theory, and intellectuals. His last book,
Poetry Against  Torture, prints a lecture series at the University of Hong Kong. His  forthcoming book is The End of Thinking in the 21st Century. He is completing a book called Art After Allegory for Harvard UP, another on the history of literary criticism, and a third for HUP on Henry Adams.