Autotheory and its Negativity
Dates: 11, 18, 25 September; 2, 9, 16 October 2023
Location: University of Amsterdam (Bushuis D3.06)
Instructor: Marija Cetinic (UvA)
Credits: 6 ECTS
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This course if fully booked. If you sign up, you will be placed on a waiting list.*
This course will study the transmedial form of autotheory, pursuing both its historical lineage as well as its proliferation since the 2010s. Close reading the autotheoretical turn, this course asks how autotheory, in its unsettling of generic and affective expectation, can be a site or practice of non-identity and the de-functionalization of subjectivities done and undone by the theoretical.
Considering critical theory’s radical critique of the individual, that figure central to the advance of both liberal democracy and capitalism, are we now witnessing its return in a fortified aesthetic guise of autotheory, this course asks. Yes and no. And it’s from this ambivalence that we will investigate this form by considering the stakes for thinking processes of (de)subjectivization. We begin with Lauren Fournier’s Autotheory as Feminist Practice in which she argues that autotheory emerged in the early part of the 21st century to name works of literature, writing, and criticism that integrate autobiography with theory and philosophy in ways that are direct and self-aware. Autotheory, for Mieke Bal, names both “a practice” and an “ongoing, spiralling form of analysis-theory dialectic,” a temporality of recursive undoing that helps articulate how autotheory stages an encounter between the so-called first person who has already undergone a poststructuralist critique (as Robyn Wiegman argues in a special issue on autotheory in Arizona Quarterly) and theory. It is to the hinge, to mediation, to negativity, to dissent, to contradiction, to (non)relation between a so-called “self” and “theory” that we will attend.
Can autotheory only perform an entrepreneurial, self-affected and self-expressive self, what theorists Bojana Cvejić and Ana Vujanović call an “aesthetic individualism,” a new brand of individualism, distinguished from the earlier possessive and liberal variants, in its emphasis on intensity, on ability or potentiality, on the sensorial, affective and even somatic dimensions of being? If the encounter of the auto with theory unfolds as the structural and immanent internalization of the theoretical, what kind of subject does this negative posture of reception constitute (or refuse)?
Against the presentism of self-expression, how might autotheory help us to begin to think formal interventions that refuse the valorization of possessive individualism (even in an aestheticized or deconstructed neoliberal form) and trouble the assumed link between expression and the metaphysical conceits of self-identity, self-sufficiency, and self-transparency? If autotheory is a practice of performing, embodying, redoubling, and internalizing philosophy, theory, and art criticism, then how might its posture of receptivity disengage or withdraw from the very construction of a self?
Bookings are closed for this event.