This course is designed to be about “global critical theory in the 20th-century,” and it ends up becoming a mixture of postcolonialism, Islamic history, world cinema, and the ideas of some modern critical thinkers from “the West”—a hodgepodge which can seem a little messy at times but is ultimately enriching. In a certain sense, the syllabus can be read as Dabashi’s own mind map of the intellectual history of the 20th-century. Although the subject of this course is critical theory, the course is not designed as a normal content course you might find in the Philosophy or Comp Lit Department that covers a series of chronologically ordered materials at a steady pace. Instead, Dabashi uses, or at least tries to use, the materials he chose as spring boards to address larger issues that are supposed to be relevant to every Columbia undergrad sitting in the classroom. My feeling after taking this course is that I did not necessarily get the most authoritative or insightful interpretations of every single text we covered (which is by nature quite impossible), but I really got to learn about the way Dabashi thinks, which is not a bad thing, considering the knowledgeable, intelligent, and prolific intellectual he is. You can get a lot out of this class if you are willing to teach yourself, which means writing down the names and titles Dabashi mentions in class and googling them afterwards; in that way the scope of your knowledge will surely be expanded. This course introduced me to many thinkers I have never heard of before and brought to my attention an array of interesting problems that I was not aware of previously, and I very much appreciate what I have learned. Each session/class deals with a different topic. Sometimes Dabashi has something very interesting to say and the class is enjoyable; when he does not have many original things to say, he has the habit of opening a book and reading the first few pages sentence by sentence, stopping at every sentence to give a three-minute elaboration, simply to fill up the time. Despite some obvious shortcomings, the course is a valuable one overall and I by no means regret having taken it.

Workload:

5-page book review + 10-page final essay