Instructor: Ryan Acton
Meeting time: Tuesday/Thursday 5-6
The Frankfurt School was a group of intellectuals who first started writing in Germany in the tumultuous period between the two World Wars. They sought to understand why modernity had led not to progress, as earlier social theorists such as Marx had hoped, but to fascism, Stalinism, and an ever-morepowerful capitalism. Where earlier Marxists had focused on economics and politics as the key sites of domination and resistance, the Frankfurt School turned to culture. Cultural forms such as radio, film, marriage, and even the concept of “free time,” they held, shaped people’s desires, beliefs, and hopes, reconciling them to a social order that hurt them. Unmasking culture’s complicity, the Frankfurt School believed, was not only a method for understanding the world but also a way of loosening domination’s grip. This course surveys some of the Frankfurt School’s most enduring works of cultural criticism. Topics include mass culture, aesthetics, sexuality, the psyche, politics, and critique.