MA Oral Examination in Theory

The MA Oral Examination in Theory
(January 2008)

Students should read a total of 12 works. Each numbered item (sometimes consisting of several essays) counts as one “work.”  Begin by choosing one of the nine theoretical subfields indicated below; then select twelve works from that list to represent the field.  Carefully considered substitutions may be made with the approval of the appropriate faculty member.


1. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry”

2. Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy

3. Raymond Williams, Culture and Society: 1780-1950

4. Paul Willis, Learning to Labor: How Working-Class Kids Get Working-Class Jobs

5. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste

6. Stuart Hall. “Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms” and “Notes on Deconstructing “The Popular”

7. Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style

8. Ien Ang, Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination

9. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life

10. Angie McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture

11. Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression

12. Michael Denning, Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture

13. John Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture

14. Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy and Popular Literature or A Feeling for Books: The Book of the Month Club, Literary Taste and Middle-Class Desire

15. Andrew Ross, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture

16. Meaghan Morris, “Banality in Cultural Studies”

17. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson and Paula Treichler, Cultural Studies

18. Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness

19. Jackie Stacey, Stargazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship

20. Kobena Mercer, Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies

21. John Frow, Cultural Studies and Cultural Value


1. Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

2. Adrienne Rich, Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose, 1979-1985 (5 essays, of which 1 must be “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”)

3. Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women” and “Thinking Sex”

4. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (in entirety)

5. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination

6. Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature

7. Elaine Showalter, ed., The New Feminist Criticism (5 essays, including Lillian S. Robinson, “Treason Our Text: Feminist Challenges to the Literary Canon” and Barbara Smith, “Toward a Black Feminist Criticism”)

8. Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which is Not One (5 essays, one of which must be “This Sex Which is Not One).

9. Hélène Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa” and “Castration or Decapitation?”

10. Patricia Erens, ed., Issues in Feminist Film Criticism (5 essays, of which 1 must be Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”)

11. Teresa de Lauretis, Technologies of Gender

12. Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

13. Hazel Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist

14. Jane Gallop, The Daughter’s Seduction or Around 1981: Academic Feminist Literary Theory

15. Donna J. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (5 essays, one of which must be “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”)

16. Terry Castle, The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture

17. Elizabeth Grosz, Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism

18. Deborah McDowell, “The Changing Same”: Black Women’s Literature, Criticism, and Theory

19. Elizabeth Abel, ed., Female Subjects in Black and White: Race, Psychoanalysis, Feminism (at least 5 essays)

20. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble or Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” or Undoing Gender

21. Susan Stanford Friedman, Mappings: Feminism and the Cultural Geographies of Encounter

22. Joan B. Landes, ed., Feminism, the Public, and the Private (3 essays chosen from among the following: Joan B. Landes, “The Public and the Private Sphere: A Feminist Reconsideration,” Lauren Berlant, “Live Sex Acts (Parental Advisory: Explicit Material,” Patricia J. Williams, “On Being the Object of Property,” Jennifer Wicke, “Celebrity Material: Materialist Feminism and the Culture of Celebrity,” “Iris Marion Young, “Impartiality and the Civic Public: Some Implications of Feminist Critiques of Moral and Political Theory, “ and Wendy Brown, “Wounded Attachments: Late Modern Oppositional Political Formations.”)

23. Rita Felski, Beyond Feminist Aesthetics: Feminist Literature and Social Change or The Gender of Modernity, or Doing Time: Feminist Theory and Postmodern Culture (choose 1 book)

24. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (5 essays, including “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses”)

25. Ann McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in Colonial Context

26. Hypatia 16:4 (Fall 2001) (special issue on disability and feminism) (at least five essays)

27. Ellen Samuels, "Critical Divides: Judith Butler's Body Theory and the Question of Disability" (2002) and Rosemarie Garland Thomson, "Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory" (2002) and Catherine J. Kudlick, "Disability History, Power, and Rethinking the Idea of `the Other'" (2005)


1. Sergei Eisenstein, Film Form: Essays in Film Theory

2. Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film

3. Béla Balázs, Theory of the Film: Character and Growth of a New Art

4. Andre Bazin, What is Cinema? Vol. 1

5. Cahiers du Cinéma, “John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln”; Andrew Sarris, “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962”; Peter Wollen, “The Autuer Theory,” from Signs and Meaning in the Cinema

6. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

7. Christian Metz, The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and Cinema

8. Laura Mulvey, Visual and Other Pleasures

9. Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision

10. Philip Rosen, ed., Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology: A Film Theory Reader (must include Colin MacCabe, “Theory and Film: Principles of Realism and Pleasure”; Kaja Silverman, “Suture”; Jean-Louis Baudry, “Ideological Effects of the Cinematographic Apparatus” and “The Apparatus: Metapsychological Approaches to the Impression of Reality in Cinema”; Mary Ann Doane, “The Voice in the Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space”; and Jean-Louis Comolli, “Technique and Ideology: Camera, Perspective, Depth of Field”)

11. Fernando Solanas and Octavio Gettino: “Towards a Third Cinema”; Jim Pines and Paul Willemen, eds., Questions of Third Cinema (must include Teshome H. Gabriel, “Towards a Critical Theory of Third World Films” and “Third Cinema as Guardian of Popular Memory: Towards a Third Aesthetic”; Haile Gerima, “Triangular Cinema, Breaking Toys, and Dinknesh vs Lucy”)

12. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image OR Cinema 2: The Time-Image

13. Tom Gunning, “Narrative Discourse and the Narrator System”; “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator”; “The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator, and the Avant-Garde”

14. Linda Williams, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy” of the Visible; “When the Woman Looks”; “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess”

15. Vivian Sobchack, “The Scene of the Screen: Envisioning Photographic, Cinematic, and Electronic ‘Presence’”; “Inscribing Ethical Space: Ten Propositions on Death, Representation and Documentary”; “Phenomenology and the Film Experience”

16. David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960, Parts 1-3

17. Manthia Diawara, ed., Black American Cinema (must include Manthia Diawara, “Black American Cinema: The New Realism” and “Black Spectatorship: Problems of Identification and Resistance”; Jane Gaines, “Fire and Desire: Race, Melodrama and Oscar Micheaux”; Jacquie Jones, “The Construction of Black Sexuality: Towards Normalizing the Black Cinematic Experience”; and bell hooks, “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators”)

18. Trinh T. Minh-ha, When the Moon Waxes Red: Representation, Gender, and Cultural Politics

19. Miriam Hansen, Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film; “The Mass Production of the Senses: Classical Cinema as Vernacular Modernism”; “Early Cinema, Late Cinema: Permutations of the Public Sphere”

20.  Bill Nichols, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary

21. Richard Dyer, Stars

22. Michel Chion, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen

23. Rick Altman, Film/Genre

24. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media



1. Karl Marx, The German Ideology

2. Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks (selections)

3. Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (selections) or “Commitment” or, with Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry”

4. Georg Lukacs, Narrate or Describe?” and “The Ideology of Modernism”; or The Historical Novel

5. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations or Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism

6. Bertolt Brecht, “Organon for the Theater”

7. Fredric Jameson, ed. Aesthetics and Politics

8. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

9. Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”

10. Pierre Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production

11. Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature

12. J. Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere OR The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity

13. Heidi Hartmann, “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Toward a More Progressive Union”

14. Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic

15. Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

16. Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy

17. Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literature

18. Nancy Fraser, “Justice Interruptus”: Critical Reflections on the “Postsocialist Condition”

Postcolonial Studies

 1. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth or A Dying Colonialism

2. Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism

3. Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized

4. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Decolonising the Mind

5. Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, eds., Selected Subaltern Studies (at least 5 essays)

6. Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy

7. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back

8. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities

9. Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic

10. Kwame Anthony Appiah, In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture

11. Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments

12. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (entire book)

13. Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism

14. Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory: Nations, Classes, Literatures

15. Francis Barker, Peter Hulme, and Margaret Iverson, eds., Colonial Discourse/Postcolonial Theory (entire book)

16. Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather

17. Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large

18. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason

19. Aihwa Ong, Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality

20. Dipesh Chakrabarty , Provincializing Europe

21. Robert J. C. Young, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction

22. Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony

23. Neil Lazarus, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies (at least 5 essays)

24. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity

25. Gaurav Gajanan Desai and Supriya Nair, eds., Postcolonialisms (at least 5 essays, with most or all by authors not otherwise included on your list)



1. Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess (complete)

2. Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings (selection: “Being and Time: Introduction,” “The Origin of the Work of Art,” “Letter on Humanism,” “The Question Concerning Technology,” “Building Dwelling Thinking,” “What Calls for Thinking?”)

3. Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (complete)

4. Louis Althusser, “Lenin and Philosophy” and Other Essays (complete)

5. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology

6. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

7. Hélène Cixous and Catherine Clément, The Newly-Born Woman

8. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (complete)

9. Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice (complete)

10. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge

11. Roland Barthes, The Rustle of Language

12. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

13. Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

14. Jacques Derrida, “Force of Law: ‘The Mystical Foundation of Authority’”

15. Gilles Deleuze, Foucault

16. Jacques Derrida, Acts of Literature (complete)

17. Michel Foucault, Power: Collected Writings, Vol. 3 (selection: “Truth and Juridical Forms,” “Preface to Anti-Oedipus,” “Truth and Power,” “Governmentality,” “The Subject and Power,” “The Political Technology of Individuals”)

18. Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics and Pure War

19. Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology

20. Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community

21. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, The Spivak Reader (at least 5 essays)

22. Hélène Cixous, The Hélène Cixous Reader (at least 5 essays)

23. Alain Badiou, Being and Event

24. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason

25. Slavoj Žižek, Tarrying with the Negative



1. Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900)

2. Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), plus “Instincts and Their Vicissitudes” (1915), “A Child is Being Beaten” (1919) and “The Economic Problem of Masochism” (1924)

3. Sigmund Freud, choose three of the five case histories: “Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria” [aka Dora] (1905); “Analysis of a Phobia in a Five Year-Old” [aka Little Hans] (1909); “Notes upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis” [aka Rat Man] (1909), “Psychoanalytic Notes on an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia” [Schreber] (1911), and “From the History of an Infantile Neurosis” [Wolf Man] (1918)

3. Melanie Klein, The Selected Melanie Klein (in particular read “Infantile Anxiety Situations Reflected in a Work of Art and in the Creative Impulse” (1929) and “The Importance of Symbol Formation in the Development of the Ego” (1930))

4. Donald Winnicott, Playing and Reality (in particular read “Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena” (1953) and “The Use of an Object and Relating Through Identifications” (1969)

5. Jacques Lacan, Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1973)

6. Juliet Mitchell, Psychoanalysis and Feminism: A Radical Reassessment of Freudian Psychoanalysis (1974)

7. Jean Laplanche, Life and Death in Psychoanalysis (1976); and with J.B. Pontalis, “Fantasy and the Origins of Sexuality” (1964)

8. Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art (1977)

9. Shoshana Felman, ed., Literature and Psychoanalysis: The Question of Reading (1977) (at least 5 essays)

10. Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok, The Shell and the Kernel: Renewals of Psychoanalysis (1978)

11. Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (1978)

12. Jacques Lacan, Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the Ecole Freudienne, ed. Jacqueline Rose and Juliet Mitchell (1982)

13. Kaja Silverman, The Subject of Semiotics (1983)

14. Leo Bersani, The Freudian Body (1986)

15. Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination (1988)

16. Sander Gilman, “Black Bodies, White Bodies: Toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late Nineteenth-Century Art, Medicine, and Literature” (1985) and “Sexology, Psychoanalysis, and Degeneration: From a Theory of Race to a Race to Theory” (1985)

17. Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989)

18. Kaja Silverman, Male Subjectivity at the Margins (1992)

19. Joan Copjec, Read My Desire: Lacan Against the Historicists (1994)

20. Diana Fuss, Identification Papers: Readings on Psychoanalysis, Sexuality and Culture (1995)

21. Claudia Tate, Psychoanalysis and Black Novels: Desire and the Protocols of Race (1998)

22. Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (1996)

23. Anne Cheng, The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Grief (2000)

24. Ranjana Khanna, Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism (2003)



1. Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”

2. Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider (in entirety)

3. Monique Wittig, The Straight Mind and Other Essays (in entirety)

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

5. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, the introduction to Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire and “Axiomatic” and “The Beast in the Closet” from The Epistemology of the Closet

6. Ann Snitow, ed., The Powers of Desire (5 essays, of which 1 must be John D’Emilio, “Capitalism and Gay Identity”)

7. George Chauncey, “From Sexual Inversion to Homosexuality: The Changing Medical Conceptualization of Female ‘Deviance’” and Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940I (“Introduction” plus any 1 other chapter).

8. Leo Bersani, “Is the Rectum a Grave?” and Homos

9. Carol S. Vance, Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality (5 essays, of which 1 must be Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex”)

10. Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud

11. Douglas Crimp, Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics

12. Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter or Undoing Gender

13. Teresa de Lauretis, The Practice of Love: Lesbian Sexuality and Perverse Desire

14. Bad Object Choices (Collective), How Do I Look: Queer Cinema and Film (5 essays, of which 2 must be Kobena Mercer, “Skin Head/Sex Thing” and Richard Fung, “Looking for my Penis”)

15. Terry Castle, The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture

16. David L. Eng and Alice Y. Hom, eds., Q & A: Queer in Asian America (in entirety)

17. Michael Warner, ed., Fear of a Queer Planet (in entirety)

18. Diana Fuss, Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories (in entirety)

19. Elizabeth Weed and Naomi Schor, eds., Feminism Meets Queer Theory (at least 5 essays)

20. Lauren Berlant, The Queen of America goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship

21. Jack Halberstam, Female Masculinity or In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives

22. Michael Warner, The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life

23. Jay Prosser, Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality

24. Philip Brian Harper, Private Affairs: Critical Ventures in the Culture of Social Relations.

25. E. Patrick Johnson and Mae G. Henderson, Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology (at least 5 essays)

26. Robert McRuer and Abby L. Wilkerson, ed., Desiring Disability 2003: Queer Theory Meets Disability Studies (2003)(at least five essays)

27. Robert McRuer, Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability (2006)



 1. Houston Baker, Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory (1984)

2. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Kwame Anthony Appiah, ed., "Race," Writing, and Difference (1985) (at least 5 essays0

3. Werner Sollors, Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture (1986)

4. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (1988)

5. King-Kok Cheung, "The Woman Warrior versus The Chinaman Pacific: Must a Chinese American Critic Choose between Feminism and Heroism?" (1990); David Palumbo-Liu, “On the Subject of Asian American Studies: Theorizing Asian American Studies” (1995); Susan Koshy, “The Fiction of Asian American Literature” (1996)

6. Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities (1992)

7. Arnold Krupat, Ethnocriticism: Ethnography, History, Literature (1992)

8. Sau-ling Wong, Reading Asian American Literature: From Necessity to Extravagance (1993)

9. Donald Pease and Amy Kaplan, eds., Cultures of United States Imperialism (1993) (at least 5 essays)

10. Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the U.S.: From the 1960s to the 1990s (1994)

11. David Roediger, Towards the Abolition of Whiteness: Essays on Race, Politics, and Working Class History (1994)

12. Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (1993)

13. Kobena Mercer, Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies (1994)

14. Walter Benn Michaels, Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism (1995)

15. Deborah McDowell, “The Changing Same”: Black Women’s Literature, Criticism, and Theory (1995)

16. Lisa Lowe, Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (1996)

17. Jose Saldivar, Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies (1997)

18. Philip Deloria, Playing Indian (1998)

19. George Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics (1998)

20. Hazel Carby, Cultures in Babylon: Black Britain and African America (1999)

21. Chela Sandoval, “U.S. Third World Feminism: The Theory and Method of Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World”; Methodology of the Oppressed (2000)

22. Vijay Prashad, Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity (2001)

23. Hortense Spillers, Black, White, and In Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture (2003)

24. MariJo Moore, ed., Genocide of the Mind: New Native American Writing (2003) (at least 5 essays)

25. Brent Hayes Edwards, The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (2003)