The Critique of Everyday Life ENG 446

Everyday life is mundane, repetitive, and boring.  Yet ‘the everyday’ is absolutely fascinating to the genre of the novel, and is considered incredibly complex by important philosophies of socio-political relations like feminism and Marxism.  This course explores theories of everyday life, of social space and architecture, of power relations and the reproduction of society, and asks about the tensions between the quotidian and the spectacular, the banal and the exceptional, as they organize experience and inspire the novel.


Everyday Life Writing Experiment #1:

This course focuses on the dynamics of everyday life and the conventions for representing everyday life in literature.  Throughout the semester, we will engage in a number of experiments in everyday life writing.  For the first experiment, due Tuesday 27 August in class, please complete a short work (500 words or less) about your everyday life.  The form of this “work” is up to you (narration?  description?  dialogue? catalogue? verse? tweets?), so take license and liberty.  The perspective is also up to you (your everyday life as it appears to you; the everyday life of a stranger as it appears to you; your everyday life as it might appear to a stranger).  No research or theory is necessary for this assignment, and there is no right way to do it – try to have fun!

Below are some options to get you going, though you need not consider them.


Schedule of Readings


Tues 27 Aug

Introductions; your everyday

Everyday Life Writing Experiment due


Thurs 29 Aug

Rita Felski, “The Invention of Everyday Life”

Raymond Williams, “Ordinary, Culture is Ordinary”


Tues 3 Sep

Activity from 101 Experiments in Philosophy of Everyday Life

Language 2, 44, 49, 57, 77

Maurice Blanchot, “Everyday Speech”

Henri Lefebvre, “The Everyday and Everydayness”




Thurs 5 Sep

Karl Marx, “Alienated Labor”

Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism excerpt

Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep Chapter 2

Tues 10 September

Fredric Engels, Origins of the Family excerpt

Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique excerpt

Pat Mainardi, “The Politics of Housework”

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble excerpt


Thurs 12 Sep

Thorston Veblen, “Conspicuous Consumption”

Zygmunt Bauman, Consuming Life excerpt

Todd McGowan, The End of Dissatisfaction excerpt

Tues 17 Sep

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish “Panopticism”

Foucault, History of Sexuality excerpt

Louis Althusser, “Ideological State Apparatuses”


Thurs 19 Sep

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction”

Virginia Woolf, “Modern Fiction”

Franco Moretti, “Serious Century”

Susan Sontag, On Photography “Melancholy Objects”

Tues 24 Sep

Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine Chapters 1-5

Roland Barthes, “The Reality Effect”

Naomi Schor, Reading in Detail “Details and Realism”

Harry Shaw, Narrating Reality, “Realism and Things”


Thurs 26 Sep

Baker, The Mezzanine Chapters 6-9

Activity from 101 Experiments in Philosophy of Everyday Life

Attunement 40, 43, 51


Tues 1 Oct

Baker, The Mezzanine conclusion

Mike Featherstone, “The Aestheticization of Everyday Life”




Thurs 3 Oct

Activity from 101 Experiments in Philosophy of Everyday Life

Public space 24, 37, 97

Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz

Walter Benjamin, “The Flaneur”

Upton Dell, “Architecture in Everyday Life”


Tues 8 Oct

Georg Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life”

Barthes, “Semiology and the Urban”

Fredric Jameson, “Is Space Political?”


Thurs 10 Oct

Michel De Certeau, “Walking in the City”; “Spatial Stories”

Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”

Karsten Harries, “Space, Place, and Ethos”


Tues 15 Oct

Woolf, Mrs Dalloway 1-50

Williams, “The Metropolis and the Emergence of Modernism”


Thurs 17 Oct

Mrs Dalloway 50-100

Tues 22 Oct

Mrs Dalloway 100-150

Le Corbusier, “The Great City”


Thurs 24 Oct

Mrs Dalloway 150-end

Liesl Olson, Modernism and the Ordinary excerpt




Tues 29 Oct

Guy Debord, “Perspectives for Conscious Changes in Everyday Life”

Sigfried Kracauer, “Boredom”

Viktor Shklovsky, “Art as Technique”


Thurs 31 Oct

Sigmund Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life excerpt

Eric Santner, The Psychotheology of Everyday Life excerpt

Tues 5 Nov

Renata Salecl, On Anxiety excerpt

Todd McGowan, Enjoying What We Don’t Have excerpt


Thurs 7 Nov

Rob Horning, “Facebook in the Age of Facebook”; “Facebook as Experiment”;

“Affective Privacy and Surveillance”

Mark Poster, “Everyday Virtual Life”

Jodi Dean, Blog Theory excerpt

Tues 12 Nov

Jason Read, Marx and The Prehistory of Capital excerpt

Thurs 14 Nov

Slavoj Zizek, “The Spectre of Ideology”




Tues 19 Nov

Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections 1-100

Thurs 21 Nov



Tues 26 Nov

The Corrections 100-250

Claire Colebrook, “The Politics and Potential of Everyday Life”



Tues 3 Dec

The Corrections 250-450


Thurs 5 Dec

The Corrections 450-end