Imre Szeman


I’ve taught courses on a wide-range of subjects since starting my first full-time position at McMaster University in 1999.

At the undergraduate level, I’ve taught courses on Communications Inquiry; Cultural Studies and Visual Culture; Cultural Studies: History, Theory, Practice; Globalization and Visual Culture; History and Theory of Criticism; Inquiry in the Social Sciences; Language and Politics; Literature and Film; Modern Critical Theory; Power, Agency, Community; Reading Politics: Class and Ideology; Reading the Tube: Television and Cultural Studies; and Rhetoric of Popular Culture.

At the graduate level, courses include: Energy and Environmental Studies; The Frankfurt School; Globalization and Culture; Issues in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory; Karl Marx; Literary History: Collectivity; Marxist Literary and Cultural Theory; and Postcolonial Literary Theory.

I’ve also taught courses on Globalization and Mass Culture at the University of Sao Paulo; The Future of Culture: American Studies and Cultural Theory at Humboldt University in Berlin; Introduction to Cultural Studies at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) in Mexico City; and Culture as Resource: Culture and Democracy in the Global System at Central European University in Budapest.

Graduate Course for Winter 2018

This course is designed to offer graduate students an introduction to the field of environmental humanities (EH)—an interdisciplinary field of research that has emerged out of the need to more fully address the environmental challenges of the twenty-first century. Writing and research in EH has sought to better understand the concepts and narratives through which humanity has figured its relationship to the natural world, and, in turn, to reshape the orientations and self-understanding of the humanities themselves. Beginning from an interrogation of the foundational binaries between human/nature and culture/nature, the aim of EH has been to develop new concepts, models and modalities of our relationship to the environment and the natural world, with the hope of opening up ways of being, belonging and behaving that would (for instance) mitigate or undo global warming and climate change. While many might imagine that the challenges of the environment are better left to researcher in the physical sciences or to public policy decisions, the humanities have a foundational role to play in our environmental futures: the missing piece of the environmental puzzle is to be found in the narratives and theories of self and community with which the humanities have long concerned themselves.

This course will explore the environmental humanities along the specific axis of energy. As an ever-greater number of critics, artists and writers have recognized, the expanded use of energy has not only had a significant role in global warming, but has also played a crucial role in shaping the development of modernity. The energy of a given era defines the characteristics and capacities of societies in an essential way; as such, making a full and effective transition from a fossil-fuel society to one in better accord with environmental systems requires us to transform myriad aspects of social life that might seem at first to have little to do with energy, including political systems, built environments, educational practices, artistic and cultural practices, and even the basic organization and experience of daily life. Many of the values, practices, beliefs and affects fundamental to contemporary life, such as growth, property, mobility, consumption, independence, and entrepreneurship have been formed in relation to and reinforced by the capacities and abilities oil has made possible. By exploring the work of critics, poets, and novelists who have attempted to deal with the fundamental character of oil for contemporary experience, this course will consider the multiple sites at which our petromodernity is being named, confronted, and theorized.

Graduate Course for Summer 2019

The emphasis given in contemporary critical thought to the important concepts of difference and identity has meant that relatively little attention has been paid to another concept: collectivity. A key aspect of any politics is the mechanism which brings together and binds individuals into larger groupings; the character of existing collectivities—nations, ethnicities, political parties, etc.—has been such that recent critical thought has seemed to want to either avoid theorizing the collective or to create theories in which collectivities emerge out of the raw material of individual identities (Hardt and Negri’s ‘multitude’—‘singularities in common’—being a prime example of the latter). This class will look at literary, cultural and social theories that investigate various forms of collectivity: class, the party, the mass, audiences, social movements, subcultures, generations, community, friendship, romance, publics, the people, networks, comrades, art collectives, affinities, and so on. In addition to theories and philosophies of collectivity, we will also consider the role of literary and cultural texts and practices in the formation or de-formation of collectivities. What does it take to create a collective or collectivity? Does it always come at the expense of identity or particularity?

Past Graduate Courses (@ U of Alberta)