Watershed Recommends 2020

Throughout Watershed’s history, the Collective has offered recommendations. What is a better time to dig into some critical theory than during the COVID-19 pandemic and all classes moving online? Whether you’re looking for a theoretical lens for your seminar paper, texts to add to your reading lists, or a conversation starter, Watershed has you covered.

Photo: Princeton University Press

Theory texts we read last year and recommend:

Reality Bites: Rhetoric and the Circulation of Post-Truth Claims in U. S. Political Culture (2018) by Dana Cloud. Cloud forwards a notion of rhetorical realism to respond to post-truth claims in American political rhetoric. Cloud’s chapters trace examples of far-right political rhetorical techniques and from there recommends left-leaning activists engage in similar strategies such as narrative, embodiment, and affect. --Zoe McDonald

The Mushroom at the End of the World (2015) by Anna Tsing. This text focuses on the interconnectedness of all forms of life on Earth in a pragmatic way. Using the very real emergence of Matsutake mushrooms in the unexpectedly altered environs of Oregon, Tsing creates a metaphor for survival in the evolutionary sense that what survives does so with the help of its environment. Excitingly anti-human, but not stark, aggressive, or anti-Humanist.--Phillip Howells

Post-Truth (2018) by Lee McIntyre. Presented last year during the Humanities on the Edge speaking series, McIntyre’s goal in this short treatise to go beyond the stodgy definitions of truth and reality that get in the way of talking to people without classical training in philosophy. He lays out conversations he’s had with extreme denialists and attempts to understand how cognitive bias in America today has created this atmosphere of un-truth.--Phillip Howells

Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation (1999) by Eli Clare. And oldy but a goody. Clare’s book offers an intersectional look at the politics of power, oppression, and resistance at the crossroads of queer, dissability, and rural enviromental studies. A beautiful blend of prose and theory, this book takes a critical look as the ableism that once, and still, pervades everyday politics and academia. It’s a powerful seminal work, that even those who have no interests in disability studies, would benefit from reading. -- Keshia Mcclantoc

Twisty Little Passages (2005) by Nick Montfort. For those who are interested in interactive fiction, this text explores the history of the gaming and literary medium that has since grown into a massive market, especially in the Phone App industry (see games like Mystic Messenger and Choices: Stories You Play, for example). Montfort’s text is the first to explore this genre and serves as a strong introduction to the medium that I, personally, am passionate about. -- Joshua Renner

Theory texts we’re looking forward to reading next year:

Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (2019) by Ariella Azoulay. In this book based on her 2020 Humanities on the Edge lecture, Azoulay provides an anti-imperialist reading of museum curated history. Azoulay’s analysis of photography and questioning who is represented by the camera’s gaze captures my interest in public communication and ethics.--Zoe McDonald

Worldlessness After Heidegger: Phenomenology, Psychoanalysis, and Deconstruction (2020) by Roland Végső. As many of us in the English department of UNL, Roland Végső is an adroit and lively teacher of Critical Theory. His next books is an explication of the history of Philosophy of the World. The book is likely to provide an excellent survey as well as a furthering of this conversation that has been going on since before WW2.

Women’s Rhetorical Acts: Writing, Speaking, and Making the 20th Century (2020) by Shari Stenberg and Charlotte Hogg. Written both by a current UNL English professor, Stenberg, and formery UNL alum, Hogg, this text explores the feminist rhetorical moves that have been making and shaping culture over the last twenty years. As a follow up to Joy Ritchie’s Available Means, Stenberg and Hogg’s collection look at the critical feminist work done by bloggers, writers, politicians, activists, artists, and everyday social media users as they challenge the cultural forces that oppress and repress. -- Keshia Mcclantoc

Rewriting Partnerships: Community Perspectives on Community-Based Learning (2020) by Rachael Shah. Written by a current UNL English professor, Rewriting Partnerships challenges the commonly held belief about who creates knowledge when it comes to community-based learning, calling instead for the knowledge of the community partners we work with, as well as the clientele they serve, to take the forefront when it comes to creating effective teaching practices through an approach she terms “Critical Community-Based Epistemologies.” Those interested in community literacy should definitely look into adding this to their repertoire! -- Joshua Renner

Which theory texts were “watershed” moments for you during the 2019-2020 academic year? What have you read and what do you look forward to reading? Share in the comments.

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