Survey of literary and cultural theory introducing a variety of major approaches to the interpretation of literature. Required for all English Majors. Prerequisite: ENGS 085; Minimum Sophomore standing.
Dates: July 17 - August 11, 2017
The Approach (To All Approaches) There is no reading without theory. To claim that one is “just reading” is really a means of masking, protecting, or repressing an already operating theory. This claim is the provocation, problem, and thesis that will drive our work. The aim of this approach is not to undermine or abolish the pleasure of reading, but rather to intensify our engagement with the form, function, and substance of literature, and to discover anew how and why we read. The Questions …What is literature? What isn’t literature? What does a story mean? How does a story work? What is its work? How does language work? How does language shape perception? How does perception shape interpretation? What are the boundaries of interpretation? Who, or what, sets those boundaries? How do those boundaries reflect ideas of literary value?...
The Work: 1. We will read a broad selection of critical and theoretical writing. The selections are not comprehensive, but have been made with the aim of providing you with insight into the breadth and depth of the discourse we call critical theory. Our readings will come from the Norton Anthology of Criticism and Theory, Terry Eagleton’s important and widely read book, Literary Theory: An Introduction, and will be supplemented by occasional selections in PDF form. We will cover key essays from the following major 20th/21st century critical theories/movements: Russian Formalism, New Criticism, Psychoanalytic Theory, Structuralism, Deconstruction, Marxist Literary Theory, Feminism, Gender Studies, Critical Race & Ethnic Lit. Studies, Post-colonial Theory, and Cultural Studies. 2. In order to put theory into practice, we will read a pair of short stories or set of poems (selected by class deliberation) and a few short stories and poems (Gogol, Gilman, Salinger, Alexie, James, Rich, Bukowski…), listen to some music, and watch a zombie movie. 3. You will write a series of discussion responses capturing your reaction to the material and you will complete a take home exam designed to evaluate your command of the concepts and methods addressed in the class. The course capstone will be a final paper applying and interrogating the theories we have studied. 4. We will list, discuss, and debate the key ideas, individuals, and technical jargon for a range of critical approaches. We will articulate the key questions and problems that have shaped each critical school and situate them in an ongoing conversation about literature and culture (see “The Questions”). 5. We will work collaboratively to create and sustain a community of inquiry that will challenge and teach all of us (including your professor). Required Texts: Vincent B. Leitch and William Cain, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd Ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Terry Eagleton. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. *All additional readings will be available as PDF on the Blackboard website
-Regular "online discussion of readings and podcasts -"Midterm" exam -Final paper
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