Undergraduate English Courses

359:310 History of Literary Theory I

01   TTH4   CAC   17688   DIENST  MU-208

This course will be the first of a two-semester exploration of the history of literary theory in the West. (Each course stands alone: you can enroll in one without enrolling in the other.) Both courses will use the best theory anthology available, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Our material will stretch from the ancient Greeks to the cusp of the 19th century, traversing an immense span of time and a vast terrain. We will try to get a sense of this far-flung field by tracing three key concepts: poetics as the study of “making” or “creating”; aesthetics as the study of sensing and evaluating; and hermeneutics as the study of interpretating. This three-part perspective will allow us to compare ideas across many centuries and several intellectual traditions. In particular, we will talk about the institutionalization of knowledge, various modes of interpretation, the importance of self-cultivation, and recurrent claims for the specificity and autonomy of literature. The course will require regular blogging, two essays, and constant engagement.