Spring 2014 Undergraduate English Courses: Literary Theory
353:230 Readings in Literary Theory
01 MW7 CAC 16550 LECOURT SC-214
02 TTH5 CAC 19671 KERNAN SC-106
01-The History of Literary Theory
What do we study when we study literature? A unique object with its own special properties and laws? A window onto social history? An expression of cultural identity? In this course we will trace such questions as they animate the history of literary theory from the ancient Greeks to the present day. On one level our goal will be to gain a broad familiarity with the works of major figures like Plato, Kant, and Jameson. On another level we will seek to reflect seriously upon the question of the disciplinary status of literary study. Although interdisciplinarity has been a hot topic in English departments for two decades, many scholars have lately sought to recover a sense of what separates their field from psychology, sociology, and history. Can literary studies be a “science” with a distinct object and method? Or does this belie its unique nature as an interpretive discipline?
02-Great Works of Literary Theory
This course will provide an overview of literary theory from its poetic and rhetorical beginnings to contemporary theoretical and critical discourses about literary studies and the nature of literature itself. Our reading list will span from ancient texts to contemporary ones, including (but not limited to) essays by Aristotle, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida, T.S. Eliot, Immanuel Kant, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Frederic Jameson, Plato, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edward Said, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ferdinand de Saussure, Oscar Wilde, and Virginia Woolf. We’ll start with texts written prior to the twentieth century, beginning with the poetics and rhetorical theories of the Greeks and Romans, and move to explorations of medieval hermeneutics, Renaissance humanism, and Romanticism. Students will then spend the remainder of the semester being introduced to works reflecting modern and contemporary trends in literary theory and criticism like Formalism, New Criticism, (Post-)Structuralism, Psychoanalysis, Deconstruction, Feminist and Gender Criticism, Marxist Criticism, New Historicism, Postcolonialism, and Postmodernism. In addition to their active participation in class, students will be required to complete two take home exams.