E 321K • Introduction to Criticism
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
Students in this course will learn about the history and practice of literary studies. When we read a novel or a poem, for example, what exactly are we supposed to say about it? What kinds of analyses are considered most valuable or most interesting or most compelling? What moves do we use to make sense of a text and to generate meaning from it? What makes the act of reading pleasurable (or not)? These are basic questions to ask about a text, and about our practices of reading. In this course we will ask what literary critics do, why they do what they do, and how they justify the positions they take. We will learn more about the ways in which literature is usually taught in American universities today, and we will also learn how the discipline has been conceived of and taught in the past. Finally, we will discuss possible trends for the future of literary theory.
This course will provide students with a firm foundation in literary theory and criticism, from the classical to the contemporary. We will begin by discussing the origins of this discipline, but we will concentrate on late twentieth-century developments in theory, including deconstruction, gender theory, new historicism, critical race studies, and ecocriticism. We will read several critical works in their entirety (see list below), as well as excerpts representative of various schools of criticism.
In addition to providing an overview of the field, this course is designed to help students to write better and to develop their skills in critical reasoning and argumentation. And finally it is designed to help prepare students for graduate study. People who like puzzles and/or problem solving will probably like this course.
Three 4-page papers (written in two drafts); four 1-page peer critiques; two exams.
Rivkin and Ryan, eds., Literary Theory: An Anthology
Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Derrida, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness
Glodfelty, Ecocriticism Reader