E 321K • Introduction to Criticism
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Students in this course will learn about the history and practice of literary studies: what do critics do, why do they do what they do, how do they justify the positions they take? How is literature usually taught in American universities today? How has this discipline been conceived of and taught in the past? What kinds of changes in the discipline might we predict for the future?
A further goal of this course is to make explicit the kinds of interpretive activities that students and teachers have been doing all along. Whenever we read a book, poem, or essay, whenever we see a film or a visual work of art, whenever we venture an interpretation of any sort, then we are using some form of literary theory in order to make a judgment. Prospective students may think of this course as a way of understanding and clarifying what they already know, or what they might like to know in more detail. This course offers many ways to read, interpret, and evaluate literature; there will be some surprises. We will learn how different critical theories can be applied to virtually any cultural artifact and to what effect.
This course will concentrate on twentieth-century developments in literary theory, including formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, feminist and gender theory, critical race studies, post-colonial theory, and ecocriticism. 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.
Four 3-page papers (written in two drafts)
Three 1-page peer critiques
Rivkin and Ryan, Literary Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edition
Derrida, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness (packet)