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Course Schedule And Readings

Week 1: INTRODUCTION Parker, “Introduction’ to How to Interpret Literature; Eagleton, “The Rise of English” from Literary Theory: An Introduction (PDF)

Week 2: NEW CRITICISM We begin by considering the “new” criticism, a modernist form of interpretation focusing on the internal dynamic of texts and independent of authorial intention. Readings: Brooks, “The Language of Paradox” and “The Formalist Critics”; Wimsatt, “The Concrete Universal”; Stories: Joyce, “Araby” and Mansfield, “The Garden Party”

Week 3: STRUCTURALISM We consider the roots of linguistic structuralism in Saussure’s lectures and its impact on social science, then examine how structuralist methods have influenced literary criticism. Readings: Saussure, from Course in General Linguistics; Jackobson, “The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles,” “Linguistics and Poetics”; Barthes, “The Death of the Author”; Parker, “Structuralism”; Stories: Checkov, “The Lady with the Dog” and Welty, “A Worn Path”

Week 4: DECONSTRUCTION Deconstruction is now so ubiquitous in practice as to barely require explication. But its original contexts and polemics are vital to understanding why it was so successful. Readings: Derrida, “The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing”; Barthes, “From Work to Text”; de Man, “Semiology and Rhetoric”; Parker, “Deconstruction”; Stories: Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener” and O’Brien, “The Things They Carried”

Week 5: PSYCHOANALYSIS This unit focuses on the way the two most influential psychoanalysts of the twentieth century, Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, are adapted in criticism. Readings: Freud, “Psycho-Analysis”; Lacan, “Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter’”; Zizek, “Why Does a Letter Always Arrive at Its Destination?” Parker, “Psychoanalysis;” Stories: Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado” and Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants”

Week 6: FEMINISM (Comparison Papers Due – Tuesday February 9) We review some of the important statements of feminist criticism, focusing on the concept of ‘ecriture feminin’ developed from critical revisions of psychonanalysis in 1970s Paris. Readings: Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema;” Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa”; Irigaray, “This Sex Which is Not One”; Parker, “Feminism;” Story: Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Cisneros, “Woman Hollering Creek”

Week 7: QUEER STUDIES We explore the ways psychoanalytic and feminist theory has extended into recent discussions of LGBT identities and of the relationship between gender and art. Readings: Sedgwick, “Gender Asymmetry and Erotic Triangles”; Butler, from Gender Trouble; Nussbaum, “The Professor of Parody”; Parker, “Queer Studies;” Stories: Cather, “Paul’s Story” and Carver, “Cathedral”

Week 8: MARXISM I This unit begins with Marx’s hugely influential account of the commodity form and two essays by members of the Frankfurt School of critical theory. Readings: Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities”; Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Mechanical Reproducibility”; Adorno and Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry”; Parker, ‘Marxism’; Stories: O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and Jackson, “The Lottery”

Week 9: MARXISM II Following directly from last week, we will read several essays illustrating the different ways Marxism has changed and influenced literary criticism since the 1970s. Readings: Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”; Williams, “Dominant, Residual, and Emergent”; Jameson, “Cognitive Mapping”; Stories: Chopin: “The Story of An Hour” and Updike, “A & P”

Week 10: NEW HISTORICISM New historicist scholarship has dominated many critical fields since the 1980s; we will read several foundational essays to understand its argument about literature and history. Readings: Foucault, “Panopticism”; Greenblatt, “The Circulation of Social Energy”; Dollimore, “The Politics of Containment;” Parker, ‘Historicism and Cultural Studies’; Stories: Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown” and Fitzgerald, “Winter Dreams”

Week 11: POSTCOLONIALISM AND RACE This week we will explore post-colonialism and race, the two topics to have most profoundly changed literary criticism since the 1980s. Readings: Bhabha, “On Mimicry and Man”; Said, “Narrative and Social Space”; Parker, “Postcolonialism and Race Studies;” Gates, “Talking Black”; deCille, “Discourse and Dat Course”; Stories: Silko, “The Man Sent to Rain Clouds” and Kincaid, “Girl”

Week 12: THEORY AND TEACHING This shortened week (there is no class on March 31) will be devoted to reviewing the course, and considering the impact of theory on the teaching of literature. Readings: Fuss, “Essentialism in the Classroom”; hooks, “Essentialism and Experience”

Week 13: THE FUTURE OF THEORY (FINAL PAPERS DUE - Tuesday April 5) In the final week of the class we will consider some of the most important (and potentially discipline-defining) discourses of recent literary theory, including new-reader-response, eco-criticism, disability studies, and media theory. Readings: Hayles, “Speech, Writing, Code: Three Worldviews”; Buell, “The Emergence of Environmental Criticism”; Dirkson and Bauman, “Towards a Poetics of Vision, Space, and the Body.”