Theory & Methods Literary Study (LSE)

“Literature” claims the power
to teach and to please; at the same time, it recurrently needs to defend itself
(as in the many “Defenses of Literature”) against charges that it misleads
readers or reproduces unequal social relations. In this time (the digital age)
and place (Hawai‘i/Oceania/Asia-Pacific), questions about the value, power,
politics, or relevance of literature come up in different but urgent forms
(criticism arguably requires crisis). One must ask freshly (and hopefully not
answer prematurely) why literature matters (to whom, for what)—what it teaches,
why, how, and when it enchants or gives pleasure. Toward this end we will survey
and historicize key concepts in literary study (aesthetics, author, culture,
emotion, ethics, genre, hegemony, ideology, imagination, orientalism, representation,
repression, sign, sublimity, value); consider how these have been taken up in literary
theory (critical race, deconstructive, formalist, feminist, Marxist, new
historical, indigenous, psychoanalytic, postcolonial, queer); reflect on how
these terms and schools circulate have purchase in contemporary movements (ecological,
diasporic, worlding/alter-globalizing, fourth world); and consider the critical
functions that “location” plays in literary studies, particularly in a settler
colony/occupied state. All along we will be concerned with how critical
approaches help to light up aspects of texts, potentially enriching our
arts/acts of reading and sharpening our senses of the stakes and consequences
of interpretations. In other words, the course aims to engage issues important
to situating one’s work within literary studies, including questions of how
“literature” and “literary studies” should be thought of and how they overlap
with or differ from other concentrations in the English Department and/or
affiliated disciplines.

We will be concerned as well
with how one does advanced research in literary studies, and how one presents
one’s findings. This will include an orientation to resources at (or available
through) Hamilton library (in particular the Hawaiian and Pacific collections)
and other archives in Hawai‘i.


General Student Outcomes

–. General knowledge of
theories and problematics within literary studies

–. Preparation to engage in
advanced research

–. Preparation for
presenting work (oral and written)

–. Ability to position
arguments within critical traditions

–. Sense of the importance
of “location” to literary study


–. Short collaborative presentations
on literary theory or topics

–. On-line postings
(application of theory to novels, personal responses to prompts, mapping of an

–. A semester paper (for this
there will be an abstract, literature review, drafts)

— . A presentation of the
semester paper at an English Department colloquium with the other sections of
625 (for this there will be a common “thematic thread” to be discussed at the
beginning of the semester, and reflected on the syllabus)


Required and recommended
theoretical articles/excerpts (Althusser, Anzaldua, Bahktin, Barthes, Benjamin,
Culler, Deleuze & Guitarri, DeMan, Fanon, Foucault,  Freud, Hooks, Moretti, Nietzsche, Said, Spivak),
along with stories (Herman Melville, Vladimir Nabokov, James Baldwin, Ralph
Ellison, Pi‘ilani Kaluaiko‘olau), poems (Yannos Ritsos, Philip Larkin, Martin
Espada, Haunani-Kay Trask, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Albert Wendt, Wayne Westlake),
and essays (T. S. Eliot, R. W. Emerson, Adrienne Rich, Eduardo Galeano, Simon
Ortiz, Leslie Marmon Silko, Epeli Hau‘ofa) will be made available as PDFs on Laulima.
The following primary texts will be available at Revolution Books: Derek
Attridge, The Singularity of Literature;
William Kennedy Ironweed; Toni
Morrison’s Tar Baby; Sia Figiel’s Where ‘We’ Once Belonged).