This course will introduce graduate students in English to the major critical and theoretical paradigms that inform our reading of literature and the methodologies we deploy in our study of it. We will cover key readings in Deconstruction, Structuralism, Marxism, Cultural Materialism, Feminism, Queer Theory, Psychoanalytic Theory, Postcolonial Studies, and Critical Race Theory. By the end of the course, students should both be familiar and have facility with these critical and theoretical methodologies.
In order to understand how literary theory specifically informs literary studies, we will read The Tempest as well as one or two other well-known literary texts through the lens of different critical approaches. Students will therefore attain not only a grounding in critical theory but also a brief introduction to key literary texts from different historical periods and different generic traditions and to essays that articulate very different readings of the texts we discuss.
Students will also learn how to identify relevant critical resources and apply them to their own work. To that end, students will complete a critical bibliography as well as a longer paper and oral presentations. This course will serve as a critical foundation for graduate students in literary studies not only by introducing an array of theoretical models but also by asking students to engage dialectically with these paradigms, to bring them into conversation with each other, and to address them in relation to their own work.
The course will culminate in a departmental 625 colloquium at which all 625 students will present their work. You will have a chance not only to share your own work with the department but also to learn about the work your peers are undertaking and to forge a larger community of colleagues and critical interlocutors.
- Class presentation on the week’s readings. (10%)
- Weekly posts to Laulima. These should be 1-2 pages and should initiate conversations which we will continue in class. (15%)
- Presentation of a short paper in preparation for the 625 colloquium. This paper will be read aloud and should take about ten minutes’ speaking time. Students should send me a title and abstract two weeks before their class presentation. I will then group students into “panels” to resemble the structure of the 625 colloquium as well as major conferences such as MLA. Students will be expected to ask questions of the panels and a small portion of the grade for this assignment will be reserved for presentation/conference etiquette and engagement as a whole. This presentation paper may serve as the basis for the final seminar paper. (20%)
- Critical bibliography. This should address a set of secondary sources about a literary text not covered in class (it does not have to be an early modern text). Students will need to identify a range of effective secondary readings and select five or six that map a deep and contested critical field surrounding their chosen primary text. This critical bibliography may serve as a basis of sorts for the final paper. (25%)
- Final seminar paper of 20-25 pages. (30%)
William Shakespeare, The Tempest (Oxford Shakespeare)
Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, eds., Literary Theory: An Anthology, Second Edition, (Blackwell, 2004)
Course reader of literary theory and criticism.
Highly recommended reading before the start of class: Peter Barry, Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, Third Edition (Manchester UP, 2009)