This course is an introduction into methods of critical theory and literary criticism. We will study different approaches to making meaning out of texts—broadly defined. We will get a taste of a number of different critical methods including poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, queer & trans theory, postcolonial theory, critical race theory, Black studies, and Indigenous studies, and practice applying these different critical methods to works of literature. These critical methods will help us to understand how literary works are shaped by their political, social, and historical contexts. The class will focus especially on how the histories of power, race, gender, and sexuality influence both the texts we read and the ways that we come to understand them.
Readings will include selections of critical writing from: Ferdinand de Saussure, Sigmund Freud, W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Judith Butler, Hortense Spillers, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Saidiya Hartman, No’u Revilla & Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, Susan Stryker, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Eve Tuck & K. Wayne Yang, Walter Benjamin, and others.
Over the course of the semester, we will also read one novel: Britt Bennet’s The Vanishing Half (2020). We will use this novel as a place to practice working with the theoretical concepts we’re learning about.
Course Format: Hybrid. We will meet in person on Wednesdays, and asynchronously online during the rest of the week.
Required Texts: Britt Bennett, The Vanishing Half. All other will be available for free online.
Assignments: weekly short writing assignments, reading response essay, keywords essay, textual analysis essay, final portfolio