ENGL602 - Critical Theory and Literary Criticism

What is “theory” in the context of literary study? How can various theoretical and critical approaches be used effectively to formulate literary interpretation? What are the stakes for the analytical approaches various theories offer? What are some possibilities bringing theory to literary interpretation offer and what are some limitations? What conversations have introduced and sustained various theories in literary interpretations and where are those conversations now? Those are a few of the questions framing this course: an introduction to critical theory presenting some of the major issues and vocabularies in the histories and evolutions of critical thought and considering some of the possibilities offered by contemporary critical theories. We will begin by examining how archives of theoretical canons and traditions were made, and will analyze methods of curation that determined them and so will consider thinkers and ideas from antiquity to the present that are regarded as primary. Our overview of critical theory will take into account various shifts in theoretical movements of the 20th and 21st century such as formalism, structuralism and poststructuralism, Marxism, feminism, critical race theory, psychoanalysis, postcolonial theory, ecocriticism, textual theory, lyric theory, new media studies, digital humanities, affect theory, and queer theory. Course requirements: a theory workbook (or journal) from which a class presentation, discussion questions, and three short (3-4 pp.) critical response papers will be drawn. We will conclude the course with an oral (and fun in the best intellectual sense—no kidding!) final. The course is designed to help you identify and take advantage of the critical tools most suited to developing your intellectual interests.