L371 2103 LYNCH
Introduction to Criticism

11:15a-12:30p MW (30) 3 cr.

PREREQUISITE: COMPLETION OF L202 WITH A GRADE OF C- OR BETTER. THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT WILL STRICTLY ENFORCE THIS PREREQUISITE.

In this course we will move rapidly from the romantics to the present moment in order to get acquainted with the historical and conceptual roots of current critical approaches to literature and culture. We will also, through this survey of critical and cultural theory, be getting re-acquainted with our own ways of reading. Theory "happens" when we turn from asking questions about what the literature we're reading means to asking the underlying questions about how it means. Does the author determine the meanings of a piece of literature or does the reader? What is the relationship between the fictional worlds that literature represents and the social worlds inhabited by its writers and readers? What do we mean when we say literature "represents" anyhow? Can literature do things as well as tell about them? And what criteria determine which writings will count as literature in the first place? What is literature's relationship to knowledge? propaganda? entertainment? The pleasure of asking and re-asking these questions (we probably never will answer them once and for all) is that the process of doing so can liberate us from old habits of thought. The study of theory helps a reader to discover new reasons to read and new pleasures.

Our readings will represent an eclectic array of critical methods. Formalist, structuralist, post-structuralist, psychoanalytic, feminist, and post-colonial theories will all receive attention. We will likely read such figures as Roland Barthes, Barbara Johnson, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Pierre Bourdieu, Edward Said, and many others, and while doing so we will likely draw on an array of literary and filmic texts (from Sherlock Holmes stories to David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, and from Jane Austen's Emma to Amy Heckerling's Clueless which in various ways dramatize the perils and pleasures of interpretation. Writing requirements for the course will include a reading diary, two short papers, and a final project.