English | Critical Practices
L371 | 16501 | Margo Crawford
L371 16501 CRITICAL PRACTICES
2:30p-3:45p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.
PREREQUISITE: L202 with grade of C- or better. NOTE: The English
Department will strictly enforce this prerequisite. Students who
have not completed L202 with a grade of C- or better will have their
registration administratively cancelled.
TOPIC: "Theorizing the Gaze and the Body"
As we demystify the very idea of theory, we will begin with two or
three examples of literary criticism that presents a very concrete
use of critical theory. The reading of each of these essays will
coincide with the reading of the literary text the critic is
analyzing. We will, for example, use a pivotal essay on theories of
language and the body in As I Lay Dying as a means of exploring the
ways in which the critic makes her literary analysis inseparable
from her theoretical interventions. After this introduction, we will
begin our full focus on the theories of the gaze and the body. We
may read Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, Frantz Fanon, Maurice
Merleau-Ponty, Susan Sontag, and Laura Mulvey. We will study
theories of photography, cinema, gender, race, and embodiment itself
and apply these theories to a range of poems and novels. We will,
for example, uncover the conscious or unconscious presence of
Lacan's theories of the mirror stage, the Symbolic, and the Real in
John Edgar Wideman's novel Sent for You Yesterday. In your essays,
you will be given the opportunity to apply one or more of the
theoretical texts to one of our literary texts. You will discover
that the literary texts are deeply invested in some of the same
questions the theorists explore. In addition to As I Lay Dying and
Sent for You Yesterday, our literary texts may include Henry James'
The Portrait of a Lady, Danzy Senna's Caucasia, or poetry by Sylvia
Plath and Ted Hughes. Film clips will sometimes be used as we unpack
ideas such as Barthes' description of "that very subtle moment when,
to tell the truth, I am neither subject nor object but a subject who
feels he is becoming an object."
The course will be discussion-based. Two formal essays (a total of
fifteen pages) and student presentations will be assigned. Weekly
informal responses may also be useful.