Comparative Literature | Tpcs in World Crit & Theory I
C503 | 28014 | Dr. Jeff Johnson

Department of Comparative Literature— Fall, 2007

Topics in World Criticism and Theory 1: Pre-Modern Literary Theory
CMLT-C 503/26358    11:15-12:30    MW

Above class meets with CMLT-C 405

This course is an in-depth survey of texts crucial to the history
and development of theories about literature and its criticism in
the West from ancient Greece to Renaissance England.  Despite their
sometimes narrow focus, these documents spawned their own philosophy
of what literature is, can be, and should be that continues to exert
a strong influence on modern and post-modern authors, critics, and
theorists.  Their technical vocabulary, interpretive strategies, and
methods of reading in many ways remain unsurpassed for
sophistication and subtlety.  They define the sources, purposes, and
machinery of literature: the nature of artistic genius; the traits
of literary genres and their distinctive discourses; rhetoric and
audience awareness; and the connections among literature, history,
philosophy, and ethics.  Until the advent of romanticism in the
Occident, the aesthetic tradition represented by these documents set
the standards for defining artistic production and its critical
evaluation.  The very notions of the literary canon, critical
standards, and the liberal arts curriculum have their roots
ultimately in these pre-modern texts.

We will also be reading works of literature from the same centuries
to see in what ways poets and playwrights embraced, defied, or
ignored the principles contained in the works of Aristotle and his
intellectual descendents: selections from Homer’s Odyssey,
Euripides’ Iphigenia among the Taurians, Geoffrey Chaucer’s dream
visions, and Shakespeare’s Pericles.

Throughout the semester we will be looking at such issues as
rhetoric, poetics, aesthetics (both religious and secular),
artistic production and consumption, audience and social class,
critical reception, “literary” versus “non-literary” discourses,
methods of reading, nationalism in literature and criticism, canon
formation, theories of genre, and sign theory.  Throughout the
semester, graduate students will be encouraged to identify
connections and discontinuities between these pre-modern theories
and the modern and post-modern theories more common to contemporary
academic research.

Workload will include an analytical essay, an annotated
bibliography, detailed topic proposal, required individual
conferences, and a research essay, as well as short papers.  This
course will meet with CMLT-C405.  For further information, contact
Jeffrey Johnson at