L371 16368 CRITICAL PRACTICES
Rae Greiner

10:10a-11:00a MWF (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: "A Cerulean Sweater, and Other Theory Matters"

This course is designed to introduce English majors to the “practice” of criticism: the analytic methods and critical techniques underwriting (what is, perhaps, literally) the discipline of literary study. The subtitle of this course, and especially the phrase “Theory Matters,” highlights our fundamental consensus that—whether or not its influence is always obvious—theory matters to us: in the books we read (and how we read them), the films we watch (and how we talk about them afterwards), the cultural practices in which we engage, the products available to us, and the political and ideological forces shaping our choices and desires. Like Anne Hathaway’s “lumpy blue sweater”—betraying little if any of its cultural and material production—the literary and cultural texts we will analyze have histories. They too have been “selected” and marketed in complex ways; they too manifest in other forms; they too represent the silences and gaps of other (perhaps unrecognizable) forms, and contain the (cerulean?) traces of precedent texts and acts. We will consider it axiomatic, then, not only that theory “matters”—it is relevant to us in and outside the classroom—but also that “theory matters” are implicitly material (not just intellectual) concerns. Whether we are reading a novel by Jane Austen, a cereal box, a movie poster, or a map, we will be considering the ways in which theory matters shape how we comprehend, interpret, and navigate those cultural products.

Course texts will likely include: Modern Criticism and Theory, 2nd edition (Lodge and Wood); M.H. Abrams, Glossary of Literary Terms; essays and excerpts from a panoply of cultural, moral, aesthetic, ethical, and critical theorists; and a select number of literary and cinematic texts, including “The Purloined Letter” and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” (Poe), Hamlet (Shakespeare), Robinson Crusoe (Defoe), Persuasion (Austen), The Picture of Dorian Gray,/i> (Wilde), Grey Gardens (1975), and episodes of The Office and Six Feet Under. Students will complete a midterm (take-home) and final exam, write two short papers (5 page), and complete a final project (8 page) analyzing a “theory matter” of their own choice.