English | Critical Practices
L371 | 2952 | Rae Greiner
L371 CRITICAL PRACTICES
2952 - 9:30a-10:45p 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: “Monstrosities: Nightmare Creations of Mind and Body”
This course is designed to introduce majors to the “practice” of
criticism: the analytic methods and critical techniques
underwriting the discipline of literary study. “Theory” is a broad
term, covering a range of texts from a wide variety of intellectual
fields, but it more or less always entails reevaluating that
category of things called “the obvious”: common sense, commonly
held beliefs and assumptions, matters of apparent fact, the taken
for granted, the commonplace, the “understood.” This is what makes
theory “hard,” but it also what makes it exciting: it challenges us
to re-think our assumptions, to take notice of those things that
have become “second nature,” to ask how various thoughts and
behaviors came to be naturalized in the first place.
While the “theory” portion of the class will cover a range of
disciplines, the “criticism” we will study, and practice, will be
literary criticism, and to that end we’ll focus on unnatural,
abnormal, and monstrous creations. The monstrosities we’ll examine
are both “real”—as in the case of Frankenstein’s creature, pieced
together from the bodies of the dead—and “unreal” (which we often
say is true of “fairy tales,” a number of which we’ll be reading).
But of course, this being the job of doing theory, we’ll be
troubling those categories (real, unreal), just as we’ll trouble
binary thinking and other intellectual categories that presumably
help to identify monsters and thus help us avoid them. There will
be no avoiding the monster at the end of this class, since (as
Grover taught us) the monster is usually us.
Course requirements include: lengthy examination of four key texts:
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the
Scrivener,” Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Purloined Letter,” and a
collection of fairy tales (including, of course, “Beauty and the
Beast”). For all except Poe, I have ordered Norton Critical
Editions, which include theoretical and critical materials which we
will also be reading. In addition, we’ll draw from two collections
of theory and criticism. This reading is generally not long, but is
dense and complex, and in general will need to be read twice. You
will be keeping a “key terms” notebook documenting your reading, to
be collected 3-4 times per semester for grading. You will be asked
to submit regular reading responses (these will not be free-form
reading logs, but answers to directed questions). There will be a
midterm and a final exam. There will also be a final project,
including but not limited to a standard research paper.