English | Middle English Literature
L713 | 28835 | Gayk

L707/L713 28834/28835 GAYK  (#1 OR #6)
Studies in Literary Theory & Criticism/Middle English Literature

2:30p – 5:30p R


This seminar will explore the history of critical and theoretical
approaches to the English lyric and lyricism, with a special focus
on premodern forms and modes.  The primary goals of the course will
be to think carefully about what constitutes lyricism across various
periods and literatures and to chart a rough critical genealogy of
approaches to lyrics and lyricism. We will explore the fundamental
definitional problems of “the lyric” (what exactly is a lyric) and
ask whether we can, in fact, define lyric and lyricism
transhistorically. Over the course of the semester, we will focus on
the lyric’s affiliations with both song and material culture and
experience, considering the relationship of lyric to subjectivity
and inwardness, questions of voicing and performativity, the
relationship of lyric to narrative and prose, and the relationships
between lyrics and the senses.

To do so, we will read widely in early theories of poetry (artes
poetica), ranging from Aristotle’s Poetics to Sidney’s Defense of
Poesy, but will also explore more recent discussions of lyric and
aesthetic theory, phenomenology and materiality by Georgio Agamben,
Jonathan Culler, Paul de Man, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Theodor Adorno,
and Daniel Tiffany. Theoretical readings will be paired with early
English poetry, including Middle English anonymous lyrics, lyrics by
Chaucer, Hoccleve, Lydgate, Henryson, and Wyatt, and early sonnets.
But we will also consider a sampling of earlier short poems
(classical lyrics and old English elegies) and later lyrics (esp.
romantic and modernist).

The course will be open-ended, and the direction we take in the
final weeks will be based in part on the interests of students.
Assignments include an in-class presentation and an article-length
(25-30 pages) paper.

Although the primary course material is directed toward students of
Early English literature, no prior knowledge of medieval literature
is necessary, and students in creative writing or working in other
periods will have the opportunity to develop final projects directed
toward their area of specialization.