English | Critical Practices
L371 | 4906 | Eva Cherniavsky


L371 4906 CRITICAL PRACTICES
Eva Cherniavsky

1:00p-2:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.  Open to English majors
only.

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.

This course has two aims: first, to reflect on the project
of “literary criticism” as such. What function(s) – cultural,
political, social, or economic – does (has) literary criticism
perform(ed)? What is “literature” and to what extent has it (or can
it) exist independently of criticism?  In the first section of the
course, therefore, we will consider the emergence of “literature” in
the 19th century from the much broader and varied domain
of “letters,” focusing on the relation between literature,
nationalism, the increasing division of public from private life,
and the ethics of capitalist accumulation.  At the same time, we
will trace the emergence of literary studies as a specialized arena
of criticism. In this regard, we will pay particular attention to
the emergence of the New Criticism.  Our reading in this section
will also limn some of the challenges to the Anglo-American New
Criticism posed by continental European (structuralist and post-
structuralist) theory.

The first section of the course thus aims to fill in with broad
strokes some of the central transformations and turning points in
the historical development of “literary criticism.”  Our work in the
first section should help to situate the three specific critical
projects we will investigate in the remainder of the class –
feminist criticism, marxist criticism, and post-colonial criticism,
in that order.  We will explore the assumptions about culture and
its reproduction that inform these different critical ventures, as
well as the particular delimitation of “literary” study that follows
from these assumptions.  My choice to sample three such explicitly
politicized critical ventures is, of course, deliberate: it is based
on the conviction that all criticism (of whatever stripe) takes
place at the juncture where reading turns political – where reading
(in truth, never a simply private or solitary pursuit) addresses
power.

In addition to active participation in this discussion-based class,
work will likely include two short (3 page) essays, one longer (6
page) essay, and a final exam.