L371 4909 CRITICAL PRACTICES
9:30a-10:45a 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 is designed to provide students with an introduction to intellectual and theoretical traditions that have shaped the understanding of literature, culture, and self in the modern era. Rather than a broad survey of every school of critical thought, we will focus our discussion on the work and intellectual legacy of three of the most important and influential thinkers of the modern era: Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. French philosopher Louis Althusser once wrote, “To my knowledge, in the course of the nineteenth century, two or three children were born who were not expected: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud. They were “natural,” or illegitimate, children, in the sense that nature offends customs, laws, morality, and the consecrated skills of life; nature is the rule violated, the unwed mother, and thus the absence of a legal father. A child without a father is made to pay dearly by Western reason.” We will think in this class about these fatherless children and their own lineages (as well as Althusser’s configuration of their il/legitimacy within Western thought and its gendered implications). The first half of the course will be devoted to a rigorous and in- depth investigation into the key works of these authors, including Capital and The German Ideology; The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals; and The Interpretation of Dreams, Three Essays on a Theory of Sexuality, and Civilization and Its Discontents. In the second half of the course we will examine the way important aspects of these thinkers were elaborated in twentieth century thought, tracing the development of materialist literary criticism after Marx, anti- (or post-) foundational criticism after Nietzsche, and psychoanalytic criticism after Freud. While our emphasis will be on the theoretical texts themselves, we will ground our discussions in two or three literary texts throughout the semester, possibly Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, or Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road. The class will be discussion- based, and assignments will most likely include three papers (4-5 pages), a mid-term and final exam, and several informal writing assignments.