English | Studies in Literary Theory & Criticism
L707 | 25273 | Kates

L707  25273 KATES (#6)
Studies in Literary Theory & Criticism

1:00p – 4:00p R


History remains the baseline methodology of literary criticism (in
the old, new, and newer historicisms, cultural studies, and much
other contemporary work) despite the fact that a “crisis of
historicism” and historical methodology has been with us since at
least the late nineteenth century, as Hayden White has persuasively
argued in his pathbreaking 1973 work Metahistory. In this class we
will examine both the crisis of historicism and the single most
powerful response to it: the notion of historicity, of all
historical inquiry as grounded in the inquirer’s own intrinsic being-
in-history, ultimately in her or his own temporality. In addition to
White himself and Dominick LaCapra, we will read such pioneering
reflections on history as those of Jakob Burkhardt, Friedrich
Nietzsche, Benedetto Croce, Wilhelm Dilthey, Martin Heidegger, Hans-
Georg Gadamer, and Arthur Danto.

The problematic of historicity that we pursue here is by no means
extrinsic to literature, however. In the twentieth century two
privileged sites for a specifically literary engagement with this
topic are provided by early modernism (especially the criticism and
poetry of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound) and the resurgence of the
historical novel in the second half of this century (especially
under the influence of Thomas Pynchon). Depending on the interests
of the participants in the seminar, the course will focus on one or
the other (or some combination of both) of these moments.

Participants are required to write a final seminar-length paper (20
pages), and class presentations or their equivalent will be required
as well. The course aims to provide an open-ended theoretical matrix
(through week 8) and a literary one (through week 12), to which
students are strongly encouraged to connect their already existing
research interests.