This seminar will explore the role of theory as a foundation for literary studies. What used to be called “literary criticism,” the secularization of techniques of reading used for Biblical exegesis and sacred hermeneutics, has opened itself to other discourses. After having incorporated poetics, rhetoric, aesthetics and formalisms, Theory still occupies a foundational role. To reframe a humanistic approach to literature and culture in a globalized context, we will pay attention to issues of imperial domination and subjection, of racism and cosmopolitanism, of the various ways in which gender roles are defined and communities kept together. We will discuss a longer history in which traditional such as comedy and tragedy, beauty and the sublime, the collective or individual nature of interpretation, have been redefined. In a thematic manner, we will survey major issues such as “Writing” “Mimesis,” “Myth,” “Metaphor and Allegory,” “Beauty and the Sublime,” “Ideology and Subjectivity,” “Philosophies of History,” “The political unconscious,” “Authority,” “Sexuality,” “Gender,” “Race” and “Constructions of the Other.”
Requirements: At each class meeting, three students will be asked to prepare three discussion questions and lead class discussion. There will be a final paper of 20 pages. We will use the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2010) as our main textbook.