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Literary Theory

ENGL 571.401
instructor(s):
M 9-12

COML 501: This is a required course for all first-year graduate students in the Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory; and as such, while open to graduate students in other areas on a selective basis, is intended to help these comp. lit. students prepare for the exam in theory. Following this logic, the course, though not exclusively, will be based on the reading list for the exam, which is organized around some key theoretical texts from Plato to the present, engaging a range of topics from formalism to colonialism. The organizational topos for this particular offering of the course will be to explore the relationship between language, representation, and ideology, both as explicit theme and implicit problem of the selected texts. That is, simultaneously with deducing certain theoretical concepts from these texts, we will also be interrogating the fictional, or ideological, structure of the theoretical text itself. Within the overall topos, the course will be divided into three subtopics: language and value; authorship and authority; and representations of race, gender, class, and sexuality. What follows is a possible selection of readings by subtopic:

Language and Value: We will begin by reading Fanon's "The Negro and Language" from *Black Skins, White Masks.* Then we will compare Plato's decidedly political view of language with Aristotle's formal view of it; Marx's theory of commodity value with Saussure's theory of linguistic value; Saussure's theory of linguistic value with the New Criticism's brand of formalism and Derrida's deconstruction; and Walter Benjamin's essay "The Storyteller" with Leslie Marmon Silko's "Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective" and Primo Levi's memoir *Survival in Auschwitz* in order to raise questions about the value (ideology) of literary/linguistic values.

Authorship and authority: Here we will be reflecting on the structure of literary/aesthetic authority from the New Criticism to poststructuralism as it is discussed in such texts as T.S Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent," Virginia Woolf's *A Room of One's Own,* Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley's "The Intentional Fallacy," Roland Barthes's "The Death of the Author," Michel Foucault's "What is an Author?," Richard Ohmann's "The Shaping of a Canon: U.S. Fiction, 1960-1975," and Arnold Krupat's "Native American Literature and the Canon."

Representations of race, gender, class, and sexuality: In this section we will be exploring the social/political, or discursive, construction of identity in a group of texts that will include: bell hooks' *Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center,* Adrienne Rich's "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence," Judith Butler's *Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity,* Gloria Anzaldua's *Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza,* and Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto." Assignments for the course will include a number of short papers, ranging from 3-10 pages in length.