This course will provide an exposure to modern and contemporary theory by using a simple constraint provided by the alphabet. By limiting our readings to authors whose names begin with a B, we will explore faster the main concepts of contemporary theory. Theory has expanded while relying on a concept of modernity that will serve as a red thread. We will begin by examining four predecessors (Aphra Behn, Nicolas Boileau, Edmund Burke, Charles Baudelaire) before studying six founders of modern theory: Mikhail Bakhtin, Jorge Luis Borges, Walter Benjamin, Georges Bataille, Roland Barthes and Maurice Blanchot, whom we will read in individual collections. We will then return to the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2010) supplemented by handouts. The authors we will discuss (Gaston Bachelard, Alain Badiou, Bertold Brecht, Marie Bonaparte, Simone de Beauvoir, Cleanth Brooks, Jean Baudrillard, Hans Blumenberg, Harold Bloom, Pierre Bourdieu, Susan Bordo, Bell hooks, Homi Bhabha, Alain Badiou, Judith Butler, Lauren Berlant, Jack Balkin, and Pierre Bayard) will allow us to survey most contemporary schools of literary and cultural theory (feminism, psychoanalytic approaches, Marxism, formalism, mythopoetics, deconstruction, postcolonialism, metaphorology, law and literature, inaesthetics). As Wallace Stevens would say: “Let B. be finale of seem.”
Cross-listed: Comparative Literature, French, German, Slavic Languages.