CompLit 501 / English 571 / French 512
Fall 1995, Wed 3:00-6:00, Bennett 129
Instructor: Jim English
Email: jenglish@english


Please read these announcements as they are posted:


You can go straight to: Course Description | Electronic Resources | Readings | Participation | Written Work | Mock Exam | Week-by-Week Schedule | Short Paper Schedule


This course is an introduction to literary and cultural theory and to some of the key problems or questions that animate theoretical discussion among literary scholars today. These include questions about the production of cultural value, about ideology and hegemony, about the patriarchal and colonial bases of Western culture, and about the status of the cultural object, of the cultural critic, and of cultural theory itself. Written work for the course will include three very short (600-word) essays, one of which will be distributed to the class in advance, as well as a longer essay of 12-16 pages. There will also be a mock-exam, for purposes of discussion.


All graduate students at Penn have email addresses; graduate students in English have addresses on the departmentĀs machine, If you do not know how to access your address and exchange electronic mail, please get the information you need from me or from any electronically literate member of the class.

Our course listserver, which automatically distributes mail to every member of the class, is now active. If you send a message to, your message will reach all of us. We will be using this listserver to distribute papers in advance of class, as well as to post changes and announcements that arise between class meetings. If you find that you are not receiving mail from the list, send a message to help at english-help@english.

All changes to the syllabus, as well as to the short paper schedule, will be made from this home page, so please look here, and not to the printed syllabus, for up to date information.


All readings are taken from the bulkpack available at Wharton Reprographics on the lower level of Steinberg-Deitrich Hall on Locust Walk. Note that the bulkpack comes in two parts. Total cost is approximately $60.


This class is doubly cross-listed and serves several purposes and constituencies. It is likely that the group will be too large and too diverse in its concerns ever to coalesce into an ideal of the seminar. Nonetheless, I would like to preserve something of that ideal by prohibiting auditors (unless enrollments are much lower than I expect) and by encouraging all members of the class to attend regularly, to read the student papers as well as the primary texts as they are assigned, and to participate actively in our discussions and debates. Such participation is, in my eyes, a more important part of your performance in the class than is the term paper you submit in December.


The course divides into six segments. Students should choose three of these units for special focus, and sign up to submit three short papers on individual texts accordingly. One paper should be designated for distribution to the class via listserver by the Monday evening before the corresponding class meeting. The other two should be submitted to me (electronically or in hard copy) by noon on the Tuesday before class. Sign-ups will be done at the first and second class meetings to assure a reasonably steady volume of incoming work throughout the term. But the sign-up schedule can be adjusted once the term is underway. Some tips on how to send a paper via email are avialable.

Your aim in these short papers should be to situate the chosen text in relation to the general problematic or topic of the segment. Try to indicate the specific character of the text, describing its central thesis or preoccupation and its mode of presentation in such a way as to clarify its differences from other readings in the segment. And try, as well, to indicate what you regard as the main weakness of the text, the point at which one might begin to marshall a critique of it.

It is more important to submit these short papers on time, so that they can be incorporated into our seminar discussions, than to refine them to the point of perfection. Likewise, the research papers you write for this course should be regarded as first attempts at a topic, not as quasi-publishable articles. The research papers can be rather short (12 pages is fine) as well as tentative in their conclusions; you can always rework them later, after getting some feedback from me. But please submit them by the beginning of exam week, as indicated on the schedule. I will be leaving the area a few days later and will not be returning for seven or eight months, so I am disallowing incompletes for this course except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.


The mock exam is simply a set of questions typical of the kind of theory-testing that goes on in the discipline. We will use this exam for review and discussion. No written answers need to be submitted, and the exam does not have any bearing on grades.


Sept 6     --         Introduction

                                 I. The Cultural Worker: Intellectuals 
                                         and Social Purpose

Sept 13    --         Arnold, "Function of Criticism at the Present Time" 
		      de Man, "Resistance to Theory" (I.21)
		      Radhakrishnan, "Toward an Effective Intellectual" (I.22)

                                 II.  Cultural Economies and the 
                                     Production of Cultural Value

Sept 20    --         Marx, from Capital (II.32)
                      Levi Strauss, "Science of the Concrete" (II.34)
                      Irigaray, "Women on the Market" (II, 22)	

Sept 27    --         Kant, from Critique of Judgment (II.31)
                      Bourdieu, "Structures, Habitus, Power" (II.36)
                      Bourdieu, "Towards a Vulgar Critique of Pure 
			Critiques" (11.37)

                                 III.  "Cultural" Domination: Ideology 
						and Hegemony

Oct 4      --	      Marx, "Estranged Labour," "Conciousness," and "Ruling 
				Class and Ruling Ideas" (II.17)
		      Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State 
                                Apparatuses" (II.21)

Oct 11     --         Gramsci, from Prison Notebooks (II.19)
                      Fanon, 'On National Culture" (II.18)

                                 IV.  The Object of Culture: Some 
					Formalist Statements on Method

Oct 18     --         Aristotle, "Poetics" (I.5)
                      Eichenbaum, "Theory of the Formal Method" (I.2)
                      Wimsatt and Beardsley, "Intentional Fallacy" (I.18)

Oct 25     --         Saussure, from Course in General Linguistics (I.1)
                      Barthes, "Structuralist Activity" (I.4)
                      Derrida, "Structure, Sign, and Play" (I.3)

                                 V.  Culture and Patriarchy: Some 
				     Feminist and Queer Interventions

Nov 1      --         Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema " (I.14)
                      Freud, "Fetishism" (II.1)
                      Lacan, "The Mirror Stage" and "The Meaning of the 
			Phallus" (II.2)

Nov 8      --         Irigaray, 'This Sex Which is not One" (II.4)
                      Rubin, "Traffic in Women" (II.3)
                      Haraway, "Cyborg Manifesto" (II.8)

Nov 15     --         Abelove, "Speculations on the History of Sexual 
			Intercourse" (II.6)
                      Sedgwick, "Beast in the Closet" (II.7)
                      Dollimore, "Perverse Dynamic" (II.9)

                                 V.  Cultural Imperialism and the 
					Postcolonial Subject

Nov 22  --            NO CLASS -- T-GIVING BREAK (celebration of 

Nov 29 --             Said, "Orientalism Reconsidered" (II.26)
                      Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?" (II.28)
                      Anzaldua, from Borderlands/La Frontera (II.13)
                      Chow, "Politics and Pedagogy of Asian Literatures" 

Dec 6      --         Fanon, from Black Skin, White Masks (II.10)
                      Bhabha, Interrogating Identity (II.29)
		           Brief Concluding Discussion

                        	    [Final Papers due by December 14th]

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