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Proseminar on Literary Theory

ENGL 600.301

This proseminar will help us explore the role of theory as a foundation for literary studies. What used to be called literary criticism, the converging discourses generated by the secularization of techniques of reading used for Biblical exegesis and sacred hermeneutics, has now opened itself to other discourses. After having incorporated poetics, rhetorics, aesthetics and various formalisms, what is called “Theory” has tried to occupy a more foundational role. To reframe a humanistic approach to literature and culture in a globalized context, we need to 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 need to grapple with a longer history, in which traditional themes of literary criticism such as comedy and tragedy, beauty and the sublime, the collective or individual nature of interpretation, are redefined.  The format chosen will be thematic, we will survey successively major issues and problematics such as “Writing and Form,” “Mimesis and modes of representation,” “Myth and Story-Telling,” “The Poetic Logics of Metaphor and Allegory,” “Beauty and the Sublime,” “Ideology and Subjectivity,” “Philosophies of History,” “The political unconscious,” “Authority, memory and impersonality,” “Sexuality, Gender and language,” “Dreams, confessions and Interpretations,” “The Enlightenment and enlightenments,” “Race: power relations and the subaltern,” and the “Constructions of the Other.”

Each student will be handing in a weekly journal of 5 to 8 pages dealing with key concepts and other issues found in the assigned readings. Each student will give an oral presentation. There will be a final paper of 15 pages.

We will use the second edition of the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2010), with the addition of a few extra texts.

This course is only open to 1st Year ENGL grad students and a select few COML grad students.