Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

History Literary Theory

COML 501.401

This course will survey what has come to be know in literary and cultural studies as “theory” by tracking the genealogies of a select range of contemporary practices of interpretation. We will examine how these contemporary practices take shape as readings of classical, medieval, early modern, and modern texts. We will also consider how certain aspects of classical, medieval, and early modern texts have been left behind and, perhaps, still hold promise for literary theory today. This will allow us to address the following questions. What are some of the historical and rhetorical conditions of emergence for contemporary critical theories of interpretation?  What does it mean to interpret literature and culture in the wake of the grand theoretical enterprises of the modern period? How do conceptions of power and authority in literature and culture change as symbolic accounts of language give way to allegorical and performative accounts? Active class participation, a class presentation, and a final term paper will be the primary requirements of the course. A central, practical goal of the class will be to aid students in preparing for their MA Exam (for the exam reading list, see

fulfills requirements