This course will survey what has come to be known in literary and cultural studies as “theory” by tracking the genealogies of a select range of contemporary practices of interpretation. In particular, 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? How might we bring frameworks of globality and translation to bear on literary and cultural criticism? The central, practical goal of the class will be to help first year PhD candidates in Comparative Literature prepare for their MA exam, so we will do our best to work through a significant amount of the material on the pre-set exam list.