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Introduction to Literary Study

ENGL 100.001
instructor(s):
MWF 10

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a range of interpretive strategies as they have developed out of literary studies in the twentieth century in response to central interpretive questions that cut across disciplinary boundaries. The course will begin by raising key questions in the study of literature. What is literature? What has been and is its function? How have judgments of literary value been arrrived at traditionally in order to form a canon of "great books"? What is the basis today of questioning these judgements? And why are issues of race, gender, and class (that is, "multiculturalism") central to this questioning? Next, because it is absolutely crucial to an understanding of interpretation, the course will take up theories and practices of reading from the close reading techniques of the New Criticism to the strategies of "deconstruction" to the psychological and social analyses of "reception theory," or "reader response" criticism, as it is more commonly known in the United States. Finally, the course will look at the newest development in literary study, "cultural studies," which employs literary methods of analysis to help us understand a range of cultural institutions from the popular media to the workings of the university itself. Readings will range from the fictional to the non-fictional, emphasize the interdisciplinary and stress diverse perspectives of race, gender, and class. Film will certainly be a part of the mix, and music may be too. Readings will come from a list that will include Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory; Patricia Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights; Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony; W.K. Wimsatt, The Verbal Icon; Donna Haraway's "Teddybear Patriarchy"; Richard Ohmann, "The Shaping of a Canon: U.S. Fiction, 1960-75"; Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza; Henry James, The Turn of the Screw; Mark Miller, Boxed-In: The Culture of T.V.; Jean Paul Sartre, What Is Literature?; Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"; Nelson George, The Death of Rock and Roll; Michel Foucault, "What is an Author?"; T.S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent"; Janice Radway, Reading the Romance; Cleanth Brooks, The Well Wrought Urn; Kenneth Burke, "Semantic and Poetic Meaning"; Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness; and Roland Barthes, Mythologies. (NOTE: See English 204, for a course on literary theory at theintermediate level; and see English 95, an entire course on cultural studies.)