This course will examine central questions that have shaped literary studies in the twentieth century. Every act of reading--from the quick consumption of a bestseller to the close analysis of images in an epic poem--rests upon assumptions about authors, texts, and the interpretation of meaning. The purpose of this course is to pry open those assumptions. What is literature and who decides what counts as a literary text? What does it mean to be an author and to have authority? What makes an interpretation valid? What personal and social value is there in reading literature? How might the complexities of racial, gender, and class identities shape the way authors write and readers read? To explore these fundamental questions, we will examine a range of reading practices and a history of critical theories. The course will begin by studying the interpretive strategies of the school of New Criticism, and move on to
examine varieties of structuralist and poststructuralist criticism. Special attention will be given to questions of multiculturalism and feminism in literary studies. Though this course will emphasize the analysis of literature, we will test some of these theories in related cultural forms such as film and television. Course requirements include two papers, a midterm, and a final.
This course is a "General Requirement" course within the "Arts & Letters" sector. Each College of Arts & Sciences student must take one "General Requirement" course within Arts & Letters and one "distributional" course. This course in particular is recommended to all students who are thinking of majoring in English.