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Literary Theory

ENGL 204.401
MWF 10

The aim of this course is to provide a general introduction to the main discourses of current literary theory, surveing as many critical approaches as possible, but focusing on two major figures, Barthes and Bakhtin. We shall start with Barthe's readings of high and low culture in his "mythologies". This will allow us to exlpore structural semiotics and to redefine the concepts of the text, language and writing. We shall spend some time on the later Barthes, with his emphasis on the notion of pleasure, and read closely his lasy essay on photography, Camera Lucida. From there, we shall then exlporemajor critical debate that has recently opposed deconstruction and psychoanalysis in a confrontation of readings of Poe's "Purloined Letter". Then we shall address the issue of interpretation and over-interpretation, startin from Eco's formulation of the problem, before finally returning to another founding father of criticism, Mikail Bakhtin, whose pioneering work announces contemporary cultural studies.

Requirements: Four short papers of about five pages, one research paper of fifteen pages, and one oral report. No final exam.


A Barthes Reader, edited by Susan Sontag, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1982.

Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1973) and Camera Lucida (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1981).

The Purloined Poe: Lacan, Derrida, and Psychoanalytic Reading, edited by J.P. Muller and W.J.Richardson, John Hopkins U.P., 1988.

Umberto Eco, Interpretation and Overinterpretation, with Richard Rorty, Johnathan Culler and Christine Brooke-Rose, Cambridge U.P., 1992.

The Bakhtin Reader, edited by Pam Morris, Routledge, 1994.

fulfills requirements