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History of Literary Criticism (Literary Theory Ancient to Modern)

ENGL 0540.401
also offered as: CLST 3508/COML 0540
TR 1:45-3:14pm

This is a course on the history of literary theory, a survey of major debates about literature, poetics, and ideas about what literary texts should do, from ancient Greece to examples of modern thought. The first half of the course will focus on early periods: Greek and Roman antiquity, especially Plato and Aristotle; the medieval period (including St. Augustine, Al-Farabi, and Boccaccio); and the early modern period (including Giambattista Vico). In the second half of the course we will turn to modern concerns by looking at the literary (or “art”) theories of some major philosophers and theorists: Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Walter Benjamin, and Franz Fanon. We end the course in the later twentieth century with readings from cultural theorists such as Edward Said and Paul Gilroy. The purpose driving this course is to consider closely how this tradition generated questions that are still with us, such as: What is the act of interpretation? Whose interpretation matters? What is the “aesthetic”? What is representation or mimesis? When does an author’s intention matter, and how are we to know it?

English Major Requirements
  • Literature Seminar pre-1700 (AEB7)
  • Literature Seminar pre-1900 (AEB9)
  • Sector 1 Theory and Poetics (AETP)
  • Sector 3 Medieval/Renaissance (AEMR)
  • Sector 4 Long 18th Century (AE18)
  • Sector 5 19th Century (AE19)
  • Sector 6 20th & 21st Centuries (AE20)
English Concentration Attributes
  • Medieval/Renaissance Concentration (AEMC)
  • Theory & Cultural Studies Concentration (AETC)
College Attributes