ENGL 217 - Literary Theory and Interpretation
Semester Offered: Spring.
A study of various critical theories and practices ranging from antiquity to the present day.
Topic for 2020/21b: Literary Theory Survey. Intended as an introduction to literary theory and related critical practices, this course does not provide an overview of psychoanalysis or deconstruction or feminism per se. Instead, the course cuts across methodological boundaries, using feminist, Marxist, and post-structuralist et al., approaches to articulate and understand common problems: What is the object studied in psychoanalysis or Marxism or gay studies? Is linguistics a science or an art? Is gender an ideologically neutral category? What is the relationship between ideology and hegemony? What is the relationship between dialectical reasoning and counter-hegemony? The course organization facilitates an understanding of the interdisciplinary character of theory typically confined to one rubric. For example, Jacques Lacan reads the work of Sigmund Freud through the lens of Levi-Strauss’s studies of kinship and Saussure’s linguistics. Louis Althusser animates a dialogue between Freud and Lacan. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari turn Freud inside out but rely on many of his paradigms. Foucault reconceptualizes history as the study of epistemological breaks and the institutions that promulgate these breaks and prosper in their wake: the prison, the mental institution, the clinic, the museum (taking in several disciplines at once). Gayle Rubin’s thesis on the traffic in women is indebted to the work of Levi-Strauss and recycled for gay studies by Eve Sedgwick. Fortunately, the anthology we are using groups our readings in a more conventional manner, making it possible for students to identify a particular theorist with a specific strategy and to read more widely in and around a preferred topic. Wendy Graham.
Two 75-minute periods.
Course Format: CLS
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