Literary Theory | Department of English

Literary Theory

This course will familiarize the student with some key ideas in the history of literary theory and criticism. We shall read the relevant texts closely, beginning with the ancients and arriving at the first half of the twentieth century. From Plato to Fish, we will pay special attention to the epistemological and ontological presuppositions of each theorist. Students will write short papers on important areas covered in class. There will be an open-book exam at the end of the semester.

Unit 1: Text and World: The question of mimesis
Plato: Book X of The Republic
Aristotle: Excerpts from Poetics
2 weeks

Unit 2: Text and Author: Poetic subjectivity
Alexander Pope: Excerpts from An Essay on Criticism
William Wordsworth: Excerpts from “Preface to Lyrical Ballads”
ST Coleridge: Excerpts from Biographia Literaria
TS Eliot: “Tradition and the Individual Talent”
3 weeks

Unit 3: Text and Reader (A): Aesthetics
Immanuel Kant: Excerpt from Critique of Judgment
Edmund Burke: “The Sublime and the Beautiful Compared”
2 weeks

Unit 4: The Text Itself (A): Formalism
Wimsatt and Beardsley: “The Intentional Fallacy”
Viktor Shklovsky: Excerpts from “Art as Technique”
2 weeks

Unit 5: The Text Itself (B): Language and Semiotics
Mikhail Bakhtin: “Heteroglossia in the Novel”
Ferdinand de Saussure: Excerpts from Course in General Linguistics
Roland Barthes: Excerpts from Mythologies
3 weeks

Unit 6: Text and Reader (B): Reader Response Theory
Roland Barthes: “Death of the Author”
Stanley Fish: “How to Recognize a Poem When You See One.”
2 weeks

Two assignments during the semester (2500 words each)
Final Exam (open book)
Class participation

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