This course will introduce a variety of literary theories in English
and Cultural Studies that have developed over the course of the twentieth
century. Taking as our premise the idea that the theorized interpretation
of texts, events and lives is an everyday human activity rather than
the exclusive province of academic specialists, we will explore foundational
problems such as canonicity, class, consumerism, gender, ideology, race,
sexuality, and textuality, using theoretical strategies such as formalism,
structuralism, poststructuralism, deconstruction, cultural materialism,
and feminism. The primary object of this course is to address the question
of why literary or critical theory should matter; and so to test the
proposition that it does, the course will examine the ways in which
various kinds of theory can illuminate specific social and literary
problems, texts, debates and struggles.
The following primary textbook for the course has been ordered through
Orlando Books, 10123 - 82 Avenue, 432-7633:
Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, ed., Literary Theory: An Anthology.
Oxford: Blackwell Books, 1998.
Additional books are available through the University Bookstore; please
purchase the following:
Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin. Critical Terms for Literary
Study. 2nd edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Michel Foucault. The History of Sexuality.
New York: Vintage, 1978.
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. 1970. New York et al.: Penguin,
Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place. New York et al.: Penguin, 1988.
There are several books available in the Salter Reading Room (3rd floor,
Humanities Centre) for you to consult. These include:
Joseph Childers and Gary Hentzi, ed., The Columbia Dictionary of
Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism. New York: Columbia University
Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth, ed., The Johns Hopkins Guide
to Literary Theory and Criticism. Baltimore, 1994.
Irene A. Makaryk, ed., Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993.
Grades in this course will be based on five things:
10% Careful preparation for and participation in class discussions.
Read carefully, think up questions in advance, and conduct yourself
in a way that enables other students to learn. Participation makes intellectual
15% A series of 9 short (1-2 page) critical responses to assigned readings.
A critical response is a 1-2 page summary and evaluation of an assigned
theoretical reading or two. Critical responses are designed to aid you
in clarifying issues, formulating questions, and articulating your opinion.
Write them in a way that will help you to do these things. (I recommend
a synopsis of the argument with a collection of your questions or reservations
at the end.) I will read these and comment on them, but your grade will
be based on merely completing them. A sample critical response is appended
to this syllabus. Please note that I will not accept critical responses
20% A take-home exam, due 26 November.
25% A 10-page essay, due 4 March, that uses one or two theoretical
strategies to discuss a text of your choice. In keeping with the necessarily
interdisciplinary nature of this course, "text" will be interpreted
in the broadest sense. It may include literary writing, a music video,
artwork, or architecture.
30% A final exam, to be written during the last class, 8 April.
The weight of the final exam is set by the English Department. You
need to know that, as is always the case, term work cannot be reconsidered
after the final exam has been written. However, if at any point in the
course you have concerns about my evaluation of your work, please discuss
them with me.
SCHEDULE (subject to change)
Sep 03 Introductions
Literary Studies/Cultural Studies/Canonicity
10 Raymond Williams, "Literature"
(reader); Terry Eagleton, "What is Literature?" and "The
Rise of English" (reader); Gauri Viswanathan, "Currying Favor:
The Politics of British Educational and Cultural Policy in India, 1813-54"
Critical response #1 due: on either
Eagleton or Viswanathan
17 Harper's articles (reader);
John Guillory, "Canon" (Lentricchia 233-249); Raymond Williams,
"Culture" (reader); John Fiske, "Popular Culture"
(Lentricchia 321-335); Stuart Hall, "Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms"
24 The New Criticism: I.A. Richards, "The
Four Kinds of Meaning" (reader); Cleanth Brooks, "The Formalist
Critics" and "The Language of Paradox" (R&R 52-68);
Thomas McLaughlin, "Figurative Language" (Lentricchia 80-90);
John Donne, "The Canonization" (R&R 69)
Critical response #2 due: on either
Richards or Brooks
Oct 01 Russian Formalism: Boris Tomashevsky,
"Thematics" (R&R 24-27); V. Propp, Morphology of the
Folktale (R&R 28-31); Viktor Shklovsky, "Art as Technique"
(R&R 17-23); Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, "Fulfilment" (reader)
Critical response #3 due: on Russian
Formalism (at least 2 of the 3 theorists)
Assignment: for next class, bring
in a photocopy of a 1-2 page excerpt from a novel you're reading in
08 Dialogism: Mikhail Bakhtin, "Discourse
in the Novel" (R&R 32-44)
15 Structuralism: John Carlos Rowe, "Structure"
(Lentricchia 23-38); Jonathan Culler, "Introduction: 'The Linguistic
Foundation'" (R&R73-75); Ferdinand de Saussure, "Nature
of the Linguistic Sign" (R&R 76-90)
Critical Response #4 due: on Saussure
22 Roman Jakobson, "The Twofold Character
of Language" and "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles"
Take-home exam handed out
29 Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, "The
Class of 1968-Post-Structuralism par lui-même" (R&R
333-357); Barbara Johnson, "Writing" (Lentricchia 39-49);
Jacques Derrida, "Différance" and "Plato's Pharmacy"
(R&R 385-407, 429-450)
Nov 05 Derrida, cont'd
12 Roland Barthes, "From Work to
Text" and "The Death of the Author" (reader)
Critical Response #5 due: on Barthes
19 Michel Foucault, excerpts from The
Order of Things and Discipline and Punish (R&R 377-384,
26 Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, "Starting
with Zero: Basic Marxism" (R&R 231-242); Karl Marx, The
German Ideology, The Manifesto of the Communist Party,
"Wage Labor and Capital" and excerpt from Capital
Take-home exam due
Dec 03 Raymond Williams, "Base and
Superstructure," "Determination," "Productive Forces,"
"Ideology" (reader); James H. Kavanagh, "Ideology"
Assignment: Before next term,
read Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses"
(see 7 Jan) and visit West Edmonton Mall. Keeping in mind Althusser's
idea that ideology is vested in physical practices, analyze the ideology
of West Edmonton Mall. Use what you discover on this visit as the basis
of Critical Response #6.
Jan 07 Louis Althusser, "Ideology
and Ideological State Apparatuses" (reader); West Edmonton Mall
Critical Response #6 due: on Althusser
13 7 pm (Wed): Screening of Schindler's
List. Please note that even if you cannot attend this
screening, you are required to see the film on your own before 14 Jan
14 Ideological Domination...: Pierre Bourdieu,
"Distinction" (R&R 1028-1036); Walter Benjamin, "The
Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (R&R 282-289);
Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, "The Culture Industry as Mass
Deception" (R&R 1037-1041); Stuart Hall, "The Rediscovery
of 'Ideology'" (R&R 1050-1064); Schindler's List
21 ...and Resistance: Antonio Gramsci,
"'Hegemony'" (R&R 277); Daniel O'Hara, "Class"
(Lentricchia 406-428); Janice Radway, excerpt from Reading the Romance
(R&R 1042-1049); John Fiske, "Television Culture" (R&R
1087-1098); The Jerry Springer Show
Critical Response #7 due: on mass
28 Anthony Appiah, "Race" (Lentricchia 274-287); Frantz Fanon,
"The Fact of Blackness" (reader); Kobena Mercer, "Black
Hair/Style Politics" (reader)
Critical Response #8 due: on Fanon
Feb 04 Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
11 Edward Said, Orientalism (R&R
873-886); Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place
15-19 Reading Week; classes suspended
25 Virginia Woolf, "Professions for Women" (reader); Sandra
Gilbert and Susan Gubar, excerpt from The Madwoman in the Attic
(R&R 596-611); Gayle Rubin, "The Traffic in Women: Notes on
the 'Political Economy' of Sex" (R&R 533-560)
Mar 04 Audre Lorde, "Age, Race, Class
and Sex: Women Redefining Difference" (R&R 630-636); Dionne
Brand, excerpt from Bread Out of Stone (reader); Myra Jehlen,
"Gender" (Lentricchia 263-273)
Term Paper due
11 Adrienne Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality
and Lesbian Existence" (reader); Gayle Rubin, "Thinking Sex"
18 Michel Foucault, The History of
25 Eve Sedgwick, excerpt from Epistemology
of the Closet (reader); Willa Cather, "Paul's Case" (reader)
Critical Response #9 due: on your
choice of topic
31 Paris Is Burning (screening
in class); review
08 Final exam
Students sometimes ask about guides to literary theory, so here are
four books that explain complicated theoretical concepts straightforwardly:
Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Oxford:
Blackwell, 1983. Clearly written from an explicitly Marxist point of
view but obviously limited by its early date.
Green, Keith and Jill LeBihan. Critical
Theory and Practice: A Coursebook. London: Routledge, 1996.
The first two sections, on language, linguistics, structuralism and
literature are likely the most useful for this course. If you're having
trouble with Saussure, this is the place to go.
Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts. New York et al.: Longman,
1998. This book is especially useful for showing how theories might
be put to practical use in writing about literature, and contains lots
of literary critical examples. Especially good on deconstruction.
Selden, Raman, Peter Widdowson and Peter Brooker. A Reader's Guide
to Contemporary Literary Theory. 4th ed. London et al.:
Prentice Hall, 1997. An excellent overview of a range of theoretical
positions, this text does a good job of situating movements historically
and institutionally. If you were to buy a single book to guide your
reading throughout the course, this would be it: it contains chapters
on New Criticism, Russian formalism, structuralism, Marxism, feminism,
poststructuralism, postcolonialism and queer theory.
Here are some introductions to cultural studies:
During, Simon. The Cultural Studies Reader. New York/London:
Routledge, 1993. Contains a range of essays that provide an overview
of the kind of work done in the name of cultural studies.
Brantlinger, Patrick. Crusoe's Footprints:
Cultural Studies in Britain and America. New York: Routledge, 1990.
Picks up where Turner's book leaves off, giving a history of cultural
studies in the United States.
Hall, Stuart. Culture, Media, Language. London: Unwin Hyman,
1990. Hall is perhaps the best known cultural studies practitioner,
and this is just one collection of his essays.
Johnson, Richard. "What is Cultural Studies Anyway?" Social
Text 6 (Winter 1986/87): 38-80. A long-ish article, but it gives
a succinct sense of where cultural studies comes from and offers contentious
suggestions for where it might go.
Turner, Graeme. British Cultural Studies: An Introduction.
Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990. A clear and concise history of the development
of cultural studies in England and Australia.
Here are a few texts that provide an overview of particular movements
in literary theory (most titles are self-explanatory):
Abelove, Henry, Michele Aina Barale and
David M. Halperin, ed., The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader.
New York: Routledge, 1993.
Duberman, Martin, ed. A Queer World:
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader. New York: New York
University Press, 1997.
Eagleton, Terry and Drew Milne, ed., Marxist
Literary Theory. London: Oxford, 1996.
Grossberg, Lawrence, Cary Nelson and Paula
Treichler, ed., Cultural Studies. New York/London: Routledge,
Guillory, John. Cultural Capital:
The Problem of Literary Canon Formation. Chicago: Chicago University
Hennessy, Rosemary and Chrys Ingraham,
ed. Materialist Feminism: A Reader in Class, Difference, and Women's
Lives. New York/London: Routledge, 1997.
Lentricchia, Frank. After the New
Criticism. Chicago, 1983.
Marks, Elaine and di Courtivron. New
French Feminisms: An Anthology.
Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics.
New York: Routledge, 1988.
Staton, Shirley F. Literary Theories in Praxis. Philadelphia,
Williams, Raymond. Keywords. New York: Oxford University Press,
Another resource to look out for the is the "for Beginners"
series. Don't be deceived by their appearance! Published by either Icon
Books (Cambridge) or Writers and Readers (London), these comic-like
books are normally very solid and do a good and often very entertaining
job of explaining complicated ideas clearly. You can find introductions
to Derrida, Benjamin, Foucault, Saussure, Marx, Lacan, Freud, Feminism,
Postmodernism, and more.