Saturday, September 6, 2008

Course Description and Syllabus

Literary Theory and Anti-Theory

This course introduces students to several important paradigms in literary theory, including Jacques Derrida's deconstruction, Lacanian psychoanalysis, contemporary feminist theory, Edward Said’s postcolonial theory, and the emerging field of “science studies.” However, alongside some of the most influential theoretical arguments of the latter part of the 20th century, we will also engage with critics and skeptics of these theoretical approaches, who wonder if there is any "there" there. So alongside Derrida, Barthes, Foucault, and so on, we will read essay-length critiques by J.R. Searle, M.H. Abrams, Martha Nussbaum, Noam Chomsky, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Stephen Adam Schwartz, Valentine Cunningham, Denis Donoghue, and others. Some of these theory skeptics would prefer a return to an earlier era and traditional methodologies, but others disagree with the premises of certain recent theories for reasons that might be seen as non-ideological. The larger goals of the course are 1) to help students decide for themselves whether given theoretical approaches are valuable, and 2) to enable students to use literary theory as a tool in shaping their research. A vigorous climate of debate will be encouraged; no previous experience with literary theory is required.


August 25

Approaches to Poe’s “The Purloined Letter”: Lacan, Derrida, Johnson, Muller & Richardson

September 1
Authorship Unit: Nature of the Author

Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” (in Leitch)
Roland Barthes, “From Work to Text” (in Leitch)
Roland Barthes, “Deliberation.” Trans. Richard Howard. In Susan Sontag, Ed. A Barthes Reader. New York: Hill and Wang, 1984 [1979]: 479-496.
Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?” (in Leitch)
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (in Leitch)
Seán Burke, “The Ethics of Signature” [1994]. In Sean Burke, Ed. Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern, 1995.
Seán Burke, “The Birth of the Reader,” from The Death and Resurrection of the Author, 1998.

September 8
Authorship Unit: Intention

Wimsatt and Beardsley, “Intentional Fallacy” (in Leitch)
E.D. Hirsch, “Objective Interpretation” (in Leitch)
Jeffrey Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels, “Against Theory” (in Leitch)
Stanley Fish, “Consequences” (in Against Theory)
Richard Rorty, “Philosophy Without Principles” (in Against Theory)
Daniel T. O’Hara, “Revisionary Madness” (in Against Theory)
Wimsatt and Beardsley, “Affective Fallacy” (in Leitch)

September 15
Authorship Unit 3: Biography

Boris Tomasevskij, “Literature and Biography” (in Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern)
Stanley Fish, “Biography and Intention” (from Contesting the Subject, 1992)
William H. Epstein, “(Post)modern Lives: Abducting the Biographical Subject” (from Contesting the Subject, 1992)
Michael McKeon, “Writer as Hero: Novelistic Prefigurations and the Emergence of Literary Biography” (from Contesting the Subject, 1992)
William Irwin, "Against Intertextuality" (Philosophy and Literature; Project Muse)

September 22
Performativity & Language Unit: Fundamental Questions

Plato, From “Phaedrus” (in Leitch)
Roman Jakobson, From Linguistics and Poetics, and “Two Aspects of
Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbance” (in Leitch)
Ferdinand de Saussure (selections in Leitch)
J.L. Austin, "Performative Utterances" (in Lietch)
J.L. Austin, How To Do Things With Words (chapters 1-3, 8-10; photocopy)

September 29
Performativity & Language Unit: Controversy

Jacques Derrida, From "Plato's Pharmakon" (Leitch)
Jacques Derrida, “Signature Event Context” (1977; photocopy)
Michael Berube on this essay (Online: link)
John R. Searle, "Reply to Derrida: Reiterating the Differences" (1977; Photocopy)
John R. Searle, “Literary Theory and Its Discontents” (in Patai/Corral)
J. Hillis Miller, "Tradition and Difference" (from Diacritics 2; JSTOR)
M.H. Abrams, “The Deconstructive Angel” (in Patai/Corral)

October 6
Gender & Sexuality Unit: Fundamental Questions

Plato, from Book VII of The Republic (in Leitch)
Jacques Lacan, on the Mirror Stage (in Leitch)
Jane Tompkins, “Me and My Shadow” (in Leitch)
Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (in Leitch)
Gilbert and Gubar, “The Madwoman in the Attic” (in Leitch)
Michel Foucault, “History of Sexuality” (excerpts in Leitch)
Nancy K. Miller, “The Text’s Heroine” (Diacritics 1982; JSTOR)
Paggy Kamuf, “Replacing Feminist Criticism” (Diacritics 1982; JSTOR)

October 13 No Class

October 20
Gender & Sexuality Unit: Controversy

Judith Butler, “Gender Trouble” (in Leitch)
Martha Nussbaum, “The Professor of Parody” (online/TNR)
John McGowan on Butler-Nussbaum (Online)
Adrienne Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality" (in Leitch)
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Between Men” and “Epistemology of the Closet” (in Leitch)
Eve Sedgwick, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, Or You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay is About You” (in Novel Gazing)
Lee Siegel, “Queer Theory, Literature, and the Sexualization of Everything” (in Patai, Corral)
Barbara Christian, “The Race for Theory” (Leitch)

October 27
Postcolonial Unit: Fundamental Questions

Edward Said, Orientalism (selected chapters)
Chinua Achebe, “An Image of Africa” (in Leitch)
Ngugi w'a Thiong'o, “On the Abolition of the English Department (in Leitch)
Frantz Fanon, “On National Culture” (in Leitch)
Homi Bhabha, “The Commitment to Theory” (in Leitch)

November 3
Postcolonial Unit: Controversy

Gayatri Spivak, “Three Women’s Texts And A Critique of Imperialism”
Erin O’Connor, “Preface for a Post-Postcolonial Criticism” (in Patai/Corral)
William Irwin, “Dangerous Knowledge” (chapter 9, on Said)
Arif Dirlik, “Postcolonial Aura”
Ella Shohat, “Notes on the Postcolonial” (in The Pre-Occupation of Postcolonial Studies)
David Scott, “The Social Construction of Postcolonial Studies.” (in Postcolonial Studies and Beyond, 2005. 385-400.
Kwame Anthony Appiah, “Battle of the Bien-Pensant” (in Patai/Corral)
Robert L. Ross, “Reading Literatures in English without Theory.” Critics
and Writers Speak: Re-Visioning Post-colonial Studies
, 2006. 48-55.

November 10
Science Studies Unit: Fundamental Questions

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (excerpt)
Paul, Feyerabend, “How To Defend Society Against Science” (in The
Philosophy of Expertise)
Bruno Latour, “Give me a Laboratory, and I Will Raise the World” (in The Science Studies Reader)
Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Knowledge” (in The Science Studies Reader)

November 17
Science Studies Unit: Controversy

Noam Chomsky, “Rationality/Science” (in Patai/Corral)
Jean Bricmont and Alan Sokal, “The Furor Over Impostures Intellectuelles: What is All the Fuss About?”
Jean Bricmont and Alan Sokal, “Epistemic Relativism in the Philosophy of Science” (from Intellectual Impostures)
Meera Nanda, “Postcolonial Science Studies: Ending ‘Epistemic Violence’”

November 24
Meta-theory and the History of Theory

Francois Cusset, French Theory (selected chapters)
Valentine Cunningham, “Theory, What Theory?” (in Patai/Corral)
Rene Wellek, “Destroying Literary Studies” (in Patai/Corral)
Morris Dickstein, “The Rise and Fall of Practical Criticism” (in

December 1
Meta-theory Continued

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