ENGL 67 // Literary Interpretation // Fall 2008
MW 11-12.15 // Crookshank 8
Department of English
Office Hours: MW 3.00-4.30
This course is intended to serve as a gateway to the English major, in the sense that it opens up the vast landscape of literary scholarship before you. There’s a lot to explore, needless to say, and a course like this one can really only scratch the surface. We’ll spend the semester working on strategies for reading, analyzing, and writing about the literary, using methods that pay attention to a text’s formal features, its historical situation, its textual references, and its cultural engagements. We’ll encounter many of these methods through an abbreviated tour of the field of literary theory; given the enormity and diversity of that field, we’ll only begin to develop a most cursory map, but the map should nonetheless prove helpful in future explorations. We’ll also spend the semester focusing on the ways that literary criticism gets done at the level of writing; how do scholars of literature create, sustain, and support their arguments about the texts with which they engage? Over the course of the semester, you will write a lot, and rewrite even more. And, I hope, your careful, sustained engagement with the words and sentences of others will guide you toward better words, and more polished sentences, of your own.
Attendance and participation (15%): See policies for more information. Bear in mind that participation doesn’t mean simply doing the work, or simply speaking up in class, but actively working to make the class a positive learning experience for you and your fellow students.
Participation on the class blog (15%): We’re going to use the class blog for a couple of different things. First, to focus and direct our in-class discussions: each of you will sign up for a class session for which you’ll be responsible for posting an opening set of questions or remarks, to which the other members of the class will respond or add, creating a pool of issues to be explored further in class. And second, to further our discussions after class. You will thus each be required to lead off the pre-class discussion on the blog once over the course of the semester, you will be expected to respond to your classmates’ lead-offs at least once each week, and you will be expected to post something further to the blog — a question, a comment, a link, an announcement — at least once a week. See the blog itself for further details.
Shortish papers (15% each): Over the course of the semester, you will draft, revise, and turn in two 5 to 7 page papers, the first of which will carefully analyze one of the theoretical arguments we’ll be engaging with through the lens of the literary text of your choice, and the second of which will bring together two or more such theoretical arguments in order to think about their differing analyses and engagements. More specific prompts will be posted on the class website.
Longish paper (30%): At the end of the semester, you will turn in an 9 to 11 page paper that will bring together a sustained engagement with one or more of the theoretical texts we’re reading this semester, one or more of the literary texts we’ll be reading, and your research into the critical responses to the literary or theoretical texts. A more specific prompt will be posted on the class website.
NOTA BENE: We have the opportunity to work with a couple of writing fellows this semester, Erin Reeves and Annie Allhoff, who are dedicated specifically to working with our class. Both are English majors, and both took a version of 67 that looks suspiciously like this one two years ago. Each of you will be required to meet with one of the writing fellows after you’ve turned in the draft of each of your papers, and to revise based on your discussion with them. This is an extraordinary opportunity to really work on the ways you approach your writing; please take the best advantage of it you can. I’ll have more information for you about this process as the semester goes on.
Other assignments (10%): Other small assignments will be given over the course of the semester; some of these will be delivered in class, and others will be presented on the blog.
GRADING AND OTHER POLICIES
All policies under which my classes operate are available at http://machines.plannedobsolescence.net/policies. Read those policies carefully, and take them seriously; I will.
The following required books are available at Huntley:
Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, Introduction to Literature, Criticism, and Theory
Henry James, Turn of the Screw & In the Cage
Don DeLillo, White Noise
Tom Stoppard, Arcadia
Other required readings are linked below.
Please note that our primary work in this course is with the theory; where literature has been assigned, it’s primarily meant to serve as a sort of backboard we can bounce the theory off of. Each literary text is thus given one day to itself, hardly enough to do any of them justice; we’ll refer back to them in the ensuing class periods, however. Bear in mind, in particular, that Lessing’s The Golden Notebook is quite long, and the website through which we’ll be interacting with it won’t come online until October 15. Plan on having at least “Free Women: 1” and the first section of “The Notebooks” read for October 27; we’ll keep it circulating in our discussion thereafter.
W Sept 3 — Introductions
M Sept 8 — B&R, “The beginning”; Fruit, “Completeness in Literary Art Illustrated from Shakespeare and Milton”; Lockwood, “Milton’s Corrections to the Minor Poems”
W Sept 10 — B&R, “Readers and reading”; Shklovsky, “Art as Technique”
M Sept 15 — Wimsatt & Beardsley, “The Intentional Fallacy”; Brooks, “The Formalist Critics” and “Metaphor, Paradox, and Stereotype”
W Sept 17 — Fish, “Interpreting the Variorum”; Jauss, “Literary History as Challenge to Literary Theory”
M Sept 22 — B&R, “Narrative,” “Character,” “Voice,” and “Figures and tropes” [Draft of paper 1 due]
W Sept 24 — James, In the Cage
M Nov 24 — DeLillo, White Noise
W Nov 26 — No class — Thanksgiving
M Dec 1 — B&R, “Moving pictures”; Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”; Radway, “Reading the Romance”
W Dec 3 — B&R, “The Postmodern”; Derrida, “Structure, Sign & Play”
M Dec 8 — Stoppard, Arcadia
W Dec 10 — B&R, “The end” [Revised paper 3 due]