Description – Engl505 – Literary Theory

This course will survey the major contributions to literary theory, beginning with a quick review of the history, going back to Plato. We will then focus on the sudden explosion of theoretical work from the 1960s on, including reading work by the likes of Ferdinand de Saussure, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Judith Butler, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Gloria Andzaldúa, bell hooks, Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud, Slavoj Zizek, Giorgio Agamben, and Jacques Rancière. We will read these works as products of a particular period in the history of the institutionalized study of literature and culture, as well as inheritors of the tradition of continental philosophy (including Immanual Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, and beyond). We will situate the predilection for constructivist explanations of such phenomena as identity, sex, sexuality, gender, race, class, and ethnicity against the historical and institutional backgrounds in which it emerged. By the end of the term, students will have a firm grasp on where theory came from, and why and how it emerged, as well as where it has lead most recently. We will begin from the premise that theory is not by any means dead, but that it has undergone a sea change that requires rigorous rethinking.


Contact: Professor Stephen Ross   |   |   250-721-7237

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