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Literary Criticism II: Contemporary Theories
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Literary Criticism II:

Contemporary Theories

Dr. Dennis D. McDaniel, 407 Placid Hall

Phone: 724-805-2150

Office Hours: MW: 11:00-12:30; W: 4-5pm.

II. Texts

Richter, David H, ed. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Third Edition. Boston: Bedford, 2007.

Wofford, Susan. Hamlet. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 1994.

III. Description

This intermediate-level course for English majors and minors continues the historical survey begun in Literary Criticism I. Beginning with the formalist critics of the early twentieth century, students concentrate on critical theories of the contemporary period. Students will read primary texts from major critics, as well as commentaries on those texts, read application of these theories to a literary text, and write theory-based analyses of their own. In this way, students come to a greater understanding of the assumptions that they bring to bear when they read and interpret literature, they broaden their repertoire of reading strategies, and they read seemingly impenetrable works of contemporary literary theory and applied criticism with greater understanding.

IV. Objectives
Students who successfully complete this course should be able to do the following:

Name the major critical theories of the contemporary period and the writers who promulgated these theories
Recite the basic premises of each of these theories
Classify certain critical viewpoints and insights under the theoretical school to which they are most closely associated.
Identify the application of this theory in a work of practical literary criticism
Write a work of literary criticism that is grounded in a particular theoretical position.

This course addresses the following English Department goals, in descending order:

To understand and apply literary theory;
To situate an individual literary work in literary and cultural history;
To connect one's reading of literature to one’s perception of the world, seeing one's self and others in light of the conflicts, concepts, characters, and motifs created in literary works.
To classify and critically read primary literary texts;
To write essays, in a variety of discourse modes, that reflect a mastery of the Six Principles of Good Writing;

Also, this course addresses the following Saint Vincent core curriculum goals:

To form habits of ordered inquiry, logical thinking, and critical analysis
To develop effective communication skills
To develop skills in reading, writing, and literature

To foster historical awareness
To develop an understanding of philosophical thought

V. Requirements

A. Three Writing Projects (hard copies of work must be hand-delivered on time or will receive zero points). (60% of final grade)

1. Write a Summary (20% of Writing Project grade): In 500 words, summarize one critical article not covered in class: choose one of the following classic essays:

Woolf: excerpts from A Room of One's Own, 599-610

Freud: The Dream Work, 500-9

Marx: The Alienation of Labor 400-5

Your summary should perform the following tasks required of any written summary and will be evaluated on the basis of the successful completion of these tasks:

Condenses the major points of the source instead of describing them.

Is written in direct sentences, using the author as the subject of sentences only when absolutely necessary.

Exhibits accuracy and objectivity in recounting the details.

Covers the entire source essay in an even-handed way, not overstressing one part, like the beginning, at the expense of the rest of the source.

Is objective, recounting the details in a neutral tone without commentary.

• Is paraphrased (written in your own words and sentences).

Begins with a sentence that gives your interpretation of the essay's thesis or purpose.

2. Compare and Contrast two Critical Works (35% of Writing Project Grade): Write an essay of 1000 words that compares and contrasts two of the critical analyses of Hamlet published in the Wofford text with the purpose of increasing a reader's understanding of their respective critical approaches. For example, a comparison and contrast of a New Critical and a Reader Response-based essay would attempt to show what these two approaches have in common but also what makes each approach distinctive in contrast to the other. Organize this essay primarily on the basis of similarities and differences, and then secondarily on the basis of point of comparison.

3. Write a Theory-Based Critical Essay (45% of Writing Project grade): Write a 1500 word critical interpretation of a certain issue of Hamlet from the perspective of one critical school. Your goal in this essay is to show how a contemporary theoretical approach can lend insight to long-standing issue with this text. Such issues may relate questions like, "Why does Hamlet delay his revenge?"; "How can Gertrude's decisions be explained?"; and "Why does Ophelia commit suicide?" but your focus should be sufficiently narrowed to one particular scene of speech.

Following the introductory paragraph, devote a detailed paragraph to a brief definition and description of the critical perspective that you are using. Then apply the methodology of this theoretical perspective to the scene or speech chosen. Do quote (and document) both Hamlet and critical statements from the Richter text, but do keep quotes brief.
Both the second and the third writing projects will be graded on the basis of their meeting of the stated requirements, the accuracy of their understanding of the readings cited and the theoretical information discussed therein, and on the Six Principles of Good Writing.

B. Midterm and Final (30% of the final grade): Both tests will have an objective section and two essays that will test your understanding of theoretical positions studied during that half of the semester.

C. Class Performance (10% of the final grade). This will be my assessment of your presence and contributions during class sessions. Here's a sense of the rubric:

Always attends and intelligently contributes to class discussion=100
Misses class on occasion and periodically participates=75%

Misses class regularly but participates when present=50%

Misses class regularly and seldom participates=0

VI. Schedule

T1/16, H1/18: Introduction to the Course

T1/23, H1/25: Formalism and New Criticism

Richards: from Principles of Literary Criticism 764-73

Shklovsky: Art as Technique, 775-84

Brooks: My Credo: Formalist Criticism 798-99

Wimsatt and Beardsley: The Intentional Fallacy,811-18

T1/30, H2/1: Formalist Criticism and Hamlet

Hamlet (in Wofford)

T2/6, H2/8: Deconstruction (and Reader-Response)

de Saussure: Nature of the Linguistic Sign, 842-51

Foucault: What is an Author?; 904-14

Derrida: Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences, 915-26

Fish: How to Recognize a Poem When You See One,” 1023-30

T2/13, H2/15 Deconstruction and Hamlet

Wofford, 283-331

Submit Summaries on Thursday

T2/20, H2/22: Psychoanalytic Theory and Criticism

1123-38; The Agency of the Letter . . ; 1129-48; The Meaning of the Phallus, 149-54

T2/27 Psychoanalytic Criticism and Hamlet

Wofford, 241-82

H2/29: Midterm Exam

T3/6, H3/8: Spring Break

T3/13, H3/15: Marxist Criticism

Althusser: from Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, 1264-71

Williams: from Marxism and Literature 1272-1289

Eagleton: Categories for a Materialism Criticism, 1308-1319.

T3/20, H3/22: Marxist Criticism and Hamlet

Wofford, 332-67

T3/27, H3/29: Feminist Criticism (and Reader Response)

Fetterley Introduction to The Resisting Reader,1035-41

Cixous: Laugh of the Medusa, 1643-55

Rubin: from The Traffic in Women, 1664-82

T4/3: Discussion continues; Submit Comparison/Contrast Essays

H4/5: Easter Break

T4/10, H4/12: Feminist Criticism and Hamlet

Wofford, 208-240.

T4/17, H4/19: New Historicism and Ecocriticism

Geertz: Thick Description, 1367-82

White: The Historical Text as Literary Artifact, 1384-97.

Buell: The Ecocritical Insurgency, 1433-42.

T4/24, H4/26: New Historicism and Hamlet

Wofford, 368-402

T5/1, H5/3: Postcolonialism and Postmodernism

Said: from the Introduction to Orientalism, 1801-1813.

Lyotard: Defining the Postmodern, 1933-34

Baudrillard: from The Precession of the Simulacrum, 1936-45.

Submit Critical Analysis on Thursday

M5/7, 11:00am: Final Exam

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