History of Literary Criticism
An examination of various schools of theory and critical practice. Approaches will include consideration of historical development and cultural contexts. Prerequisites: Take ENG 315 and at least one additional 300-level English course. Spring, Fall.
Faculty: William J Stroup
Times: 10:00AM‑11:45AM (TR)
Start/End Date: 08/28/23 - 12/15/23
Instruction Method: Lecture-based Learning
Comments: Although many College and University classes on literarycriticism and theory pick up this history in the early 20thcentury with the emergence of "English" as a distinctdiscipline-leaving most of the course for a consideration of thevarious approaches to the study of literature and culture thathave expanded since the 1970's-this seminar emerges out of aconviction that 21st century students can benefit immeasurablyfrom engaging with the most persistent and ancient questionsabout the study of literature. For example, what is an author? What are the responsibilities of the artist to his or hersociety? What is "literature," and how might it be distinct fromhistory or philosophy? On what grounds does a critic make claimsfor the superiority of a particular text, author, or genre overanother? What levels of meaning are involved in the act ofreading? How does the meaning of a single text change over time?What is the relationship between the critical discourse of aparticular historical moment and the art produced at the sametime? How do underrepresented voices become a part of theliterary canon? These are a few of the many questions we willanalyze in the context of many of the most debated andpersistently-cited writers in the Western literary andintellectual tradition. The first two thirds of the course willbriefly (but not superficially) sketch the history of literarycriticism through the late 19th century by reading key selectionsnot just about the ideas of key thinkers like Plato or Madame deStael but through reading their own words and the emphasis theygive to key critical terms (in English translation, asnecessary). This use of important historical documents will helpus all become better readers of other literary genres as well. In the last third of the course we will aspire to arepresentative survey of key approaches in recent criticism. Each third of the course will include a retrospective criticalwriting assignment, and students will follow their interests todevelop one longer project due at the end of the course. Thiscourse is designed for advanced English majors and will bevaluable for future graduate students in literature, for teachersof literature at all levels, and for creative writers inreflecting on their craft.
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Keene State College
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