The Outcast Hero in Context
This course provides an introduction to critical practice, which entails the ability to read literary and cultural texts through a broad variety of interpretive lenses. We will examine a group of texts from British Romanticism (spanning the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries), loosely arranged around the theme of the Outcast Hero (or Anti-Hero). More specifically, the class will examine four texts: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” and Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. This limited group of primary texts will allow us to consider how critics, invested in asking different kinds of questions, highlight certain parts of a text more than others as they participate in larger conversations about how literature reflects and affects readers, writers, and cultures. Our secondary texts reflect dominant trends in criticism over the past century, including—to list a few—formalism, structuralism, old and new historicism, reader-response criticism, deconstruction, cultural materialism, psychoanalytic criticism, orientalism, gender studies, and textual criticism.
As suggested by the word “practice” in our course title, criticism isn’t something that just happens. It is something we do (practice) as English scholars, and getting good at it takes work (also practice)—which means writing, refining, and rewriting. You will have frequent opportunities to develop and flex your critical muscle, through frequent short, informal writing assignments. Formal writing will consist of a short mini-conference paper, a longer research essay (which also includes exploratory assignments), and a final exam. The rest of your grade will come from your active participation in the classroom.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Bedford/St. Martin’s), 978-0312112233.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Bedford/St. Martin’s), 978-0312191269.
George Gordon Byron, Byron’s Poetry and Prose, ed. Alice Levine (Norton), 978-0393925609.
Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (Broadview), 978-1551114354.