Contemporary Criticism (w/C. Lit 510 & German 500)
This course will present a compendious overview of the major transition that took place in the 60s and 70s from “humanist” to “structuralist” and “contextualist” approaches of various sorts. Humanism, in the loose, large sense intended here, refers to the notion that individual consciousness is the prime source of agency. By contrast, structuralism and contextualism analyze agency in terms of forces and structures that give form to individual consciousness itself, and are therefore in crucial ways behind its intendings. There are many very difficult conceptual issues that arise around the dichotomy between these two approaches, and in this class we will work through these issues in rigorous detail. All of this will be brought to bear on the fundamental issues of reading and interpretation, and particularly on the question of what constitutes valid interpretation.
We will be reading some standard theoretical texts that you might well have encountered before, but we will read them at a depth that you might well not have previously experienced.
Tentative reading list:
Volosinov, Ch. 3 of Marxist Philosophy of Language
Foucault, “What is an Author”
Barthes, “The Death of the Author”
Derrida, “Signature, Event, Context,” selections from Of Grammatology
Fish, “How to Recognize a Poem When You See One”
Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination”
Appadurai, “Commodities and the Politics of Value”
Staten, “The Origin of the Work of Art in Material Practice”