ENGL 302 A: Critical Practice

Cultural Studies of the Novel: Historicism and Formalism

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
MUE 154
Gillian Harkins
Gillian Harkins

Syllabus Description:

English 302

Course Description: (Re)Making History

 (Re)Making History

The critical practices that we’ll examine over the course of this quarter are counterhistories in two senses of the word. First and fundamentally, they debunk common (i.e. positivist) conceptions of history as a disinterested record of “the past as it really was;” they define history as a narrative that imposes a particular meaning on the messiness of events and the complexities of human existence; they affiliate history with literature; and they affirm that historical narratives are inevitably political. Second, these counterhistories render visible the violence that such ostensible goods as the rule of law, freedom, family, and community conceal. Critical examinations of history, trauma, racism, and neoliberalism supplement late 20th and early 21st century American fiction, memoire and film. Required texts will include a course packet and the following texts: Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina; Diem’s The Gangster We Are All Looking For, Wideman’s Two Cities; Chua’s Gold by the Inch; and Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange.


Additional Details:

The only guarantee any theory can give about itself is to expose itself as a passionate fiction.

-- Theresa de Lauretis, The Practice of Love

 Cultural Studies of the Novel: Historicism and FormalismThis course provides a follow up to English 202, the Introduction to the English major. It is a practicum of critical methods. This particular 302 will provide in-depth practice in cultural studies of the novel. Our focus on cultural studies will include attention to the following methodological questions: what is the “form” in formalist approaches to the novel? What is the ”history"" in historicist approaches to the novel? What kinds of critical practices – close reading, archive development, historical research – are important to cultural studies methodologies? Does narratology (the study of narrative form) have a role? What about ethnography or other research methods from anthropology, sociology, or the empirical human sciences?   By the end of the course, students should have a grasp of various approaches to the study of culture and narrative forms.   Students will also have been exposed to a range of social and political questions related to cultural studies methodologies, including theories of race, gender, sexuality, and class.


Henry James, Daisy Miller

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Caryl Philips, Crossing the River

Course Reader: Critical readings will be available on the CANVASS Website. They will likely include works by Michael McKeon, D.A. Miller, Gérard Genette, Gertrude Stein, Georg Lukacs, Mikhail M. Bakhtin, Roland Barthes, Nancy Armstrong, Barbara Christian, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Lisa Lowe, Sianne Ngai, Henry Louis Gates, Catherine Gallagher, Paul Gilroy.

Course Homepage: There will be a course webpage available on Canvas before the start of the quarter.

Catalog Description: 
Intensive study of, and exercise in, applying important or influential interpretive practices for studying language, literature, and culture, along with consideration of their powers/limits. Focuses on developing critical writing abilities. Topics vary and may include critical and interpretive practice from scripture and myth to more contemporary approaches, including newer interdisciplinary practices. Prerequisite: minimum 2.0 in ENGL 202.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:04pm