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ENGL 304 A: History of Literary Criticism and Theory II

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
MOR 234
Henry Staten
Henry Staten

Syllabus Description:

English 304—Spring 2019

Course Description

In the 1970s and 1980s there was a revolution in literary criticism that overturned traditional ideas about what literature is, and about how literary criticism should be done.  We will begin this course with a brief survey of the traditional views that will introduce you to the basic concepts and terminology of literary criticism.  We will then turn to the new views that slowly emerged in the post-WW II period, beginning with the so-called “formalism” of the so-called “New Critics,” represented here by Cleanth Brooks, continuing with structuralism (represented here by Roland Barthes) and the various forms of “suspicious” or “demystifying” criticism that followed.  We will initially focus especially on the question of the nature of the creative process by which poets make poems.  Do poems come from the heart, from “inspired” feeling (as in a traditional "Romantic" or "humanist" view that remains very common today), or are they a product of artisanal labor and know-know (as in "formalist" theory), or are they produced by a “context” that uses the poet as a vehicle of impersonal social-historical forces (as in "structuralism" and various forms of "contextual" criticism)?

You will be asked to write three short (3-5) page papers, spaced evenly throughout the quarter.  There will also be a mid-term and a final.  Each paper and exam will count 20 per cent of your grade.


Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice

All other readings in your course packet from Ram’s Copy Center on the Ave (4144 University Way)



Traditional views:

Poetry as imitation of nature: Aristotle, selections from Poetics

Poetry as “expression” of feeling (Romanticism): Wordsworth, selections from Preface to the Lyrical Ballads

Fiction as both imitation and expression (“expressive realism”): Henry James, selections from “The Art of Fiction.”

A modern Romantic: Heaney, “Feeling into Words”

Formalism, structuralism, and contextualism:

Staten, “An Anti-Romantic View: Paul Valéry”

Cleanth Brooks, selections from “The Heresy of Paraphrase” and “The Language of Paradox”

Barthes, “The Death of the Author”

Catherine Belsey, Literary Theory, Chs. 1 and 2

Volosinov, selections from “Verbal Interaction,” from Marxism and the Philosophy of Language

Stanley Fish, “How to Recognize a Poem When you See One

Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination”


Catalog Description: 
Provides an introduction to contemporary literary, cultural, and critical theory and modern antecedents. Explores frameworks used in study of literature and culture by scholars today.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
January 17, 2020 - 2:10am