Edward Burne-Jones, The Beguiling of Merlin

Literary Theory: a Critical Introduction

Instructor: Rebecca Ariel Porte
The Workmen’s Circle
247 West 37th St, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10018

What is literature? And what kinds of meanings, uses, values, histories, and philosophical positions do we attach to literature in the act of reading it? Literary theory, the diverse body of thought that addresses these fundamental questions, has pursued a stunning array of methods in its attempts to understand how literature works. This course, a selective introduction to literary theory, concentrates on just a few: psychoanalysis, Marxism, structuralism and poststructuralism, queer and feminist theory, and postcolonial theory.

In this course, students will select one primary literary text, chosen from a list of options including works by William Blake, Aimé Césaire, Emily Dickinson, Nella Larsen, Mary Shelley, and Shakespeare, among others. Each of the course’s four sessions will ask participants to return to the primary text and read it through the lens of the theory we will be studying that week. As the course progresses, we will ask not only what literature is—and how it gets constructed differently as a category at different historical points—but also what literary theory is. How and why should we interpret literature? Is there an ethics of reading? Is genre a meaningful category? And what, ultimately, is literature for? Theorists likely to interest to us include Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Maurice Blanchot, Butler, Derrida, Foucault, Freud, Fredric Jameson, Barbara Johnson, Marx, Sedgwick, Said, Spivak, and Raymond Williams.

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm
January 22 — February 12, 2018
4 weeks


Registration Closed

Please email us to be placed on the waiting list.

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