Fall 2011 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Gu, Ming
Discipline and Number
HUSL 6315 Section 001
W Time 4:00 PM - 6:45 PM
Course Title
Literary Theory: Foundations

Description of Course:

This is an introduction to the foundations of literary theory. It is intended for graduate students majoring in arts and humanities in general and in literary studies in particular. Since the word "theory” has become an umbrella term for a variety of scholarly approaches to reading and interpreting texts, this course adopts a broad sense of literary theory, which refers to a systematic study of the nature, function, and essential conceptualizations of literature, literary criticism, and literary scholarship, as well as strands of critical thought that have influenced the study of literature. Designed as a selective survey rather than an in-depth treatment of a particular theorist, a historical period, a movement or a school, it starts from Plato and Aristotle who laid the foundations for Western critical theory, continues from classical and neo-classical theories through romantic and idealistic theories to moral and humanistic theories, and then focuses on modern critical and cultural theories including Marxist, psychoanalytic, structuralist, poststructuralist, feminist, and postmodern theories. Finally, it turns to very recent developments, including postcolonial theory, queer theory, and cultural studies. The word “foundation” indicates that prominence will be given to the theoretical works of thinkers who have exerted the most profound shaping influence on literary theory. Although the course objective is to acquaint students with the foundational ideas of literary theory and criticism, the ultimate aim is to help students develop and strengthen their conceptual grounding in literary criticism and cultural studies. As an introductory course, a special emphasis will be laid on understanding the chosen texts in the larger context of critical theory. No prior knowledge of critical theory is required.

Required Texts:

Required Texts:
• Vincent B. Leitch et al, eds., The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2nd edition (New York: Norton, 2010).
• Some handouts

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Course requirements and Grading:
All students are required to attend class regularly, actively participate in classroom discussions, hand in summaries/reviews of assigned reading, give presentations on assigned materials, and write a final paper. The term paper may focus on a theorist, a school of thought, or the application of chosen theoretical approaches to his or her own field of learning. Midway through the course, each student needs to turn in an proposal for the final paper (2 pages) outlining the initial ideas, approaches and research materials for the final paper. The grading is based on the following:
1. Summaries/Reviews 10%
2. Presentations 10%
3. Preliminary proposal at midterm 10%
4. Attendance and Participation in discussion 10%
5. Term paper (18-20 pages) 60%
Total: 100%

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