RICHARD L. W. CLARKE


 

 

 

LITS2306 HISTORY OF CRITICISM

MODULE THREE: LATE NINETEENTH / EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY THOUGHT
 

WEEK NINE: THE AUTHOR / LITERARY HISTORY
(Week of November 1)
 

REQUIRED READINGS:

 

 

LECTURE 1:
The Philosophical Approach
Notes:
LECTURE 2:
The Rhetorical Approach
  • Leo Spitzer "Linguistics and Literary History" [1948] (pp. 207-238 in Twentieth Century Literary Theory: an Introductory Anthology, ed. Vassilis Lambropoulos and David Neal Miller)
Notes:
TUTORIAL:
  • Kamau Brathwaite "History of the Voice" [1979] (abbreviated version entitled "Nation Language," pp. 309-313 in The Postcolonial Studies Reader, ed. Bill Ashcroft, at al.; full version, pp. 259-304 in his Roots)
  • Derek Walcott "The Muse of History" [1974] (abbreviated version, pp. 38-43 in Caribbean Critics, ed. Edward Baugh; full version, pp. 36-64 in his What the Twilight Says: Essays)
Questions to be considered in the tutorial next week:
  1. Towards which tendency, the philosophical (i.e. the Neo-classical, the Modernist, the New Critical, etc.) or the rhetorical (the Neo-Romantic, the historicist, Pragmatist, etc.), do Brathwaite and Walcott seem to be oriented? 
  2. How does each theorist view A) the West Indian author? and B) his/her position in literary history?

RECOMMENDED READINGS:

  •  

PHILWEB RESOURCES:

COMMENTS:
 
  • This week we begin Module 3 which is devoted to developments in late nineteenth and early twentieth century literary theory.  Each week, we will address a particular topic.  This week, we will explore two inter-related and overlapping topics the author and literary history (what Abrams calls the 'Expressive Pole')), by comparing and contrasting readings that adopt what I have been calling a philosophical approach to criticism by Modernists / New Critics (whose views hark back in many ways to those which predominated during the Early Modern period epitomised by Pope or Johnson) with readings by Historicist / Pragmatist theorists whose allegiance is in many ways, by contrast, to the Romantics. 
  • On Tuesday, we will discuss, first, the so-called 'Intentional Fallacy,' the claim by Wimsatt and Beardsley that we ought to pay little or no attention to the author in order to train our attnetion on the text itself.  We will also study a famous essay by T. S. Eliot, a seminal Modernist writer, critic and theorist, in which he argues that we should direct our attention away from the poet and on the poem, and offers a model of literary history from which, paradoxically, the element of history is removed.
  • On Thursday, we will focus on the opposing view advanced by the German philologist Leo Spitzer that literature has a history (i.e. it changes over time) for which reason each literary work is very much the creature of particular place and time.  The literary work, he argues, is best understood as the expression of its author who is him/herself the product of a specific social and historical context.
  • In the tutorials in this module, we will read essays by Caribbean theorists on the topic in question of the preceding week.  To this end, each week, I have posed two broad questions that attempt to get at the crucial topic for discussion.  Please note that I shall not be providing notes on these thinkers for which reason you will have to engage with them on your own. 
  • Please note that I have tried to include PDFs of both the full and the abbreviated versions, where the latter exist, of the essays by the Caribbean theorists.  You may use the abbreviated version in your tutorial discussions, though you can also refer to the longer version, if you wish.  Alternatively, you may prefer to read these essays in their original printed form, most/all of which may be found in the Main Library in the sources indicated.
  • In the tutorial next week, our focus is on authorship and literary history and to this end we will compare Brathwaite's "History of the Voice" with Walcott's "The Muse of History" (please focus on the abbreviated version)

WEEK TEN: THE READER
(Week of November 8)
 

REQUIRED READINGS:

 

 

LECTURE 1:
The Philosophical Approach
Notes:
LECTURE 2:
The Rhetorical Approach
  • Louise Rosenblatt Literature as Exploration [1938]:
    • Chapter 2 "The Literary Experience" (pp. 25-53)
    • Chapter 5 "Broadening the Framework" (pp. 110-124)
Notes:
TUTORIAL: Questions to be considered in the tutorial next week:
  1. With which school of thought, the Neo-classical or the Neo-Romantic do Ramchand and Brathwaite respectively identify? 
  2. Is the criticism of Caribbean literature, for each theorist, a subjective or an objective affair?

RECOMMENDED READINGS:

PHILWEB RESOURCES:

COMMENTS:
 
  • This week, we turn our attention to the topic of the reader (what Abrams calls the 'Pragmatic Pole') and the question of whether reading can be objective or is necessarily subjective.
  • On Tuesday, we will use Richards's Practical Criticism to focus on the Modernist / New Critical view that reading can and should aim to be objective and that misunderstanding can and should be avoided at all costs.  We will also touch briefly in this connection on the well-known notion of the 'Affective Fallacy' advanced by Wimsatt and Beardsley, that is, the view that we should pay little or no attention to the reader (either what s/he does to the text or the impact which the text has on the reader) in order to focus on the literary work itself.
  • On Thursday, we turn our attention to the Pragmatist view, exemplified by Louise Rosenblatt, that reading is a necessarily subjective process in which readers cannot avoid imposing their particular point of view, and even biases, on the text in question.
  • In the tutorial next week, we shall compare Ken Ramchand's view of the reading process with Kamau Brathwaite's.  (See questions above.)

WEEK ELEVEN: REPRESENTATION I: CONTENT AND FORM IN POETRY
(Week of November 15)``
 

REQUIRED READINGS:

 

 

LECTURE 1:
The Philosophical Approach
Notes:
LECTURE 2:
The Rhetorical Approach
Notes:
TUTORIAL:
  • Gordon Rohlehr "West Indian Poetry: Some Problems of Assessment" and "Afterthoughts" [1970-1971] (abbreviated version, pp. 316-330 in Routledge Reader in Caribbean Literature, ed. Alison Donnell and Sarah Lawson Welsh; full version, pp. 107-141 in his My Strangled City, and Other Essays)

Questions to be considered in the tutorial next week:
  1. Would you classify Rohlehr's thinking as neo-Classical or neo-Romantic?
  2. How does Rohlehr conceptualise the relationship between content and form in West Indian poetry?

RECOMMENDED READINGS:

PHILWEB RESOURCES:

COMMENTS:
 
  • This and next week, we turn our attention to what Abrams called the 'Mimetic Pole,' that is approaches that focus on what the literary work imitates.  This week, our particular focus will be on how the form or structure of poetry contributes to a representation of or a claim about the world of some kind.
  • On Tuesday, we will study two key New Critics, John Crowe Ransom and Cleanth Brooks, as they argue that we should ignore both the author and the reader and focus instead on the structure or form of the poem (i.e. the way in which its various parts are put together to form a whole of some kind) in its attempt to depict some aspect of reality. 
  • On Thursday, we will turn out attention to the contrasting view advanced by the rhetorician Walter Ong that all literature consists in a communicative dialogue between author and reader for which reason the critic cannot afford to ignore the poet.
  • In the tutorial next week, we will examine Gordon Rohlehr's view of West Indian poetry.  (See questions above.)

WEEK TWELVE: REPRESENTATION II: CONTENT AND FORM IN PROSE FICTION
(Week of November 22)
 

REQUIRED READINGS:

 

 

LECTURE 1:
The Philosophical Approach
Notes:
LECTURE 2:
The Rhetorical Approach
Notes:
TUTORIAL:
  • Ken Ramchand The West Indian Novel and its Background [1970]:
    • "Introduction" (pp. 3-15)
    • "The Contemporary Linguistic Situation" (pp. 90-96)
    • "Dialect and West Indian Fiction" (pp. 96-107)
  • Kamau Brathwaite "Jazz and the West Indian Novel (Parts I, II and III)" [1967-1968] (abbreviated version, pp. 336-344 in Routledge Reader in Caribbean Literature, ed. Alison Donnell and Sarah Lawson Welsh; full version, pp. 55-109 in Roots)
Questions to be considered in the tutorial next week:
  1. With which tendency, neo-Classical or neo-Romantic, do Ramchand and Brathwaite respectively identify?
  2. How does each theorist conceptualise the relationship between content and form in the West Indian novel?

RECOMMENDED READINGS:

  •  

PHILWEB RESOURCES:

COMMENTS:
 
  • We conclude the course by turning our attention to exactly how prose fiction, rather than poetry, offers a representation of, or truth-claim about, the world.  In particular, we will revisit Plato's distinction between diegesis and mimesis, that is, between telling stories about the world and holding a mirror up to the world, the latter being, Plato thought, a more direct representation of reality and epitomised by drama which is the closest thing to real life itself.
  • On Tuesday, we examine Ian Watt's famous account of what makes the novel, which emerged as an important literary genre only in the eighteenth century, realistic.  In Watt's account of the so-called 'rise' of the novel, there is less, if any, emphasis on the role played by narration (i.e. the fact that someone is telling the story) and greater stress placed on its mainly visual depiction of reality.
  • On Thursday, we turn to the Pragmatist and rhetorician Wayne Booth whose very title indicates a different perspective on the novel from Watt's: in his view, the novel is a message communicated from an author to a reader in which the narration, that is, the precise processes by which a story is told, plays a crucial role in shaping our understanding of reality.  Where Watt seems to suggest that the novel's strength lies in its quasi-pictorial nature, that is, the way in which it offers a visual image of reality (it is, in this respect, analogous to a picture of some kind), Booth tends to see the novel as revolving around a tale told, the narration of a plot of some kind.
  • In the final tutorial next week, we will compare Ken Ramchand's view of the West Indian novel with Kamau Brathwaite's.  (See questions above.)

END OF MODULE
 

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