RICHARD L. W. CLARKE


 

 

 

LITS2306 HISTORY OF CRITICISM
(FORMERLY E23F HISTORY OF LITERARY CRITICISM)
 

CURRENT OFFERING

2016-2017

COURSE ARCHIVE

2015-2016

2014-2015
(Dr. Nicola Hunte)

2013-2014
(Dr. Nicola Hunte)

2012-2013

2011-2012

2010-2011

2009-2010

2008-2009

2007-2008:

2006-2007
(Dr. Nicola Hunte)

2005-2006

2004-2005

2003-2004

2002-2003

2001-2002

2000-2001

1999-2000

1998-1999

1997-1998

1996-1997

1995-1996

1994-1995

PAST EXAM PAPERS:

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ANNUAL CLASS PHOTOS:

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THUMBNAIL DESCRIPTION

This course introduces students to the foundations of Literary Theory through a survey of the historical development of the field from the Classical period to the early twentieth century. 

DETAILLED DESCRIPTION

Literary critics engage in literary criticism, that is, the interpretation of literary works.  This course introduces students to the foundations of what some call ‘literary theory’ (and others the ‘philosophy of literature’), a sound grasp of which is indispensable to all those seeking to become effective  critics.  Literary theorists reflect philosophically on both the nature of literature and the theoretical principles which underpin the process of criticism by which meaning is attributed to literary works.  Literary theory is a subset of a wider field sometimes called ‘critical theory’ (literally, the theory of criticism) and sometimes called ‘aesthetics’ devoted to philosophical reflection on the arts in general (art, film, etc.). 

Some of the most important issues addressed by literary theorists include:

Audience: does the meaning of a (literary) work derive mainly from its impact on the audience or does the audience, rather, shape the meaning of a (literary) work?  (Critics who answer yes to the former question are sometimes said to subscribe to a pragmatic theory of art; those who answer yes to the latter are sometimes called reader-response critics);

Author: does the meaning of a (literary) work primarily originate within the writer?  (Critics who answer yes to this are said to subscribe to an expressive theory of art);

Form: is the meaning of a (literary) work synonymous for the most part with the form or structure of the work itself and should we therefore ignore all factors external to the work itself (such as the world, readers, authors, etc.)?  (Critics who answer yes to this are sometimes said to subscribe to an objective or formalist theory of art);

Literary History / Tradition / Intertextuality / Canonicity: is the meaning of a (literary) work derived mainly from its social and historical context and / or its relationship to other (literary) works?  If so, how exactly should we understand this relationship: in terms of mere succession?  Influence? etc.  Why are some writers and their works deemed more important than others?

Representation: does the meaning of a (literary) work derive primarily from what it imitates or reflects in the world outside the work itself?  (Critics who answer yes to this are sometimes said to subscribe to a mimetic theory of art);

We will explore these issues by carefully reading seminal statements on literature in particular and the arts in general by key theorists ranging from the Classical period (e.g. Plato) to the twentieth century (e.g. T. S. Eliot).  In each case, we will attempt to relate these views to wider philosophical concerns.  For example, to understand Plato's views on the impact which drama has on the audience, we will need to grasp his views on the nature of human identity.  We will also compare these views, where possible, with relevant essays by Feminist, Post-colonial and African American theorists such as Virginia Woolf or Kamau Brathwaite.  

Through close examination of practical illustrations of these theories (especially with reference to Post-colonial literatures), students will also be encouraged to apply the paradigms discussed in their own critical writings.

LEARNING OUTCOMES

By the end of this course, students will:

have become acquainted with the views of key figures in the development of literary theory such as Plato, Aristotle, T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and Derek Walcott;

have been introduced to some of the key concepts, debates and issues in literary theory concerning the nature of literature; literary authorship; literary form; literary history, intertextuality, and canonicity; the literary reader and the reading process; and literary representation;

been been exposed to some key concepts, debates and issues of wider philosophical interest such as the nature of human identity, knowledge, and language;

be able to apply some of the most important insights gained to the practical study of literary works.

PREREQUISITES

Passes in LITS1001 Introduction to Poetry, LITS1002 Introduction to Prose Fiction, and LITS1003 Introduction to Drama

A pass in LITS1005 Writing About Literature (formerly E10E) is welcome but not mandatory.  Passes in any Level I or II Philosophy courses are also useful. 

LITS2306 is, in turn, the pre-requisite for the other Theory courses:

LITS2307 Modern Literary Theory

LITS3301 Issues in Criticism

LITS3303 Modern Critical Theory

LITS3304 Post-Structuralisms and Post-colonialisms

ASSESSMENT

Seminar Participation and / or Presentation(s) and / or Response(s): 10%

Mid-Semester Term Paper: 30%

Final Examination: 60% (2 questions in 2 hours)

Please note that, whatever the final mark, students must pass at least one question in the final exam to pass any course in Literatures in English.  Failures of this sort are denoted by FE ('Failed Exam') on the grade slip.

This site was last updated: August 22, 2016

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