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(Academic Year 2001-2002: Semester II)

General Information:

Some Primary and Secondary Sources

Cultural Theories of the Twentieth Century:

Critical Theories of the Twentieth Century: Special Topics in Cultural Theory:

Special Topics in Critical Theory:



E23F The History of Literary Criticism sought to introduce students to the basic principles of textual interpretation / literary criticism by surveying the historical development of the field that has come to be known as cultural and critical theory.  Students were exposed to the four basic models of criticism:
  • Representation: the mimetic approach to literary criticism (the primary focus is on what a work imitates or represents or ‘is about’);
  • The Reader: the pragmatic approach to literary criticism (the primary focus is on the impact of a work upon the reader);
  • The Author: the expressive approach to literary criticism (the primary focus is on the author of the work);
  • Literary Form: the objective approach to literary criticism (the primary focus is on the form or structure of the work itself).

In each module, we discussed classic statements on the critical approach in question made over the years (from fifth century BC Athens to the early twentieth century) in relation to the liberal humanist theories of cultural identity and language (e.g. the Cartesian subject, Locke's view of language) which have shaped that approach. 

E23G Twentieth Century Literary Theory, for which E23F is an indispensable foundation, introduces students to several of the most important modern schools of cultural and critical theory which, influenced by materialist thinkers like Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, and Friedrich Nietzsche, have posed a radical challenge to many of the views discussed in E23F and which have profoundly influenced modern criticism in the Caribbean. The following schools are studied:

  • Freudian Psychoanalysis / Jungian Archetypal Theory,
  • Marxism,
  • Phenomenology,
  • Feminism (in its Psychoanalytic, Archetypal, Marxist, and Phenomenological variants), and
  • Anti-colonial Theory (in its Psychoanalytic, Archetypal, Marxist, and Phenomenological variants).

In each module, we will begin by exploring the model of cultural identity and language advanced by the school in question (these schools all share what many would describe as a dialectical framework of thinking) before investigating its central critical tenets and main interpretative strategies. We will explore in particular what, if anything, its major theorists have to say about the following issues:

  • cultural identity:
    • subjectivity: the construction of personal identity:
      • the role of class,
      • the role of gender,
      • the role of race;
    • culture, society: the structure of the social formation;
  • signification: how words mean;
  • representation: the nature of the relationship between the literary work and the real world;
  • authorship: the nature of the relationship between the author and his /her literary work;
  • the reader: the nature of the relationship between the reader and the literary work;
  • literary structure: the form of literary works;
  • literary genre; and
  • literary history: the study of literary works in relation to each other and of the development of literature over time.

In the case of each school, we will compare seminal European and American essays (mostly by men) with seminal Feminist and Anti-colonial essays on the same topics in order to show how many of the latter have also engaged with Psychoanalysis, Analytical Psychology, Marxism, and Phenomenology in an effort to conceptualise patriarchal, colonial and post-colonial cultural phenomena and practices from a predominantly dialectical perspective.  For example, we will compare:

  • Jung’s "On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Literature" with Annis Pratt’s "Archetypal Patterns in Women’s Fiction" and with Harris’s "History, Fable and Myth in the Caribbean and Guianas"; or
  • Sartre’s Existentialism and Humanism with appropriate excerpts from De Beauvoir’s The Other Sex and Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth

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

E23G is the prerequisite and an indispensable foundation for E33D Post-Structuralisms and Post-Colonialisms in which you will study several contemporary schools of immense relevance to criticism here in the Caribbean. Some of the following schools will be studied in E33D: Saussurean linguistics, Semiology, Structuralism, Derridean Deconstruction, Bakhtinian Dialogism, Foucauldian Discursive Criticism, Post-Structuralist Marxism, Post-Structuralist Feminism, and Post-colonial Theory.

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Lecturer: Dr. Richard Clarke

Tutor: Ms. Carmel Haynes

Prerequisite: A pass in E23F History of Literary Criticism.  Passes in any Level I / II / III Philosophy courses are also welcome.

Class Schedule

Two compulsory 1-hour lectures per week:
  • Lec. 1 Tuesday 2 PM - 3 PM (ALT)
  • Lec. 2 Thursday 2 PM - 3 PM (LR5) 
One compulsory 1-hour tutorial, chosen from among:
  • Tut. 1 Tuesday 4 PM - 5 PM  (A27) (CLARKE)
  • Tut. 2 Tuesday 4 PM - 5 PM  (ISR) (HAYNES)
  • Tut. 3 Wednesday 1 PM - 2 PM (A27) (HAYNES)