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C LIT 400 A: Introduction to Theory and Criticism

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
MLR 316
Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen

Syllabus Description:


T-Th: 3:30 – 5:20, MLR 316

Instructor: Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen

Padelford B-524

Office hours:  Th 2:00 – 3:20 pm


Description: This course offers a survey of some of the major texts in the history of critical theory in the West.  No prior knowledge of theory is required, but be prepared to read challenging texts at a fast pace. Each session focuses on one important author or theme relevant to the study of literature and the arts.  We will start with the Ancients (Plato, Aristotle, Longinus), meander through French 17th century critics, 18th century theories of genius, taste and the sublime, Romantic irony, and tackle the great modern philosophers:  Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche. Emphasis will be placed toward the end on 20th century structuralism and post-structuralism:  Saussure, Jakobson, Barthes, Derrida.

Readings:  Excerpts from Hazard Adams, ed., Critical Theory Since Plato (in course pack available at UW Book Store)

Assignments:  One in-class midterm exam and one in-class final.

Schedule of meetings and readings:

T  Jan 7:       General introduction -- Enthusiasm:  Plato, Ion

Th Jan 9:      Mimesis:  Plato, Republic

T   Jan 14:    Mimesis and Catharsis:  Aristotle

Th Jan 16:    Rules:  Aristotle, Classicism

T   Jan 21:    Beauty: Plotinus

Th Jan 23:    The Sublime:  Longinus

T   Jan 28:    Genius:  Young

Th Jan 30:    Genius:  Diderot

T   Feb 4:     Aesthetics:  Burke

Th Feb 6:     Aesthetics:  Kant

T   Feb 11:   Review

Th Feb 13:   Mid-term exam

T   Feb 18:   Irony: Schlegel

Th Feb 20:   Dialectic:  Hegel

T   Feb 25:   Apollonian/Dionysiac:  Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

Th Feb 27:   The Unconscious:  Freud, Jung

T   Mar 3:    Structure, Sign, Text:  Saussure, Jakobson

Th Mar 5:    Structure, Sign, Text:  Barthes, Derrida

T   Mar 10:  General review

Th Mar 12:  Final exam



Catalog Description: 
A selection of major theoretical statements in the history of literary theory and criticism, with texts drawn from such fields as literary studies, aesthetic theory, film studies, philosophy, and cultural studies.
Department Requirements Met: 
Capstone for both Literature and Cinema
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 7, 2019 - 9:50pm