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C LIT 400 A: Introduction to Theory and Criticism

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
SMI 115
Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen

Syllabus Description:


T-Th: 3:30 – 5:20, SMI 115

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, 18thcentury theories of genius, taste and the sublime, Romantic irony, and tackle the great modern philosophers:  Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger. 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 4:      General introduction -- Enthusiasm:  Plato, Ion

Th  Jan 6:    Mimesis:  Plato, Republic

T Jan 11:     Mimesis and Catharsis:  Aristotle

Th  Jan 13:  Rules: Aristotle, Classicism

T  Jan 18:    The Sublime:  Longinus

Th  Jan 20:  Genius: Young

T  Jan 25:    Genius: Diderot

Th  Jan 27:  Aesthetics:  Burke

T  Feb 1:      Aesthetics: Kant

Th  Feb 3:    General review

T  Feb 8:      Mid-term exam

Th  Feb 10:  Irony: Schlegel

T  Feb 15:   Dialectic: Hegel

Th  Feb 17: Apollonian/Dionysiac:  Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

T  Feb 22:   The Unconscious: Freud, Jung

Th  Feb 24:  Aletheia: Heidegger

T  Mar 1:      Structure, Sign, Text:  Saussure, Jakobson

Th  Mar 3:    Structure, Sign, Text:  Barthes, Derrida.

T Mar 8:       General review

Th Mar 10:   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 12, 2021 - 10:22pm