English 436: Major Critical Theories



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California State University, Northridge

Spring 2010



English 436: Major Critical Theories




Instructor: Ian Barnard (web site: http://www.csun.edu/~ib5991)

Office Hours in ST 834: R 12:30-3:30 p.m., and by appointment

Email Office Hours: ian.barnard@csun.edu

Furlough Days for Ian Barnard: 2/17, 2/24, 3/10, 3/24, 4/1, 4/2, 4/3,



4/28, 5/5




Introduction:

Tired of reading and analyzing novels? Then this is the class for you! We won’t be reading literature. Instead, we’ll be reading (about) the exciting debates that have shaped literary studies since antiquity, and the polemics that have revolutionized literary and cultural studies in the past five decades. Some of the readings are difficult (we’ll have theory trading cards to help us along…) but they’re all exciting, interesting, and provocative. Be ready to argue in class!

Why are those guys making all those homo jokes in Hostel? Who says Shakespeare is great? Why is a shopping list not a poem? Did Freud really have womb envy? Should we care that Sylvia Plath killed herself? What’s more important, history or the individual? What is the New Criticism, and why is everyone trashing it? Who said the author is dead?? Have you been indoctrinated by the books you’ve read and the movies you’ve seen? Should English majors be studying Madonna? Is Critical Animal Studies the latest “in thing,” and what’s with Donna Haraway and her dog? Why are all acts of interpretation political? And why study/read literature in the first place???

These are some of the questions we’ll pursue in our investigations of critical theory and its impact on the ways we think about and read texts; on English studies and other disciplines; and on our understandings of, engagements with, and productions of culture and politics.

Class meetings are discussion-based, with few lectures. No tests and exams. Course requirements include close critical reading of all assigned texts, vigorous participation in class discussions, WebCT posts in response to readings, a collaborative oral presentation on your selection of a theorist’s primary text, your creation of an original theory trading card, a paper analyzing a previous essay written by a classmate (find out what values and assumptions your own literary/film criticism embodies!).
Required Texts:

(available at the Matador Bookstore; the Richter text is also on reserve in the Oviatt Library)

Gauntlett. Theory Trading Cards.

Groden, et al, eds. The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. (JH)

Richter, ed. Falling Into Theory: Conflicting Views on Reading Literature. 2nd ed.


Please bring all three texts to every class meeting. Bring a laptop to class if possible; otherwise plan on printing out essay drafts for the peer workshops and other class materials. You will also be making copies of your theory trading card for members of the class, and will scan an article or book chapter for your oral presentation.
Course Requirements and Grade Distribution:

  1. Participation and in-class writing: 5%

  2. Oral presentation: 20%

  3. 5 WebCT discussion posts (#7 and any 4 others): 30%

  4. Theory trading card: 15%

  5. Analysis essay: 30%


Note that you must pass each of the above 5 course components in order to be eligible to pass the course.


A+

A

A-

B+

B

B-

C+

C

C-

D+

D

D-

F

99-100%

93-98%

90-92%

87-89%

83-86%

80-82%

77-79%

73-76%

70-72%

67-69%

63-66%

60-62%

0-59%


Participation and In-Class Writing

Since this is a discussion-based course, I expect you to read all assigned texts carefully and critically, and participate vigorously in class discussions and activities, including small group paper workshops and in-class writing assignments. Obviously you need to be prepared for class in order to participate effectively, and you cannot participate effectively if you miss class, arrive late for class, or leave class early. I expect you to attend all class meetings.


Oral Presentation

Each class member will work individually or with a colleague to give a presentation on a text (article, book, or book chapter) by one of the theorists listed below. Everyone in the class will read the entry on your theorist in JH, so it’s not necessary to provide background information on your theorist in your presentation. The text you choose for discussion should be a work of critical or literary theory mentioned in the JH entry on your theorist. You will also need to research your theorist beyond the JH entry, to get a sense of what others have said about your theorist and the text under discussion. You will post your chosen text (article or book chapter) on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. the Monday before your presentation so that interested class members can read the piece before the discussion (ensure that the text has full citation information on it). On the day of your presentation, do not spend too much time summarizing your text. Instead, you might want to comment on points you find interesting or problematic. Your presentation must include an interactive component, where you involve the class in a discussion or some other activity that engages us with your chosen text (it’s your job to ensure that as many class members as possible participate). Your presentation (including interactive component) should last 20 minutes. This assignment is designed to help you become an expert on one theorist, and to enable you to demonstrate this expertise. All class members will, in turn, gain familiarity with a wide range of theorists as a result of the presentations. I will grade your presentations based on your choice of text and timely posting of it with citation information, your knowledge of your theorist and text, the quality of the class activity you facilitate, and, if applicable, how well you and your co-presenter work together. Note that you don’t have to know everything about your chosen text--it’s ok to ask questions or talk about parts you don’t understand!




Aristotle

Arnold


Augustine

Bakhtin


Baudrillard

Beauvoir


Butler *

Cixous


Coleridge

Derrida *

Dryden

Eliot


Fanon

Foucault *

Freud

Frye


Goethe

Gramsci


Hall

Haraway


Hazlitt

Horace


James

Jameson *

Johnson

Lacan *


Lévi-Strauss

Marx and Engels

Mill

Ngũgĩ


Plato

Rousseau


Ruskin

Sartre


Saussure

Sidney


Trilling

Woolf


Wordsworth

* = challenging




WebCT Discussion Posts

The discussion posts are designed to enable you to reflect on and write about course readings before class, to get a sense of how your colleagues are responding to the readings, and to dialogue with other class members about the readings. The posts also help me to prepare for class meetings by indicating what members of the class find interesting, difficult, or problematic about the reading. I will evaluate the first six discussion posts using the 10 point rubric on WebCT. I will not write comments as part of the evaluation, but we will discuss sample discussion posts in class in order to help you to improve and evaluate your posts. Since these discussion posts are meant as a prelude to class discussions, I will deduct points for late posts.


Position Papers

  • are your opportunity to assert a position on/comment on/analyze/respond to/articulate your difficulties with a text before class discussion and to see how other members of the class have responded to the text

  • may be informal, but should be thought-out and revised

  • should make specific references to the text(s) you are discussing

  • don’t have to be authoritative; may reflect your ambiguities, ask questions, or identify problems you have with the texts

  • should not merely summarize the readings

  • should be 1-2 pages each

Responses to Colleagues’ Position Papers/Responses



  • give you the opportunity to engage with other class members’ responses to class texts and to generate dialogue about your own responses

  • should be thoughtful and substantial

  • should each be at least a paragraph long

How to Post:



  1. On the CSUN home page click on “myNORTHRIDGE PORTAL” and then select “WebCT”

  2. Log onto WebCT and then select this class

  3. Under the “Course Menu” select “Discussions”

You may use the “Main” discussion heading any time during the semester (anonymously if you wish) to discuss issues related to the course, pose questions, refer class members to other resources, reflect on readings and class discussions, etc. Note that WebCT email is sent to your CSUN email account. If you don’t check this account, be sure to forward your CSUN email.


Theory Trading Card

Using David Gauntlett’s theory trading cards as your model, individually or collaboratively create a theory trading card on any of the theorists we have read in Falling Into Theory or read about in JH (excluding the theorists who are the subjects of David Gauntlett’s trading cards). There may not be more than two cards on any one theorist). In order to receive full credit for this assignment, you need to bring 11 copies of your card for class members to trade--each class member’s collection of cards will serve as a shorthand and entertaining theory resource.



Analysis Essay (about 5 double-spaced, typed pages, excluding Works Cited)

Write an essay in which you analyze an academic paper written by a colleague about a literary or other cultural text (e.g., film). Focus on your colleague’s paper, not on the text(s) your colleague’s paper is discussing. Ensure that your analysis develops a main argument, and isn’t just a list of points. Don’t focus on whether you agree or disagree with the argument of your colleague’s paper or whether you find it effective or not. Do not refer to your colleague by name; instead refer to her as “the critic.” Your analysis should show what you believe are the assumptions and values underlying your colleague’s paper, and should refer to at least two of the readings from Falling Into Theory or JH or the presentation texts. You should also support your analysis with specific references to your colleague’s paper. Conclude your paper with a list of Works Cited following MLA form. This assignment is designed to encourage you to practice the three highest orders of Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking (and writing) skills--application, analysis, and synthesis--as you reflect critically on your colleague’s work and on our readings/discussions in this course. You will receive feedback on a draft of your essay before you turn in the final revision.


Course Policies:

  • Disability Issues: Please see me early in the semester if you require academic accommodations based on a documented disability.

  • Email: I usually acknowledge all email messages within 24 hours. If you email me but don’t get a response, I haven’t received your email. Feel free to email me concerning any questions you have about the course or about your work. Be sure to include a salutation, signature, and appropriate subject heading in your email message. Do not email your assignments to me for feedback; I’d be happy to discuss your work with you in person.

  • Recording Of Classes: I do not permit audio recording of class sessions.



Tentative Schedule
JH = The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism
Friday, 1/22/10

  • Introduction to the class

  • Discussion of syllabus

  • Discussion of faculty furlough program and its impact on the course

  • Watch and discuss Hostel (94 minutes)

Email me your top three presentation preferences by 11:59 p.m. on 1/27.


Friday, 1/29/10

  • Reading due: Falling Into Theory v-30

  • Introductions

  • Assign presentation dates and topics

  • In-class debate on the functions of literature and critical theory

Discussion Post #1: Position Paper (What are the main points made by Vendler? What arguments could be made against Vendler’s position? Do you agree with Vendler? why or why not? ) due by 11:59 p.m. on 2/3; Responses to at least two group members’ Position Papers and/or Responses due by 11:59 p.m. on 2/4.


Friday, 2/5/10

Post presentation texts on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. on 2/8.


Friday, 2/12/10

  • Reading due: entries on presentation theorists in JH; Falling into Theory 121-182

  • Presentations

  • Discuss sample discussion posts

  • Work with theory trading cards

Post presentation texts on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. on 2/15.


Discussion Post #2: Position Paper (discuss the connections or disconnections you see between any two of the essays from pp. 183-217, 225-233 of Falling Into Theory) due by 11:59 p.m. on 2/17; Responses to at least two group members’ Position Papers and/or Responses due by 11:59 p.m. on 2/18.


Friday, 2/19/10

  • Reading due: entries on presentation theorists in JH; Falling into Theory 183-217, 225-233

  • Presentations

  • Work with theory trading cards

Post presentation texts on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. on 2/22.


Friday, 2/26/10

  • Reading due: entries on presentation theorists in JH; Falling into Theory 235-289

  • Presentations

  • Work with theory trading cards

  • Mid-semester evaluations of course

Post presentation texts on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. on 3/1.


Discussion Post #3: Position Paper (discuss what you find difficult to understand about any one of the essays from pp. 290-333 of Falling Into Theory) due by 11:59 p.m. on 3/3; Responses to at least two group members’ Position Papers due by 11:59 p.m. on 3/4. Please use your Position Paper to try to figure out the source of difficulties, not to complain about the author or her writing! You might want to try asking a series of questions, each question building off of the previous one, as a way of developing your discussion of your difficulties with the text.
Friday, 3/5/10

  • Reading due: entries on presentation theorists in JH; Falling into Theory 290-333

  • Presentations

  • Work with theory trading cards

  • Discuss mid-semester evaluations

Post presentation texts on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. on 3/8.


Discussion Post #4: Position Paper due by 11:59 p.m. on 3/10 (Select any one paragraph from the Falling into Theory readings for 3/12 and do a close reading of that paragraph); Responses to at least two group members’ Position Papers and/or Responses due by 11:59 p.m. on 3/11.
Friday, 3/12/10

  • Reading due: entries on presentation theorists in JH; Falling into Theory 340-365, 378-397

  • Presentations

  • Discuss theory trading card assignment


Friday, 3/19/10

  • No class (no office hour on 3/18/10)

  • Work on readings and WebCT posts for next week

Post presentation texts on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. on 3/22.


Discussion Post #5: Position Paper due by 11:59 p.m. on 3/24 (select any one theorist from Falling Into Theory whom you feel exhibits or does not exhibit some or all of the characteristics of New Criticism and explain how this critic’s essay embodies or does not embody New Critical characteristics); Responses to at least two group members’ Position Papers and/or Responses due by 11:59 p.m. on 3/25.
Friday, 3/26/10

  • Reading due: selections from JH (presentation theorists plus New Criticism, Archetypal Theory and Criticism, Reader-Response Theory and Criticism)

  • Presentations

  • Work on theory trading card assignment


Friday, 4/2/10

  • Furlough day for Ian Barnard (no office hours on 4/1/10)

  • Work on theory trading card assignment and readings for 4/16


SPRING BREAK
Post presentation texts on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. on 4/12.
Discussion Post #6: Position Paper due by 11:59 p.m. on 4/14 (Which do you find most interesting, Feminist Theory and Criticism, Gay Theory and Criticism, or Psychoanalytic Theory and Criticism? Why?); Responses to at least two group members’ Position Papers and/or Responses due by 11:59 p.m. on 4/15.
Friday, 4/16/10

  • Present and trade theory trading cards (bring 11 copies of your card to class)

  • Reading due: selections from JH (presentation theorists plus Feminist Theory and Criticism, Gay Theory and Criticism, Psychoanalytic Theory and Criticism)

  • Presentations

  • Discuss analysis paper and sample papers

  • Bring copies of two or three of your old papers to class

Post presentation texts on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. on 4/19.


Friday, 4/23/10

  • Reading due: selections from JH (presentation theorists plus Marxist Theory and Criticism, Postcolonial Cultural Studies, Cultural Studies)

  • Presentations

  • Discuss citation of sources for analysis paper

  • Work on analysis paper

  • Discuss critical animal studies

Post presentation texts on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. on 4/26.


Discussion Post # 7 (required): Post a draft of your analysis essay on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. on 4/28; respond to your group members’ drafts by 11:59 p.m. on 4/29 by answering the questions listed in the workshop guidelines posted on WebCT. Don’t wait until the last minute to respond to group members--check early that you are able to open their attachments! I will evaluate this discussion post on the completeness of the draft and the specificity and quality of your feedback to group members using the workshop guidelines.
Friday, 4/30/10

  • Reading due: selections from JH (presentation theorists plus Deconstruction)

  • Presentations

  • Group workshops on analysis essays (bring your laptop or print our your group members’ essay drafts and responses)

  • Discuss Judy! zine and theory menu

Post presentation texts on WebCT by 11:59 p.m. on 5/3.


Friday, 5/7/10

  • Reading due: selections from JH (presentation theorists plus Multiculturalism)

  • Presentations

  • Course synthesis/rupture

  • Party

Post revision of your analysis essay on WebCT by 10:15 a.m. on 5/14.






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