English 110B - Spring, 2020

Introduction to Modern Literary and Critical Theory

Class Information

Instructor: Menely, Tobias
Time: MWF 11:00-11:50
Location: 1130 Bainer


    Etymologically, to theorize means to look contemplatively, to examine from a distance, to speculate. To be a theorist, for the Greeks, is to stand apart and consider, whether one is viewing the stage, the stars, or the underlying forms of things. Critique, by contrast, assumes an active relation to historical crisis and conflict. Critical theory, then, is defined by a tension between two imperatives: contemplation and judgment. In this course, we'll trace the history of modern literary and critical theory, studying Marxism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, feminist and queer theory, postcolonial theory, critical race theory, and ecocriticism. Each of these approaches will help us to ask how literary texts participate in a larger socio-historical world by producing beliefs and values, justifying or critiquing social practices, and elaborating modes of identity. We'll also ask how theory can inform the practice of reading, making you a more attentive and sophisticated interpreter of literary texts.


    Two Five-Page Essays 50%
    Online Discussion Forum 30%
    Take-home Final Exam 20%


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