English 110B - Spring, 2022

Introduction to Modern Literary & Critical Theory

Class Information

Instructor: Gray, Erin
Time: TR 4:40-6:00
Location: 118 Olson
GE Areas: Writing Experience


What is theory, why are so many people afraid of it, and how does it help us become skilled readers-writers of literature and the world? This class introduces students to the difficult and exhilarating labor of literary and critical theory. Organized around the problem of subjectivity, the course guides students through close readings of canonical works of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought alongside marginalized thinkers working at the intersections of critical theory and literary/cultural studies to trouble proprietary and punitive discourses of modern Man.

The following questions will guide our inquiry: How have modern thinkers conceptualized the subject, the human, the self, and the other? What was the ?Enlightenment,? and how does it bear on present-day approaches to thinking and being (post)human? How are popular ideas about identity and difference conditioned by agonistic historical and political struggles? How, when, and why do philosophers/theorists turn to literature and other aesthetic forms to conceptualize the human, systematize its natural-cultural attributes, and judge the humanity of other persons? How have critical theorists mobilized literature and the arts to unsettle this ordering of life? And in what ways do literary texts and other forms of art hypostatize or upend proprietary orderings of the human?

Throughout the class, we will read and interpret creative practices as matrices of theoretical invention. Authors and artists include: Gayatri Spivak, Sylvia Wynter, Gilles Deleuze, William Pope L., Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Frantz Fanon, Georg Hegel, Karl Marx, Adrian Piper, Hortense Spillers, Jacques Derrida, Fred Moten, Michel Foucault, Homi Bhabha, Walter Benjamin, Jacques Lacan, Gloria Anzaldua, Raymond Williams, Roland Barthes, Stuart Hall, bell hooks, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.


Two short essays, keyword midterm, final exam/project.


pdfs in Canvas