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ENH4620 - Literary theory

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader(s): Clive Probyn

Offered

Clayton First semester 2009 (Day)

Synopsis

This unit offers a detailed study of modern theories of literary criticism, concentrating on the period 1950 to the present, and covers topics including: formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, phenomenology, Freudian and Jungian approaches to interpretation. Weekly topics for discussion will include speech act theory, repetition, dialogism, archetypes, signified and signifier, hermeneutics, feminocentric reading, metafiction and the narcissistic narrative. No previous theoretical knowledge is assumed, but the unit is appropriate for students already interested in asking questions of a general nature about the practice of literature and interpretation.

Objectives

This subject will not discuss 'primary literary texts' (novels, plays, poems), but 'texts about literature' and 'texts about criticism' ('literary criticism', critical discourse, what readers and critics do)'texts about texts'. We shall examine the practice and assumptions behind the activities called critical judgement and critical reading in relation to a wide variety of theories. The rationale of this subject is literary, not philosophical. In addition to surveying a wide range of types of critical discourse, we look at the often unexamined, or so-called 'axiomatic' principles and practice of literary creation from both the writer's and reader's points of view. The literary criticism listed below under 'Readings' may be no less imaginative, fictional, creative, or 'textual', than the literary works some of them claim to 'explain'. Criticism may seek to take the place of the text in the same way that the text may seem to take the place of 'reality'. Do not expect a final set of transportable 'truths' to emerge at the end. The emphasis of the course is placed on the questions we ask of literature and of criticism when we engage in reading and in the production of texts: questions about where literature belongs in human experience; its relationship to and difference from other sorts of discourse: its definition; the terminology we use to describe it; assumptions about the role and function of literature in society, and so on. Such questions have been asked by many writers and critics from the time of Aristotle to the present day.

Assessment

Exercise or book review (2000 words): 20%
Seminar paper (2500 words): 20%
Essay (4500 words): 50%
Seminar participation: 10%

Contact hours

2 hours (1 x 2 hour seminar) per week

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