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ENGLISH 228.

01
INTRODUCTION TO LITERARY THEORY
WF 12:20-1:40 // PMH 303
Spring 2015

Dr. Andrew Bozio


abozio@skidmore.edu
TTh 2:30-4:00 // PMH 317

COURSE DESCRIPTION
How does literature make meaning? Do the words of a text convey the authors intention, or do we,
as readers, have some role in creating the significance of a literary work? When we read literature,
should we consider the unspoken assumptions of a text that is, whether the text contains biases
about gender, race, sexuality, class, and disability or should we focus primarily on its aesthetic
features? Should we trace a works relationship to its material, social, and historical environments or
aim, instead, to discover hidden expressions of unconscious thought? More radically, is it possible to
address these competing concerns simultaneously, thinking about pleasure and power at once?
In this course, we will seek to answer these questions through a survey of literary and cultural
theory. Focusing upon conceptions of language, culture, and embodiment, we will read influential or
characteristic examples of structuralism, post-structuralism, Marxism, the Frankfurt School,
psychoanalysis, gender studies, queer theory, postcolonialism, disability theory, and distant reading.
Despite its scope, the course will not trace the historical development of theory as a field; rather, as
befits an introduction, it will aim to familiarize students with major figures, concepts, and debates
within theory, empowering them to pursue their own theoretical interests in the future. Given that
this course will provide a broad foundation in cultural theory, students in philosophy, foreign
languages, gender studies, art history, history, and related fields may also be interested in enrolling.
Participants in this class will enhance their ability to question a texts ideological assumptions and to
engage the work of other scholars by helping to lead discussion on one occasion and by writing
three essays of moderate length.

LEARNING GOALS
Through this course, you will learn how to
read a work of literary theory, locating and evaluating its major claim
situate a text in relation to major movements and ideas within the history of literary theory
read against a text, i.e., to question its ideological or social assumptions
engage the work of other critics and scholars, both in class discussion and in written work
draw upon literary theory to enhance your understanding of specific literary works, periods,
and genres

TEXTS
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, second edition (ISBN 978-0393932928)
The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory (ISBN 978-0140513691) [recommended, but not required]

Bozio // EN 228 Syllabus

GRADE DISTRIBUTION
Participation
Leading Discussion
Essay One
Essay Two
Essay Three
Final Exam

20%
5%
20%
20%
20%
15%

COURSE POLICIES
Participation
Because this course is a collaborative effort, participation will be essential to your success. By
participation, I mean both active listening and thoughtful contributions to class discussion that show
your preparation for class, your willingness to engage your peers in conversation, and your ability to
be respectful. In other words, come to class ready to discuss the reading, with ideas to share or
questions to pose. It helps tremendously to take notes while you are preparing for class, using the
writing process to develop your thoughts about the material. In this course, our aim is not only to
learn more about the nature of literary studies; it is also to develop your skills as a critical thinker and
writer, and engaged participation is one of the most direct ways of ensuring that development. For
this reason, I would also encourage you to take notes during class.
You are allowed two absences with no questions asked. For each subsequent absence, your final
grade will drop a third of a letter, and excessive absences may result in failure of the course.
Repeated lateness will also be construed as absence, so please come to class on time and stay for the
duration.
Digital Etiquette
You are encouraged to bring laptops and tablets to class, provided that they are used for referencing
the assigned material and/or for taking notes. To minimize distractions, I would encourage you to
turn off your WI-FI while in class. Failure to adhere to this policy may result in being counted as
absent for the day, and I reserve the right to ban laptops and tablets if they become a distraction to
you or to your classmates. Use of cellphones is not permitted.
Submission of Work
All written work should be presented professionally: typed, double-spaced, in 12-point Times New
Roman or Garamond, and with one-inch margins. Be sure to include your last name and the page
number in the footer.
Submit your essay by uploading it to Blackboard prior to the deadline (generally, Sunday evening at
8:00 pm). When uploading your file, be sure to submit it as a Word Document, using this format for
the title: [Your last name], Essay [One, Two, or Three].docx. Late essays will lose one-third of a
letter grade each day until they are submitted, and, after a week, I will no longer accept your work.

Bozio // EN 228 Syllabus

Academic Integrity
Plagiarism is the representation of another persons words or ideas as your own. It is not only
counter to the ethics of the academic culture in which you participate, but it is also detrimental to
the goals of this course, insofar as it does nothing to develop your own skills as a thinker and a
writer. You must give proper credit, according to your chosen citation guidelines, to all words or
ideas that are not your own. In cases of a serious violation of academic integrity, you will fail the
assignment. Visit http://www.skidmore.edu/advising/integrity/index.php for more information.
Accessibility
Anyone who anticipates difficulties with the content or the format of this course should arrange to
meet with me so we can create a workable plan for your success. Skidmore College also offers
several forms of academic and non-academic accommodation through the Office of Student
Academic Services. Visit http://www.skidmore.edu/accessibility/index.php for more information.

ASSIGNMENTS
Essays
Over the course of the semester, you will write three essays of approximately five pages in length. In
your first essay, select one theorist or theoretical work and offer a brief explication of the way that
they develop their argument. What major claim(s) does the theorist put forward? Are they drawing
upon the work of other theorists to establish their argument? What assumptions do they rely upon?
Finally, how might their argument change the way that we read literature? In your second essay,
select a particular issue or idea and compare the way that it is figured in two theoretical movements.
For example, you might want to consider the different ways in which psychoanalysis and feminism
figure the body, as evidenced in the writings of Lacan and de Beauvoir. In your third essay, draw
upon one or more theoretical texts to analyze a work of literature, selected in consultation with me. I
will circulate more detailed prompts well in advance of the due date of each essay.
Leading Discussion
At one point in the semester, you will be responsible for helping to lead discussion of a particular
theoretical text. Your responsibilities will include drafting a list of four or five discussion questions
and sharing those questions with me in an email at least twenty-four hours in advance of the class
meeting. During the discussion itself, I may ask you to pose one or more of these questions to the
group, at which you will be responsible for managing the conversation in concert with me. Finally,
you will remain our resident expert on that particular theoretical text, so that, if we need to revisit
those ideas at a later point in the semester, you will be able to remind your peers of the broad
contours of the argument.
Final Exam
In the final exam for this course, you will be expected to demonstrate your familiarity with the
theorists that we have discussed in class, in part by defining their concepts, explicating particular
passages, and applying their ideas to specific literary works.

Bozio // EN 228 Syllabus

SCHEDULE
Reading that are not available in the required text can be found on the course site
[EN228Spring2015.WordPress.com] or on Course Reserves.
Jan.

21
23

Introduction to the course


Ferdinand de Saussure, 845-9; excerpts from Course in General Linguistics, 850-63

28

Roland Barthes, 1316-9; The Death of the Author, 1322-6; From Work to Text,
1326-31
Jacques Derrida, 1680-5; excerpts from Of Grammatology, 1683-97

30
Feb.

4
6
11
13
18
20

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 647-50; excerpts from Economic and Philosophic
Manuscripts of 1844, 651-5; excerpts from Capital, Volume I, 663-71
Walter Benjamin, 1046-9; The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological
Reproducibility, 1051-71
Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, 1107-9; excerpts from Dialectic of
Enlightenment, 1110-27
Michel Foucault, 1469-74; excerpts from Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison,
1490-502
Michel Foucault; excerpts from The History of Sexuality, Volume I, 1502-21
Synthetic discussion

Essay One due on Sunday, February 22 at 8:00pm


25
27
Mar.

Sigmund Freud, 807-12; excerpts from The Interpretation of Dreams, 818-24;


Fetishism, 841-5
Jacques Lacan, 1156-62; excerpts from The Agency of the Letter in the
Unconscious, 1169-81

Louis Althusser, 1332-4; excerpts from Ideology and Ideological State


Apparatuses, 1335-61
Virginia Woolf, 892-5; excerpts from A Room of Ones Own, 896-905

11
13

Simone de Beauvoir, 1261-4; excerpts from The Second Sex, 1265-73


Laura Mulvey, 2081-3; Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, 2084-95

18
20

Spring Vacation
Spring Vacation

25
27

Edward W. Said, 1861-4; excerpts from Orientalism, 1866-88


Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 2110-3; excerpts from A Critique of Postcolonial Reason,
2114-26

Bozio // EN 228 Syllabus

Essay Two due on Sunday, March 29 at 8:00pm


Apr.

1
3

SAA
SAA

8
10

Judith Butler, 2536-8; excerpts from Gender Trouble, 2540-53


Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 2427-9; Talking Black: Critical Signs of the Times, 2430-8;
bell hooks, 2507-8; Postmodern Blackness, 2509-16

15
17

Lennard J. Davis; excerpts from Bending Over Backwards, 9-32 [Course Reserves]
Slavoj Zizek, 2402-5; excerpts from The Sublime Object of Ideology, 11-53 [Course
Reserves]

22
24

Franco Moretti, 2438-40; Graphs, 2441-64


Concluding discussion

Essay Three due on Sunday, April 26 at 8:00pm


Final Exam on May 5 at 1:30pm, PMH 303

Bozio // EN 228 Syllabus