ENGL 370
Senior Seminar. Sublime Confusion: A Survey of Critical Theory
Last Offered Fall 2008
Division I
Cross-listed COMP 401 / ENGL 370
This course is not offered in the current catalog or this is a previous listing for a current course.

Class Details

What does it mean to have a theory of literature? Can something as vital, as varied, and as vague as art or fiction ever be reduced to anything like a science? We will investigate these questions with a survey of art and literary theory that takes up a cross section of texts from classical times to the present. We will focus particular attention on the aesthetic quality called “the sublime”–a category that has often been constituted in opposition to “beauty” to express the power and the attraction of art that is not beautiful, but whose frightening, confusing, even threatening aspect is somehow thrilling or appealing. This idea interested early critics from the classical rhetorician pseudo-Longinus to the German Idealists, as a way to make aesthetics more scientific paradoxically by identifying the doorway through which art and literature escaped the realm of reason. More recently the notion of literature’s thrilling confusion has played a key role in modern literary theory from Russian formalism to New Criticism, deconstruction, and postmodernism. (In fact, poststructuralist criticism itself has a thrillingly confusing quality that we will not ignore.) The class will focus on careful reading of relatively short texts by Plato, pseudo-Longinus, Burke, Kant, Schiller, Shklovsky, Eichenbaum, I.A. Richards, Barthes, Derrida, Lyotard, and others. We will find and discuss illustrations drawn from literature, visual media, and contemporary culture.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 16
Expected: 16
Class#: 1055
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: active class participation, short writing assignments, a polished oral presentation, and a final 15-page paper
Prerequisites: a course in critical (art or literary) theory or permission of the instructor
Enrollment Preferences: seniors majoring in Comparative Literature, Literary Studies, or a related discipline, and those with a demonstrated interest in critical theory
Unit Notes: meets Criticism requirement in English major only if registration is under ENGL
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
COMP 401 Division I ENGL 370 Division I
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses

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