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From the rise of modern literary criticism around 1900 to the explosion of high theory in the 1980s and 1990s, the twentieth century witnessed an international flowering of new ideas about how to interpret art and literature: Russian Formalism, American New Criticism, French Structuralism and Deconstruction, and a welter of post- prefixed concepts that claim to transcend national boundaries: the poststructural, the postmodern, the postcolonial, the posthuman. What are the ideas associated with these different movements, and how are they connected? Does each represent a radical break with previous ways of reading, or do they actually build on one another and evolve in a systematic way? And given the entanglement between criticism and teaching, which are the theories that seem to define the work we do (and want to do) here at Williams? This course will focus on a very careful reading of essays representing major 20th-century critical schools (and a couple of their earlier precursors), by critics like Plato, Schiller, Shklovsky, Richards, Barthes, Derrida, de Man, Beauvoir, Butler, and Said. Written assignments will encourage you to parse these theories carefully and apply them to the literary texts that most interest you: prose or poetry from any time and place; film, visual art, or architecture; music, new media, or digital media, etc.
Format: seminar; This class will have a hybrid format: on-campus students will meet in a classroom during the scheduled class slot (observing campus distancing protocols), while off-campus students participate simultaneously via Zoom. Off-campus students must be able to Zoom in during the scheduled class times.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
attendance and active participation, several short response assignments, final project consisting of a scripted oral presentation and a 15-page final paper
at least one previous literature or theory course
Comparative Literature majors
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
AMST Critical and Cultural Theory Electives
ENGL Criticism Courses