ENGL 301
Sublime Confusion: A Survey of Literary and Critical Theory
Last Offered Fall 2022
Division I
Cross-listed COMP 301
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

Which is more appealing, a roller coaster or a rose? For much of its history, art and literary theory has conceived itself as a science devoted to explaining and defining “beauty.” But running alongside this is an edgier countercurrent that worships something else: an experience of excitement, fear, suspense, or thrilling confusion often described as “the sublime.” The sublime interested early critics, from classical rhetoricians 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 exciting confusion has played a key role in modern critical theory from Russian formalism to new criticism, deconstruction, postmodernism, and posthumanism. (In fact, poststructuralist criticism itself has a thrillingly confusing quality that we will not ignore.) We will take up a cross section of critical theory from classical times to the present, focusing on careful reading of relatively short texts by Plato, Aristotle, Addison, Burke, Schiller, Nietzsche, Shklovsky, I.A. Richards, Barthes, Derrida, Lyotard, Fredric Jameson, Haraway, and others. Case studies ranging from opera to Xbox will enlighten, thrill, and confound you. Written assignments will encourage you to parse these theories carefully and apply them to the literary texts that most interest you: prose, poetry, or drama from any time and place; film, visual art, or architecture; music, new media, or digital media, and beyond.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 9
Class#: 1654
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: attendance and active participation, several short response assignments, final project consisting of a scripted oral presentation and a 15-page final paper
Prerequisites: 200- or 300-level course in literature, theory, or philosophy, or permission of the instructor
Enrollment Preferences: students majoring or considering a major in a related field
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
COMP 301 Division I ENGL 301 Division I
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses

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