Contemporary Theory in Literary and Cultural Studies
Instructor: Professor Matthew Rowlinson.
This course will provide a survey of contemporary theory and its precursors in nineteenth and twentieth-century thought. It will focus on several distinct though often related critical schools or movements, including Structuralism Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Post-Structuralism, Feminism, New Historicism, Queer Studies, Cultural Studies, Post-Colonial Theory, and Eco-Criticism. The readings for the course have been chosen to introduce some of the terms and concepts that have become critical touchstones for many scholars in literary and cultural studies, while the assignments will provide students with the opportunity to study theory as an object of analysis in its own right, and to apply its insights to a core group of literary texts and cultural texts. In so doing, we hope to question the assumed distinctions between "primary" and "secondary" literature: to what extent, we will ask, can theory be read as literature, and literature as theory?
The course assumes no specialized knowledge of the field. For some students, it will serve as an introduction to the significant influence that theory has had on the ways in which we read and interpret literature and culture, for others it will be a chance to renew and deepen their knowledge of particular critics and approaches. Throughout, our goal will be not only to provide students with some of the basic methodological tools that they will need in graduate studies, but to foster a spirit of self-reflexive inquiry into what we read and how we read it.