English 9140A


Professor J. Schuster
Fall Half Course.

What does it mean to read for form? How did literature become formal? How do we understand the competing calls for a return to form today in literary studies? We will begin with looking at Russian formalist theories that adopted modernist techniques of literary self-reflection. We will then turn to New Criticism and arguments for associating formalism with a “timeless” literary aesthetic. From this point, we will chart the steady stream of new claims for formalist reading methods: structuralism, deconstruction, Marxism, and philosophical aesthetics. We will finish with a look at some contemporary arguments for a return to form as a specifically literary question in the “new lyric studies,” ecopoetics, surface reading, and recent genre theory. We will be reading poetry and fiction alongside these theoretical texts. Likely literary readings include: Emily Dickinson, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Maurice Blanchot, Samuel Beckett, Paul Celan, Juliana Spahr, Claudia Rankine.

View the course syllabus here: English 9140A.