ENGL 3001 History of Literary Criticism

This class will consider more than a dozen answers to this age-old question, what’s literature and what’s it good for? We will begin by asking why Plato banished poets from his ideal republic, why Aristotle believed he could defend poetry by identifying what makes a good tragedy, and why the Romans believed literature could teach as well as delight. We will then study a number of English and European critical statements from the Middle Ages to the mid-20th century that all try to tell us how to read, write, study, judge and appreciate literary writings. Our emphasis in the course will be on classic arguments about literature rather than the application of critical approaches to sample literary works. All the same we will be addressing many of the most important ideas and issues that literary critics continue to debate to this day.