ENGL 3002 Contemporary Critical Theory

Literature profs can be terribly geeky but, for a while during the 70s and 80s, they were some of the hippest brainyheads around. What happened was that they started talking THEORY and dropping big bad buzzwords like structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, post-feminism, not to mention one radical idea after another. Pretty soon they started behaving like gurus, attracting disciples and underlings, and pontificating at the drop of a hat on the impossibility of fully saying what you mean to say.  There were theory stars, theory comic books, theory trading cards, etc.  To be cool, you had to know something about theory or at least the names of the big shots, and you had to go around professing to “interrogate” everything under the sun, including Truth itself.

This course won’t make you cool.  Sorry, the wave has passed and most of the stars are now dead.  But you can at least find out what the fuss was all about.  This course offers you a whirlwind tour of the major schools of literary theory of the past fifty years.  In addition to studying statements by some of the big names in the theory pantheon, we will also consider theory’s legacy by looking at a few ongoing controversies within criticism.