Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Theories of Literature 2: Literature Criticism Theory - Then and Now

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION This study-unit introduces students to different perspectives on the contexts and histories of criticism and literary theory. It refers at the start to literary criticism's traditions in figures like Aristotle, Longinus and Boileau, before taking up that tradition's effects on the work of English critics from Sidney through to Jonson, Dryden, Pope and Johnson. Taking Matthew Arnold's 'The Function of Criticism at the Present Time' as a key text, the study-unit then traces across the succeeding decades the emergence of the figure of the man of letters and prevailing ideas on literature and literary culture up till the 1970s. In this part of the study-unit, particular attention is paid to figures like Richards, Wellek and Warren, Leavis, Williams, Trilling, Steiner and Kermode, as representatives of a critical tradition that the consolidation of literary theory in the 1960s to some extent countered. The study-unit then reviews some of the major theoretical currents to emerge in recent decades, pausing on significant passages/essays in the work of figures like Foucault, Derrida, Blanchot, Jameson and Butler. It concludes with sessions on the understanding of literature and the literary in the present, reviewing some of the main trends in contemporary literary studies and critical practice.

Study-Unit Aims:

- To introduce students to aspects of the histories of literary criticism and theory.
- To help students place in context critical and theoretical influences on literary studies.
- To help students discern the emergence of 'literature' as a process and idea that was shaped historically in distinct and identifiable ways.
- To make students aware of contrasting critical perspectives on literature, on the function of literary criticism, and on the natures and urgencies of literary theory.
- To induce students to read with enhanced critical and theoretical nous.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Appreciate the historical depth and range of intellectual and cultural influences in the development of the idea of criticism, of literature, of theory.
- Take in some of the connotations that allow for distinctions to be made between the age associated with the man of letters, the age of 'literary criticism', the age of 'theory', and the present.
- Connect current contexts, agendas and developments in literary studies and literary criticism with broader intellectual traditions and currents.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Read criticism and theory more confidently.
- Make connections between critical thought and literary practice.
- Deploy the skills indicated in 1 and 2 to adapted use in other contexts where critique is called for.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Arnold, Matthew, 'The Function of Criticism at the Present Time'.
- Baldick, Chris, Criticism and Literary Theory: 1890 to the Present (London: Longman, 1996).
- Boxall, Peter, and Michael Jonik (eds), '30@30', Textual Practice, 30.7 (2016): 1149-1185.
- Collini, Stefan, Common Writing: Essays on Literary Culture and Public Debate (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
- Culler, Jonathan, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
- Gross, John, The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969).
- Kaplan, Charles, and William David Anderson, Criticism: Major Statements (London: St Martin's Press, 1999).
- Leitch, Vincent B., William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John McGowan, T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Jeffrey J. Williams, eds, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd edn (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2010).
- Lodge, David, ed., 20th Century Literary Criticism and Theory: A Reader (London: Longman, 1972).
- Russell, D. A., Criticism in Antiquity, 2nd edn (London: Bristol Classical Press, 1995).
- Taylor, D. J., The Prose Factory, London: Chatto & Windus, 2016.

As with the study-unit ENG2066, this study-unit is dependent on reference to the most recent issues of specific journals. Confirmed annual subscriptions to the following (most available already through the Library's electronic resources, though confirmations and renewals will be required) are therefore crucial:
Angelaki, boundary 2, CounterText, Critical Inquiry, Critique, Diacritics, Essays in Criticism, European Journal of English Studies, Modern Language Notes, New Literary History, Oxford Literary Review, Paragraph, Parallax, Substance, PMLA, Textual Practice.

Furthermore, reading packs are made available to students at the start and in the course of the study-unit.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Ivan Callus
Marija Grech

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.