English 161

Introduction to Literary Theory: Free Speech, in Theory

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2014 Langan, Celeste
TTh 2-3:30 170 Barrows

Book List

Butler, Judith: Excitable Speech; Foucault, Michel: Fearless Speech; Freud, Sigmund: Dora; Motte, Warren, ed.: Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature; Plato: Republic; Schreber: Memoirs of My Nervous Illness

Other Readings and Media

\n Supplementary course materials will include key literary manifestos, court cases, and relevant essays by Saussure, Jakobson, Auerbach, Bakhtin, Fish, Spivak, et alia.\n \ne<!--{cke_protected}{C}%3C!%2D%2D%0A%20%2F*%20Font%20Definitions%20*%2F%0A%40font-face%0A%09%7Bfont-family%3ATimes%3B%0A%09panose-1%3A2%200%205%200%200%200%200%200%200%200%3B%0A%09mso-font-charset%3A0%3B%0A%09mso-generic-font-family%3Aauto%3B%0A%09mso-font-pitch%3Avariable%3B%0A%09mso-font-signature%3A3%200%200%200%201%200%3B%7D%0A%40font-face%0A%09%7Bfont-family%3ACambria%3B%0A%09panose-1%3A2%204%205%203%205%204%206%203%202%204%3B%0A%09mso-font-charset%3A0%3B%0A%09mso-generic-font-family%3Aauto%3B%0A%09mso-font-pitch%3Avariable%3B%0A%09mso-font-signature%3A3%200%200%200%201%200%3B%7D%0A%20%2F*%20Style%20Definitions%20*%2F%0Ap.MsoNormal%2C%20li.MsoNormal%2C%20div.MsoNormal%0A%09%7Bmso-style-parent%3A%22%22%3B%0A%09margin%3A0in%3B%0A%09margin-bottom%3A.0001pt%3B%0A%09mso-pagination%3Awidow-orphan%3B%0A%09font-size%3A12.0pt%3B%0A%09font-family%3A%22Times%20New%20Roman%22%3B%0A%09mso-fareast-font-family%3ACambria%3B%0A%09mso-fareast-theme-font%3Aminor-latin%3B%0A%09mso-bidi-font-family%3A%22Times%20New%20Roman%22%3B%0A%09mso-bidi-theme-font%3Aminor-bidi%3B%7D%0A%40page%20Section1%0A%09%7Bsize%3A8.5in%2011.0in%3B%0A%09margin%3A1.0in%201.25in%201.0in%201.25in%3B%0A%09mso-header-margin%3A.5in%3B%0A%09mso-footer-margin%3A.5in%3B%0A%09mso-paper-source%3A0%3B%7D%0Adiv.Section1%0A%09%7Bpage%3ASection1%3B%7D%0A%2D%2D%3E--> \n





This course will interrogate the way in which “free” speech, as moral value or political right, informs and complicates our understanding of literature and the literary.  We will trace the conceptual intersection of freedom and speech both historically and across several disciplines, beginning with Plato and Aristotle (and perhaps Demosthenes), then proceeding to consider the effect of general literacy on the conception and regulation of free “speech,” reading Milton’s Areopagitica and Marx’s “On the Freedom of the Press.” We will consider the “freedom” of speech in relation to questions of both form and content.  Are genre, meter, and grammar mere forms of constraint? Or are we free only when released by formal constraint from instrumental speech (which Rousseau reduces to: “Give money”)?   What is the role of the aesthetic manifesto (Romantic, futurist, Oulipian) in liberating and/or constraining expression?  Do political and psychic repression merely inhibit free speech, or is our idea(l) of free speech an effect of these repressions?  And what do physical constraints on speech, from aphasia to stuttering, have to tell us of the relation of literary form to speech freedom?  Does the global hegemony of English threaten a speech freedom that ought to be understood as dependent upon a polyglot diversity?  Does the value of free speech diminish or grow in the context of new media and a “visual culture”?  Finally, to what extent is free speech a diminished form of freedom itself?  We will end by considering the current situation of free speech in the U.S., reading materials related to the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision and the threatened prosecution of journalists who publish “state secrets.”

Students will have the opportunity to write two 5-7 page essays, one on a question of speech “content” (a legal or psychoanalytic “case” in which free speech is at issue; I will provide you with a list or you may suggest one); the other on a question of literary form.

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