English 250

Research Seminar: Idols and Ideology—Readings in Augustine, Milton, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Kant, Marx, Freud, Althusser

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2017 Kahn, Victoria
W 2-5 4104 Dwinelle

Book List

Augustine: Of Christian Doctrine; Marlowe, Christopher: Dr. Faustus; Milton, John: Samson Agonistes; Shakespeare, William: The Winter's Tale;

Recommended: Althusser, Louis: Lenin and Philosophy; Eagleton, Terry: Ideology of the Aesthetic; Hawkes, David: Ideology; Ricoeur, Paul: Lectures on Ideology and Utopia; Zizek, Slavoj: The Sublime Object of Ideology

Other Readings and Media

All other readings will be posted on B-courses.


The history of Western literary theory is often told in terms of the concept of mimesis. But there is another, equally powerful, anti-mimetic strand to this history, and that is the critique of mimesis as a form of idolatry. In this course, we will explore this critique from the prohibition against images in the Hebrew bible up through modern attacks on mimesis as inherently ideological. Our main literary texts in the first half of the semester will be taken from Reformation England, when there was a fierce debate about the harmful power of images and the necessity of iconoclasm. We will focus on works by Marlowe, Bacon, Shakespeare, and Milton. In the second half of the semester, we will discuss the afterlife of iconoclasm in Marx, Freud, Althusser, Zizek, Adorno, Terry Eagleton, and Isobel Armstrong. Students whose interests lie primarily in national literatures other than English are welcome, and may write their final papers on primary texts and literatures not discussed in class, though they must engage the theoretical texts assigned for the seminar.

This section of English 250 is cross-listed with Comparative Literature 250 section 1.

This course satisfies the Group 6 (Non-historical) requirement.

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