English 190

Research Seminar: What Is Literary Criticism?


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Fall 2020 Hanson, Kristin
TTh 3:30-5 301 Wheeler

Book List

Frye, N.: Anatomy of Criticism; Frye, N.: The Educated Imagination; Frye, N.: Words with Power; Shakespeare, W.: Antony and Cleopatra; Shakespeare, W.: As You Like It; Shakespeare, W.: The Tempest

Other Readings and Media

Shakespeare, “Venus and Adonis”

Excerpts from Faulkner, R. and Goelet, O. (trans.), The Egyptian Book of the Dead; R. Graves, The Greek Myths; The Bible (authorized King James Version); and Brinton, D. (ed.), Rig Veda Americanus (on Aztec mythology)

Excerpts from Aristotle, Poetics; Jung, C., Man and His Symbols; Frazer, J., The Golden Bough;  Hogan, P., The Mind and Its Stories

Description

What is literary criticism?  All English majors and their professors do it, or try to do it; but articulating what it is, or should be, is not easy.  In this course we will consider this question with Canadian literary critic and theorist Northrop Frye as our guide.  Frye’s monumental Anatomy of Criticism (1957) argued that literary criticism ought to contribute to the development of an organized body of knowledge about literature, analogous to the organized body of knowledge about nature called physics.  Developing a strikingly contemporary argument through cross-cultural comparisons of literature with myth, religion, magic and ritual, Frye takes mankind’s relationships with nature on the one hand, and with language on the other, as fundamental to literature.  In this course, we will consider these ideas alongside some of their influences from philosophy and psychology, current ideas about literary universals, and examples from Shakespeare that we are likely to have encountered already at least passingly in other courses. Then, reflecting Frye’s deep commitment to every work of literature being relevant to understanding literature as a phenomenon, students will research and write a long (20 pp.) valedictory paper of literary criticism on any work of English literature they choose.

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