English 190

Research Seminar: Anatomy of Criticism


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

Book List

Frye, N.: Anatomy of Criticism; Frye, N.: The Educated Imagination; 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)

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.

Update:    Although this course was provisionally approved for in-person instruction, in light of the recent campus directive that all courses must begin instruction remotely, that will not be possible, at least not at the outset.  This change in format entails some changes in substance.  The bare bones will remain the same.  However, emphasis will shift from collective exploration of Frye’s ideas to support for individual research papers.  Therefore, the reading list has been pared down, with some texts originally listed now just recommended.  

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