English 160

Methods and Materials of Literary Criticism


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2021 Leong, Andrew Way
TTh 2-3:30

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All readings will be posted and made available via bCourses.

Description

If you're reading this, and you've done coursework in English or other languages and literatures, then you're probably a literary critic. You've written who knows how many critical, interpretive, or comparative essays with more close readings than you might care to count. But, why? What does literary criticism do? Who gets to be a professional, certified, or published critic? When and why has "critical" writing been seen as separate from "creative" writing? What roles -- important, or irrelevant -- have critics played in shaping the reception, distribution, and appreciation of literary texts?

In this course, we'll work through these questions by reading key works of literary criticism in English, dating from periods in which literacy was restricted to the aristocracy and clergy, through periods of increasing print publication, to our present moment. Beginning with Sir Philip Sidney's "Apology for Poetry," and moving through writings by William Wordsworth, Thomas Carlyle, George Eliot, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, W.E.B. DuBois, Cleanth Brooks, Mike Gold, Raymond Williams, C.L.R. James, Harold Bloom, Frank Chin, Eve Sedgwick, and others, we'll read English-language literary criticism to address two inter-related categories of question. First, what are the objects of criticism? What makes a literary text "literary"? What are the practical, political, or aesthetic aims of writing criticism? Second, who are the subjects of criticism? Who gets to criticize a text? Who are the intended readers of criticism? How can critics help to shape the sensibilities and subjectivities of formerly colonized or emergent nations, or of minoritized and marginalized communities?

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