Saturday, January 30, 2010

Course Description

In Critical Encounters: Applied Literary Theory, we will explore the concepts, assumptions, and interpretive practices of some of today’s most prominent theoretical approaches to literary analysis. We will study psychoanalytic, feminist, Marxist, and postcolonial theory, among others, and then apply those critical lenses in readings of a range of literary texts and other cultural artifacts, such as film, advertising, songs, and the visual arts.* While studying a particular theoretical approach—psychoanalysis, for example—you will have opportunities to develop interpretive claims of your own using that critical perspective, thereby, reinforcing your understanding of literary theory by doing literary theory. Ultimately, these theoretical approaches not only offer new ways of thinking about literature; they also offer new ways of understanding the world and of understanding ourselves.

Through the course of this semester, you will complete several written pieces, for which you will follow the steps of the writing process—prewriting, drafting, revision, and editing—culminating in a final portfolio and presentation at the end of the semester. In addition to the major assignments, there will be frequent writing activities, designed to build your writing and critical thinking skills leading up to the drafting of the larger pieces, and frequent reading responses in which you will reflect on and analyze the assigned readings. During the semester, we will also sharpen your command of grammar, usage, and mechanics; further develop your literary and everyday vocabulary; and strengthen your mastery of reflective, expository, and analytical essays. Don’t fret: you will have opportunities to express yourselves creatively as well.

* To establish some continuity between the work you did last semester and what we have planned for this semester, I will look for ways, as often as possible, to foster connections to the texts, critical approaches, concepts, and themes you have already studied. Please do not hesitate to call attention to those connections yourselves during our classes or in your work for this semester.