ENGLISH 490 - History of Literary Criticism and Theory
Fall 2020, Section 001 - In Defense of the Literary: Three Exemplary Positions
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  Online (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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What exactly is the point of imaginative literature? What value does it have? What is the basis for its claim to relevance? Can literature make a claim to truth or is this purely fanciful? The aim of this course is to explore these and related questions by considering some of the more celebrated and influential attempts to define and defend the importance of literature in Western culture over the past few centuries. We shall begin with Sidney’s treatise, Defense of Poetry, and selections from other Renaissance essayists like Bacon and Puttenham, each of whom insist upon an intimate connection between poetry and learning and thus challenge Plato’s notorious claim that these are mutually exclusive. To complicate our sense of the issues at stake, we shall also read Shakespeare’s The Tempest for comparison. From the Humanist defense of the literary we will turn to the Romantic defense, where new adversaries called for a new line of response. Here readings shall include prose excerpts from Wordsworth and Shelley as well as Nietzsche’s first mature work of philosophy, The Birth of Tragedy. The final third of the semester will examine modern versions of the argument for literature at a time when the various calamities of the 20 Century (e. g., mass culture, two world wars, genocide, racial oppression, to name just a few examples) seemed to render the arts as a whole marginal, if not irrelevant. Among the authors to be considered will be Adorno, Heidegger, Krauss, and others. Students can expect to emerge from the class with a deepened understanding of the concept of literary knowledge, the intersection between ethics and aesthetics, and the politics of taste.

Class Format:



ENGLISH 490 - History of Literary Criticism and Theory
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM

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