English 195: Senior Seminar in Literary Theories

Professor Noelle Williams
Office Hours: Monday & Friday 1:30-3 and by appointment
Office: FO 110
Phone: 924-4439
Email: awilli@email.sjsu.edu
Class meets MWF, 8:30-9:20 AM at SH (Sweeney Hall) 348

This course examines some important texts in literary and cultural theory. While it can only offer a brief survey of the myriad directions literary theory has gone in the last century, it does attempt to give you a taste of a variety of forms and methodologies. It is divided into three unequal parts, the first covering formalist criticisms which emphasize the form or structure of the literary text itself; a longer second section focusing on the major trends in literary criticism of the last fifty years and how they might be applied to the eighteenth-century text, Gulliver's Travels; and a final section on the application of critical methodologies to film, the law, history, and other aspects of our everyday lives. While some of you may use these texts later in a graduate or professional program that is specifically linked to textual analysis, it is hoped that all of you will find at least some of the many views and questions developed by the authors to be enriching of your reading and viewing after you leave the university to follow whatever path you choose. I have tried to keep the reading down to a manageable level but be forewarned: even the shortest pieces will require ample time so that you can perform a careful and thoughtful reading. "Speed reading" or skimming are not options in this class.

Course Objectives:

  1. To gain an awareness of the range of critical theories and practices available to literary and cultural critics.
  2. To learn to apply and evaluate critical methodologies.
  3. To strengthen our abilities to engage literary and cultural text .
  4. To examine the use and applicability of literary and cultural theory in our everyday lives.


Coursework includes reading assignments (see schedule below); one 3-4 page application of one or more 'formalist' critical methodologies; one 6-8 page research paper that analyzes and evaluates the efficacy of at least two literary theories as applied to Gulliver's Travels; a final exam; and a series of in-class quizzes. You must also sign up for two in-class presentations for which you will do a little bit of outside research, come up with questions/handouts for your classmates and help lead discussion. Your attendance and participation in class will also affect your grade. Every student should expect to be called on during the course of the class and should have a summary, questions or comments prepared on each reading assignment. If you have not done the reading for the day, you are welcome to sit in on the class discussion but you will not be considered "present and participating" if you cannot potentially add to the discussion by commenting on the readings.
Paper One 3-4 page analysis 20%
Paper Two 6-8 page research paper/analysis 30%
Final Exam 20%
Two In-Class Presentations includes handouts 10%
Participation Regular attendance, required daily questions or summaries of the readings & some quizzes 20%
Total 100%

The following statement has been adopted by the Department of English for inclusion in all syllabi:

The Department of English reaffirms its commitment to the differential grading scale as defined in the SJSU Catalog ("The Grading System"). Grades issued must represent a full range of student performance: A = excellent; B = above average; C = average; D = below average; F = failure. Courses graded according to the A, B, C, No Credit system shall follow the same pattern, except that NC (No Credit) shall replace D or F. In such classes NC shall also substitute for W (Withdrawal) because neither grade (NC or W) affects students' GPA.

The misrepresentation of another's work as one's own, whether the original work is published or not, is plagiarism and will result in a failing grade. The incident will also be reported to the dean of students for possible further action. All quotes must be enclosed in quotation marks or, when more than three lines, put in an indented block like the quote above. Full citation of the original author and source must also be included.

Three Required Texts:



Part I Tradition, Form and Structure:

Week One: Introduction

January 26,W: Preliminary questions : What is literature? How is meaning made?
January 28, F: Opening of Terry Eagleton book, Literary Theory: An Introduction (vii to 14 LTI)

Week Two: New Criticisms

January 31, M: Eagleton Ch. 1 "The Rise of English" (15-46 LTI)
February 2, W: T.S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (69-77 R) and W.E.B. Dubois, "Criteria of Negro Art" (850-855 R)
February 4, F: Cleanth Brooks, "The Language of Paradox" (291-304 R) and W.K. Wimsatt & Monroe C. Beardsley, "The Intentional Fallacy" (333-345 R)

Week Three: Structuralism

February 7, M: Eagleton Ch. 3 "Structuralism and Semiotics" (79-109 LTI) & Ferdinand de Saussure, from "Course in General Linguistics" (350-353Ğinclude bit by AristotleĞ R)
February 9, W: Jakobson, "The metaphoric and metonymic poles" (31-2 & 57-61R) & Gerard Genette, "Structuralism and Literary Criticism" (62-78 R)
February 11, F: Northrop Frye, "The Archetypes of Criticism" (421-433 R)

Week Four: Narrative

February 14, M: Mikhail Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel" and "Rabelais and his World" (32-51 R)
February 16, W: Wayne Booth, excerpt from The Rhetoric of Fiction (564-579 R)
February 18, F: Tzvetan Todorov, "The Typology of Detective Fiction" (157-165 R) & Umberto Eco, "Casablanca: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage" (445-455 R)

Week Five: Swift's Gulliver's Travels (PAPER ONE DUE)

February 21, M Paper 1 due: 3 to 4-page application/analysis of a previously discussed theory/approach to a short poem or short story,
February 23, W: Bk. 1, (26-89 GT)
February 25, F: Bk II, (90-147 GT)

Week Six: Criticism on Swift

February 28, M: Bk III (148-203 GT)
March 1, W: Bk IV (204-266 GT)
March 3, F: "Introduction:, Biographical and Historical Contexts" and Historical background (3-25 GT) & "A Critical History of Gulliver's Travels" (269-304 GT)

Week Seven: Post-structuralism

March 6, M: Eagleton Ch. 4 "Post-Structuralism" (110-130 LTI)
March 8, W: Read All of 3Deconstruction and Gulliver's Travels" (366-395 GT)
March 10, F: READING & RESEARCH DAY No class meeting. Instead, you will spend that time finding (ordering?) articles on Swift for Paper #2. You should also get started on the extremely difficult essay by Derrida.

Week Eight: Deconstruction

March 13, M: Jacques Derrida , "Structure, Sign & Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences" (79-94 R)
March 15, W: M.H. Abrams, "Deconstructing Angel" & J. Hillis Miller, "Critic as Host" (264-285 R)
March 17, F: Stanley Fish, "Is there a Text in this Class?" (524-533 R)

Week Nine: Focusing on the Reader

March 20, M: All of "Reader-Response Criticism and Gulliver's Travels" (396-424 GT), Eagleton Ch. 2 "Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, Reception Theory" recommended (47-78 LTI)
March 22, W: Barthes, "The Death of the Author" (166-172 R) & Michel Foucault, "What is an Author?" (196-210 R)
March 24, F: Louis Althusser, excerpt from "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" (238-250 R)

Spring Break: March 25-April 2

Week Ten: Marxism and New Historicism

April 3, M: Eagleton, "Conclusion: Political Criticism" & "Afterward" (169-208 LTI)
April 5, W: Laura Brown, "Imperial Disclosures: Jonathan Swift" (170-200 R)
April 7, F: Louis Montrose, "Professing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture" (15-37 R)

Week Eleven: Psychoanalyis and Gulliver's Travels

April 10, M: All of "New Historicism and Gulliver1s Travels" (335-365 GT)
April 12, W: Eagleton Ch. 5 "Psychoanalysis" (131-168 LTI)
April 14, F: All of 3Psychoanalytic Criticism Gulliver's Travels" (335-365 GT)

Week Twelve: Feminism

April 17, M: Jacques Lacan, "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience" (79-80 & 178-183 R)
April 19, W: Jonathan Culler "Identity, Identification, and the Subject" (110-122 + optional 10-page Appendix on theoretical movements R) April 21, F: All of "Feminism and Gulliver's Travels" (305-334 GT)

Week Thirteen: Gender, Repetition & Appropriation (PAPER TWO DUE)

April 24, M: Paper 2 (6 to 8-page analysis of two different approaches to Gulliver1s Travels) due. Begin watching Paris is Burning
April 26, W: Read Judith Butler, "Gender is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion" (121-140 & 270-271 R) and finish viewing Paris is Burning
April 28, F: Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, "Introduction: Rhizome" from A Thousand Plateaus (3-25, 518-521 R)

Week Fourteen: Rethinking Literary as Cultural Criticism: Film, Historiography & the Law

May 1, M: Jonathan Culler, "Literature and Cultural Studies" (43-54 R) and Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (585-595 R)
May 3, W: Hayden White, "The Historical Text as Literary Artifact" (394-407 R)
May 5, F: Patricia Williams, "Alchemical Notes: Reconstructing Ideals from Deconstructed Rights" (663-695 R)

Week Fifteen: Sexuality, Publishing, Labor & Linguistics

May 8, M: Eve Sedgewick, "Introduction" of Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1-20 & 219-220 R)
May 10, W: Jose David Saldivar, "The Hybridity of Culture in Arturo Islas's The Rain God" (105-120 R) and Lisa Lowe, "Work, Immigration, Gender: Asian 'American' Women" (154-173 R)
May 12, F: Michael Toolan, "Narrative as political action" (226-262 R)

Week Sixteen: A Summing Up

May 15, M: LAST DAY OF CLASS Review for Final

FINAL EXAM: Tuesday, May 23rd, 7:15-9:30 AM