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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen
C LIT 400
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Theory and Criticism

A selection of major theoretical statements in the history of literary theory and criticism, with texts drawn from such fields as literary studies, aesthetic theory, film studies, philosophy, and cultural studies.

Class description

This course offers a survey of some of the major texts in the history of critical theory in the West. No prior knowledge of theory is required, but be prepared to read challenging texts at a fast pace. Each session focuses on one important author or theme relevant to the study of literature and the arts. We will start with the Ancients (Plato, Aristotle, Longinus, Plotinus), meander through French 17th century critics, 18th century theories of genius, taste and the sublime, Romantic irony, and tackle the great modern philosophers: Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger. Emphasis will be placed toward the end on 20th century structuralism and post-structuralism: Saussure, Jakobson, Barthes, Derrida. Reading material: Excerpts from Hazard Adams, ed., Critical Theory Since Plato (in course pack available at UW Book Store)

Student learning goals

Students should have a good grasp of the history of critical theory since Plato and be introduced to some of the major philosophies in the West.

General method of instruction

Lecture and discussion

Recommended preparation

No prior knowledge of theory is required, but be prepared to read challenging texts at a fast pace.

Class assignments and grading

There will be a mid-term and a final.

Grades will be based on the mid-term and final as well as on participation in class.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen
Date: 01/05/2014