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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jeffrey T Knight
C LIT 596
Seattle Campus

Special Studies in Comparative Literature

Offered occasionally by visiting or resident faculty. Course content varies.

Class description

Theories of the Text

This course surveys the most important recent thinking about “the text,” construed broadly to mean the object of literary and cultural study from physical bibliography to critical theory. Beginning with late-career calls for a “return to philology” from Paul de Man and Edward Said – the founders of American deconstruction and postcolonial theory respectively – we will look closely at the history of textual criticism and literary interpretation as they diverged in midcentury notions of “copy text” editing and the New Critical “well wrought urn.” We will then move to the epoch-making critiques of this consensus in the “socialized texts” of Jerome McGann and the “material texts” of Roger Chartier, D.F. McKenzie, and Peter Stallybrass. The second half of the course will be given over to perspectives on textual production, reception, and interpretation both canonical (reader-response theory, poststructuralist critiques of authorship, the history of the book) and newly emergent (surface reading, the descriptive turn, queer philology). Readings will include key works by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Michel de Certeau, Stanley Fish, Michel Foucault, Wolfgang Iser, Julia Kristeva, and Pierre Macherey. This course is appropriate for anyone who wishes to gain a focused introduction to literary theory and a working vocabulary in literary studies (intertextuality, paratext, author function, implied reader, etc.), as well as for those in other disciplines who wish to gain a theoretical foundation for work in media studies, information science, editing and publishing, or textual studies (see below).

Note: This is one of four core seminars in UW’s Textual Studies Program, a campus-wide course of graduate study emphasizing the comparative, interdisciplinary, cross-historical investigation of material texts in manuscript, print, and digital environments. Course credit will count toward the Textual Studies Ph. D. track in all participating departments.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


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 Yuko Mera
Date: 05/01/2013