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Instructor Class Description

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Katherine Cummings
ENGL 304
Seattle Campus

History of Literary Criticism and Theory II

Contemporary criticism and theory and its background in the New Criticism, structuralism, and phenomenology.

Class description

“What’s Happening Here? Let’s face it; theory has a bad rep. The popular press and sectors of academia have pilloried its language (who can read this stuff) and arguments as either irrelevant to everyday existence or fomenting disastrous socio-political realignments. Not surprisingly, this course is designed to question these accounts, but it does take seriously the critique of theory as an alienating abstraction. To ask what’s happening here is to question what the study of theory offers to undergraduates who may or may not be interested in pursuing post graduate degrees. To explore answers to that question we’ll engage in close readings and evaluations of a critical conversation that begins with Marx and Nietzche and is complicated and extended by such contemporary theorists as Balibar, Brown, Butler, Foucault, Harvey, and Lowe. Of each theoretical text, we will ask what does this argument contribute not only to our understanding of ourselves and the systems by which we are shaped but also to our refashioning of them. Throughout this investigation we will keep an eye on the productive relationship between these theories and late 20th and 21st century US geopoltics. Among the topics that we’ll take up are social movements advocating for people of color, women and sexual minorities, the “war on terror? and the contemporary “Occupy Wall Street? movement.

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 Katherine Cummings
Date: 11/01/2011