Assignments

English 4110/5110 Literary Criticism

TR 9:30-10:45 a.m., Kilpatrick Hall 136, Spring 2020

Film and Television Availability

This chart provides links to our class's required films that are available from Apple (digital purchase or rental), Amazon (digital purchase, rental, or streaming), Kanopy (streaming), Netflix (streaming), or GCSU Library (4 hour reserves). Check JustWatch, a clearinghouse of film and television streaming sites, for availability to purchase films from Amazon, rented on disc from Netflix, or stream on services like Cinemax, Crackle, Disney+, Encore, Epix, HBO, Hulu, Google Play, Showtime, Starz, Vudu, and XBox, XFinity Streampix, and YouTube.

 

Film or Television Episode

Availability

Fight Club (directed by David Finch)

Amazon | Apple

Friends, "The One with Five Steaks and an Eggplant" (Season 2, Episode 5)

Amazon | Apple

Schitt's Creek, "Our Cup Runneth Over" (Season 1, Episode 1)

Amazon | Apple | Netflix

Schitt's Creek, "The Drip" (Season 1, Episode 2)

Amazon | Apple | Netflix

The Wolf of Wall Street (directed by Martin Scorsese)

Amazon | Apple | GCSU

Marxist Criticism Survey

As we read Marxist literary theory this semester, we'll collect the questions Marxist literary critics ask texts.

In Class Activities

1. Marx's Philosophy

During the first two weeks of class, we will hear my summary of Marx's theory and approach, read Peter Singer's summary of Marx's philosophy, read key Marx's texts on economic philosophy, and finally, study significant texts by Marx and Engels discussing art. Today, in order to begin to learn each others' names and work through Singer's summary, let's break into small groups and collect our basic understanding of Marx's philosophy. Break into four groups of four or five members, discuss the questions below, and report your findings to the class.

 

Here are the groups:

  1. Singer, "Alienation as a Theory of History"
  2. Singer, "The Goal of History"
  3. Singer, "Economics"
  4. Singer, "Communism"

Here are the questions:

2. Marx and Engels on Literature and Art

Let's divide into 5 groups to discuss what Marx and Engels themselves say about culture in general and art and literature in particular. Each group should respond to two questions based on their one assigned excerpt.

 

Here are the excerpts:

  1. "Social Being and Social Consciousness"
  2. "Uneven Character of Historical Development and Questions of Art"
  3. "Poetry of the Future"
  4. "Against Vulgar Marxism"
  5. "On Realism"

Here are the questions:

3. A Marxist Approach to Interpreting Literature

Let's divide into 4 groups to apply the questions Marxist critics ask literature (as defined by Lois Tyson in Critical Theory Today) to a specific short story, F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited." Groups should discuss their assigned question for about 10 minutes, feeling free to bring in other terms and issues from Tyson's overview, before reporting their findings to the class.

  1. Does the work reinforce (intentionally or not) capitalist, imperialist, or classist values? If so, then the work may be said to have a capitalist, imperialist, or classist agenda, and it is the critic’s job to expose and condemn this aspect of the work.
  2. How might the work be seen as a critique of capitalism, imperialism, or classism? That is, in what ways does the text reveal, and invite us to condemn, oppressive socioeconomic forces (including repressive ideologies)? If a work criticizes or invites us to criticize oppressive socioeconomic forces, then it may be said to have a Marxist agenda.
  3. Does the work in some ways support a Marxist agenda but in other ways (perhaps unintentionally) support a capitalist, imperialist, or classist agenda? In other words, is the work ideologically conficted?
  4. How does the literary work reflect (intentionally or not) the socioeconomic conditions of the time in which it was written and/or the time in which it is set, and what do those conditions reveal about the history of class struggle?

3. Reading Literary Theory

Now that the class has shifted from introductions and overviews of Marxist literary theory to primary texts of Marxist literary theory itself, let's practice reading literary theory. Divide into four groups and discuss the following issues in response to your group's assigned article.

 

Here are the questions:

  1. What is the topic of the article?
  2. What is the main idea of the article?
  3. Select one passage that you understand and explain it.
  4. Select one passage that you don't fully understand and ask a question about it.

Here are the articles:

4. RSAs and ISAs

Today's article is a bit less complicated, both stylistically and conceptually; and it builds its argument with distinct definitions and discreet sections. Therefore, rather than the professor lecturing, let's break into groups and discuss individual sections, then report the main ideas to the class.

  1. On the Reproduction of the Conditions of Production: Reproduction of the Means of Production, Reproduction of Labour-Power (85-90), Infrastructure and Superstructure (90-2)
  2. The State: The Essentials of the Marxist Theory of the State, The State Ideological Apparatuses, (92-100); On the Reproduction of the Relations of Production (100-106)
  3. On Ideology: Ideology Has No History, Ideology Is a 'Representation' of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to Their Real Conditions of Existence (106-115)
  4. Ideology Interpellates Individuals as Subjects, An Example: The Christian Religious Ideology (115-25)

Presentation Schedule

Undergraduate students sign up for two slots: one Article Summary (AS) and one Close Reading (CR), at least a few weeks weeks apart. Article summaries are due in GeorgiaVIEW two days before they are scheduled to be presented; close readings papers are due in GeorgiaVIEW the day of the presentation.

 

Graduate students sign up for one slot: one Presentation (PR). Annotated bibliographies for presentations are due in GeorgiaVIEW the day of the presentation.

 

Written Due Date

Oral

Due Date

Assignment

Student

T, 1-28

T, 1-28

Close Reading

Ai, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Lowell, or Plath

CR1 Kiersten Banks

CR2 Andrew Scott

T, 1-28

R, 1-30

Article Summary

Lenin or Vološinov

AS1 Claire Korzekwa

Article Summary

Trotsky

AS2 Maggie Waldmann

S, 2-2

T, 2-4

Article Summary

Benjamin, Bloch, or Caudwell

AS3 Andrew Scott

T, 2-4

R, 2-6

Article Summary

Gramsci

AS4 Sydni Bacon

S, 2-9

T, 2-11

Article Summary

West or Barthes

AS5 Madi Brillhart

Article Summary

Brecht

AS6

R, 2-13

R, 2-13

Close Reading

Brecht

CR3 Sydni Bacon

CR4 Maggie Waldmann

T, 2-18

R, 2-20

Article Summary

Lukács or Volpe

AS7 Sydney Miller

S, 2-23

T, 2-25

Article Summary

Adorno, "Commitment"

AS8 Shelby Snipes

Article Summary

Adorno, "The Schema of Mass Culture"

AS9 Cameron Hallman

T, 2-25

T, 2-25

Presentation: Adorno

PR1

T, 2-25

R, 2-27

Article Summary

Goldmann or Sartre

AS10 Bentley Brock

T, 3-3

R, 3-3

Close Reading

Cheever

CR5 Emma Boggs

CR6 Maddy Ender

CR7 Clair Korzekwa

Close Reading

Morrison

CR8 Madison Gowan

CR9 Christine Lane

R, 3-5

R, 3-5

Presentation: Althusser

PR2

T, 3-3
R, 3-5

Article Summary

Althusser

AS11

T, 3-10

T, 3-10

Close Reading

Ravenhill

CR10 Madi Brillhart

CR11 Sydney Miller

R, 3-12

R, 3-12

Close Reading

Parks

CR12 Katie Drummond

CR13 Jonesha Johnson

T, 3-10

R, 3-12

Article Summary

Balibar and Macherey

AS12 Madeline Ender

S, 3-29

T, 3-31

Article Summary

Eagleton, "Categories for a Materialist Criticism"

AS13 Christine Lane

Article Summary

Eagleton, "Towards a Science of the Text"

AS14 Emma Boggs

R, 4-2

R, 4-2

Close Reading

Schitts Creek

[The Theoretical Paper for these students is due R, 4-9]

CR14 Cameron Hallman

CR15 Shelby Snipes

S, 4-5

T, 4-7

Article Summary

Kornbluh, "Marxist Film Theory"

AS15 Madisen Gowan

T, 4-7

R, 4-9

Article Summary

Kornbluh, "Marxist Film Theory and Fight Club"

AS15 Isabelle Morris

R, 4-9

R, 4-9

Close Reading

Fight Club

CR16 Bentley Brock

CR17 Ben Stokes

S, 4-12

T, 4-14

Article Summary

Jameson

AS16 Kiersten Banks

Article Summary

The Marxist-Feminist Literature Collective

AS17 Catherine Dangler

T, 4-14

R, 4-16

Article Summary

Amuta or Callinicos

AS18 Katie Drummond

Article Summary

Ahmad

AS19 Jonesha Johnson

S, 4-19

T, 4-21

Article Summary

Burnham, "The Film Theory of Fredric Jameson"

AS20

T, 4-21

R, 4-23

Article Summary

Burnham, "How to Watch The Wolf of Wall Street"

AS21 Ben Stokes

R, 4-23

R, 4-23

Close Reading

The Wolf of Wall Street

CR18 Catherine Dangler

CR19 Isabelle Morris

Article Summary

GeorgiaVIEW Post

You will write an article summary and post it to GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Article Summary on the day before we are scheduled to discuss the article so I have time to read your response before class. Here is the presentation schedule.

 

The article summary, which will summarize a particular theorist's essay, should

Informal Presentation

You will also be responsible for a brief, informal presentation. The article summary presentation should introduce the essay by defining key points and terms (without simply reading your written summary) and broaching issues for class discussion. Coronavirus Update: TBA

Due Dates

  1. Your written assignment will be due in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Article Summary two days before we are scheduled to discuss an article. Summaries will be penalized one letter grade for each day, not class period, that they are turned in late. It is your responsibility to check the sign up schedule and complete the assignment on time.
  2. Your brief, informal presentation will be due on the day we discuss the essay in class. This date is approximate for we will sometimes fall a day behind. Failing to present the article to the class without providing a valid absence excuse will result in a one letter grade penalty.
  3. I will return your graded assignment to you in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Article Summary approximately one week after we discuss the article in class. Due to GeorgiaVIEW limitations, I am unable to return graded assignments to you unless and until you submit them to the Dropbox.
  4. For example, we are scheduled to discuss Trotsky on Thursday, 1-30. Therefore, someone's summary will be due in GeorgiaVIEW on Tuesday, 1-28. In class on Thursday, 1-30, that student will informally present the main ideas of Trotsky's essay. I will return the graded article summary to her the following week in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Article Summary. Due to GeorgiaVIEW limitations, I cannot return your graded paper unless and until you upload it to the Dropbox. Here's how to calculate your course grade.

Close Reading

You will collaborate with a classmate to analyze, using a Marxist critical approach to literature, a section of literary work (a poem, a short story, a play, a film, a television episode) in a formal 5-6 page paper and formal 7-10 minute presentation. Your essay and presentation should 1) do a close reading of a section of the literary work 2) from a Marxist perspective (i.e., discussing such content issues as socioeconomic class and ideology and/or such formal issues as genre and style) and 3) arguing the section's centrality to understanding the core conflicts and overall theme of the work it comes from. Your single, collaboratively written essay should be driven by a thesis that argues the work's issues and ideas from a Marxist perspective and logically organized by close reading of the text. Your well-organized presentation should clearly convey your ideas to the class, and each member should speak during the presentation.

Parameters

Exam

The take-home essay exam will test your understanding of Marxist literary theory and compel you to apply Marxist literary theory in interpreting a work of literature (a poem, a short story, a play, or a film). Feel free to use overviews by Terry Eagletom and Lois Tyson to support your understanding of general Marxist literary theory. Do not use a specific theorist more than once; discuss four specific theorists over the course of the exam.

Parameters

Theoretical Paper

While the essay exam required you to explain and apply Marxist criticism, the theoretical paper compels you to delve deeper into a specific aspect of Marxist literary theory by comparing and contrasting two theoretical articles covered in class. Where does the two theorists' Marxist approach to literature converge, and where does it diverge? What key idea do they share and how does that same idea set them apart? You may choose from any two theoretical articles by two specific theorists (Lenin, Trotsky, Vološinov, Benjamin, Block, Caudwell, Gramsci, West, Brecht, , Lukács, Volpe, Adorno, Goldmann, Sartre, Althusser, Williams, Balibar and Macheray), but not theorists you used in your exam. For instance, you could compare and contrast Gramsci's idea of cultural hegemony with Althusser's concept of ideological state apparatuses; or, you could compare and contrast how Bloch and Caudwell approach poetry; or, you could compare Sartre and Althusser's ideals regarding art; or, you could compare and contrast two particular theoretical approaches to a similar topic of your choosing.

Parameters

Research Paper

The exam tested your understanding of Marxist literary theory, the theoretical paper required you compare and contrast the work of two theorists, and the close reading asked you to look at a literary work through a general Marxist lens. In the 8-10 page research paper, you can either interpret a literary work of your choice outside of class but from any of the genres covered in class (poetry, fiction, drama, film, television) through the specific, complementary Marxist lens of 2-3 theorists on our syllabus and incorporate 3-4 scholarly criticisms (electronic journal articles, books, book chapters) to support your interpretation, or you can research and debate an issue pertinent to Marxist literary criticism using 2-3 theorists on our syllabus as a starting point and incorporating 3-4 scholarly criticisms (electronic journal articles, books, book chapters) of Marxist theory to support your analysis of the issue. In other words, write an 8-10 page research paper that either interprets a work of literature using Marxist literary theory or investigates an issue in Marxist literature theory. On Tuesday, April 14, you will submit a paragraph explaining your topic, research question (or thesis), and theoretical framework (what theoretical articles your paper will use).

 

Coronavirus Update: Although you are unable to obtain books and book chapters in print because the libraries are closed, there are a number of library databases in GALILEO, such as Ebooks Academic Collection and Ebook Central, that provide electronic academic books. In an effort to relieve some finals quarantine stress, the research paper page range is reduced by 25%: your essay should be 6-8 pages long, not included the Works Cited page.

Parameters

Book Review

While the annotated bibliography and presentation require you to research, evaluate, and teach a theorist, the book review compels you to read and evaluate an entire book of Marxist literary. After consulting with the professor on a suitable book (for instance a book from which our class is reading an excerpt, or another of your choosing), write a 8-10 page essay that summarizes the book's overall theoretical or critical claim and then evaluates the thesis and methodology. Your essay should both appreciate and interrogate the book. The GeorgiaVIEW course packet contains book reviews; and you can find more examples using GALILEO.

Parameters

Annotated Bibliography and Presentation

Graduates students will research a theorist, compose an annotated bibliography of at least 10 scholarly sources interpreting the theorist and her work, and teach the theorist's article to the class, i.e., lecture and moderate class discussion, with some help from one of the articles on the work. One week before the presentation/teaching demonstration, graduate students must meet with the professor to go over their lesson plan. The citations in the annotated bibliography should be formatted to MLA style, each annotation should be approximately 100 words long.

Parameters