Dr. Alex E. Blazer Course Site Assignments Description
Materials Assignments Policies Schedule


Critical Theory

English 491-75: Interpretive Theory: The New Criticism to the Present

Spring 2005, MW: 7:00-8:15PM, Bingham Humanities Bldg 103


Professor: Alex E. Blazer Office: Bingham Humanities Bldg 335A
Mailbox: Bingham Humanities Bldg 315 Office Hours: MW 3:30-5:00PM
Email: alex.blazer@louisville.edu Office Phone: 852-2185
Web: www.louisville.edu/~a0blaz01/ Departmental Phone: 852-6801


Course Description


Starting with the New Criticism, literary interpretation took on a level of analysis beyond simply discussing the author's intent. New Criticism formalized and codified interpretation, and the movements that came after it further systematized such methods, with an additional self-conscious understanding of the critic's position with regard to the text. At the beginning of the new century, not only does the critic interpret literature, but she also theorizes the acts of reading, writing, and (making) meaning. This course surveys the transformation from criticism to theory as it introduces various methods of interpretation from the twentieth century, including the New Criticism, Marxist criticism, psychoanalytic criticism, structuralism and semiotics, and poststructuralism and deconstruction. For each theory, we will read and discuss 1) an overview of the method in Critical Theory Today, 2) a number of theoretical articles in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, and 3) exemplary criticism on The Awakening, The Great Gatsby, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Hamlet. Assignments include two article summaries with accompanying presentations and three take-home exams which review and debate the theories as well as apply the theories to works of literature not covered in the course. Note that this course is graded on a plus and minus grade scale and its prerequisites include both English 102/105 and English 310.


Course Materials


required (UofL Bookstore)

Chopin, The Awakening (Bedford/St. Martin's edition)

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Bedford/St. Martin's edition)

Leitch, ed. et al, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism

Shakespeare, Hamlet (Bedford/St. Martin's edition)

Tyson, Critical Theory Today

required (online)

Moody, "Ineluctable Modality of the Vaginal"

articles on Chopin, Fitzgerald, Joyce, and Shakespeare


Assignments and Grade Distribution


two article summaries and presentations, 5% each

You will summarize on Blackboard and then present to the class two essays, one theoretical and one interpretive.

three take-home exams, 20%, 30%, and 40%, sequentially

You will take three take-home essay exams, which will require you to review, debate, and apply the five theoretical methodologies.


Course Policies


Class Participation

We're going to be working with challenging works of critical theory; therefore, we'll all benefit from sharing our questions and ideas. If I feel that the majority of the class isn't participating because they're not keeping up with the reading, I reserve the right to give pop quizzes and reweight the other assignments accordingly.

Office Hours and Instructor Email

I encourage you to stop by my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course, literature, or life. I'm happy to answer small questions such as due dates over email, but I prefer face-to-face conversations for more substantive topics like papers and exams. I do not regularly check my email on weekends, and I do not use Blackboard's messages feature.

Blackboard and University Email

We will be using Blackboard and Netmail for class communication and assignments. Have your university email forwarded to your private email or vice versa. You can review the Blackboard student manual and student login instructions for Blackboard and Netmail at Blackboard @ UofL as well as my Blackboard Basics.


There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every absence beyond four days. Therefore, missing five class periods will result in a one letter final grade deduction and missing eight classes will result in automatic failure of the course. Habitual tardies and leaving class early will be treated as absences.

Late Assignments

There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day, not class period, for any assignment that is turned in late. Failing to turn in an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade within five days, not class periods, of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.


Don't do it. Using someone else's words, ideas, or work without proper citation and representing it as your own is the most serious of academic offenses. See the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Sections 5 and 6 on page 17 of the 2004-2006 Undergraduate Catalog for further information. Proven plagiarism can result in a failing grade for the assignment or the course and will be reported to the College of Arts & Sciences for further action, which can include notice in the permanent record, dismissal, or expulsion.

Failure of the Course

There are three ways to fail the course: 1) failing to regularly attend class, 2) plagiarizing, 3) failing an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade, be it from poor quality, lateness of submission, or a combination of poor quality and lateness.

Disabilities Resource Center

If you have any specific needs or concerns, please feel free to discuss the issue with me outside of class. Contact the Disabilities Resource Center (Robbins Hall, 852-6938) for information and auxiliary aid.

Writing Center

The Writing Center (Ekstrom Library, Room 312, 852-2173) provides drop-in assistance for planning, drafting, revising, and editing papers.


Course Schedule


This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.


Week 1
M, 1-10

Interpretive Theory

W, 1-12

New Criticism

Overview: Tyson, "Everything You Wanted to Know about Critical Theory" (Tyson 1-12)

Tyson, "New Criticism" (117-52)

Theory: Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent"

"The Metaphysical Poets" (Leitch 1088-1104)

Criticism: Tyson on Fitzgerald, "The 'deathless song' of Longing" (Tyson 134-49)

For Fun: Moody, "Ineluctable Modality of the Vaginal" (online)

Week 2
M, 1-17

No Class: Martin Luther King Day

W, 1-19

Theory: Brooks, "The Heresy of Paraphrase"

"The Formalist Critics" (Leitch 1350-70)

Week 3
M, 1-24

Theory: Ransom, "Criticism, Inc." (Leitch 1105-17)

Wimsatt and Beardsley, "The Intentional Fallacy"

"The Affective Fallacy" (Leitch 1371-1402)

W, 1-26


Overview: Tyson, Ch3 "Marxist Criticism" (Tyson 49-80)

Theory: Trotsky, from Literature and Revolution (Leitch 1002-17)

Criticism: Tyson on Fitgerald, "You Are What You Own" (Tyson 66-77)

Week 4
M, 1-31
Theory: Lukács, "Realism in the Balance" (Leitch 1030-58)
W, 2-2

Theory: Horkheimer and Adorno, from Dialectic of Enlightenment (Leitch 1220-40)

Criticism: Rowe on Chopin, "The Economics of the Body in...The Awakening" (online)

Week 5
M, 2-7

Theory: Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (Leitch 1163-86)

Criticism: Naremore on Joyce, "Consciousness and Society in A Portrait of the Artist" (online)

W, 2-9

Theory: Althusser, "A Letter on Art in Reply to André Daspre"

from "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" (Leitch 1476-1509)

Gramsci, "The Formation of the Intellectuals" (Leitch 1135-43)

Criticism: Bristol on Shakespeare, "Carnival and the Carnivalesque in Hamlet" (332-67)

Week 6

M, 2-14

Theory: Jameson, from "The Political Unconscious"

"Postmodernism and Consumer Society" (Leitch 1932-74)

W, 2-16


Overview: Tyson, "Psychoanalytic Criticism" (Tyson 13-48)

Theory: Freud, from The Interpretation of Dreams

"The 'Uncanny'"

"Fetishism" (Leitch 913-55)

Criticism: Tyson on Fitzgerald, "What's Love Got to Do with It?" (Tyson 34-44)

Exam 1 Due

Week 7
M, 2-21

Theory: Jung, "On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry" (987-1002)

Bloom, Introduction, The Anxiety of Influence (Leitch 1794-1805)

Criticism: McGowan on Chopin, "The Awakening of Desire" (online)

W, 2-23

Theory: Lacan, "The Mirror Stage"

from "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious"

"The Signification of the Phallus" (Leitch 1278-1310)

Week 8
M, 2-28

Theory: Kristeva, from Revolution in Poetic Language (Leitch 2165-78)

Criticism: Brivic on Joyce, "The Disjunctive Structure of Joyce's Portrait" (Joyce 235-67)

W, 3-2

Theory: Deleuze and Guattari, from Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature

from A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Leitch 1593-1608)

Criticism: Adelman on Shakespeare, "Hamlet and the Confrontation with the Maternal Body" (241-82)

Week 9
M, 3-7

Theory: Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (Leitch 2179-92)

W, 3-9

Structuralism and Semiotics

Overview: Tyson, "Structuralist Criticism" (Tyson 197-240)

Theory: Saussure, from Course in General Linguistics (Leitch 956-77)

Criticism: Tyson on Fitzgerald, "'Seek and Ye Shall Find'" (Tyson 226-37)

Week 10
M, 3-14
No Class: Spring Break
W, 3-16
No Class: Spring Break
Week 11
M, 3-21

Theory: Jakobson, from "Linguistics and Poetics"

from "Two Aspects of Language and . . . Aphasic Disturbances" (Leitch 1254-68)

Lévi-Strauss, "A Writing Lesson" (Leitch 1415-26)

Criticism: Mathews on Chopin, "Fashioning the Hybrid Woman" (online)

W, 3-23

Theory: Frye, "The Archetypes of Literature" (Leitch 1442-56)

Todorov, "Structural Analysis of Narrative" (Leitch 2097-2106)

Criticism: Mitchell on Joyce, "A Portrait and the Bildungsroman Tradition" (online)

Week 12
M, 3-28

Theory: Barthes, from Mythologies

"The Death of the Author"

"From Work to Text" (Leitch 1457-1475)

Criticism: Ferguson on Shakespeare, "Hamlet: Letters and Spirits" (online)

W, 3-30

Poststructuralism and Deconstruction

Overview: Tyson, "Deconstructive Criticism" (Tyson 241-276)

Criticism: Tyson on Fitzgerald, "the thrilling, returning trains of my youth" (Tyson 261-74)

Exam 2 Due

Week 13
M, 4-4

Theory: Foucault, "What Is an Author?"

from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

from The History of Sexuality, Volume 1, An Introduction

from "Truth and Power" (Leitch 1615-70)

W, 4-6

Theory: Butler, from Gender Trouble (Leitch 2485-2501)

Criticism: Yaeger on Chopin, "'A Language Which Nobody Understood'" (Chopin 291-336)

Week 14
M, 4-11

No Class: Instructor out of Town

W, 4-13

Theory: de Man, "Semiology and Rhetoric"

"The Return to Philology" (Leitch 1509-31)

Criticism: Herr on Joyce, "Deconstructing Dedalus" (Joyce 326-60)

Garber on Shakespeare, "Hamlet: Giving Up the Ghost" (Shakespeare 283-331)

Week 15
M, 4-18

Theory: Derrida, from Of Grammatology

from Dissemination (Leitch 1815-76)

W, 4-20

Theory: Derrida, continued

Roundtable of Final Exam Criticism Topics

M, 4-25

Theory: Baudrillard, from "The Precession of Simulacra" (Leitch 1729-40)

Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa" (Leitch 2035-55)

Tyson, Ch12 "Gaining an Overview" (Tyson 423-31)

W, 4-27
Exam 3 Due by 8:30PM