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 2006, MW 5:30-6:45PM, Bingham Humanities Bldg 121


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, poststructuralism and deconstruction, Marxist criticism, psychoanalytic criticism, and phenomenology. 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, The Turn of the Screw, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Hamlet. Assignments include two article summaries with accompanying presentations and two take-home exams which review and debate the theories as well as apply the theories to works of literature not covered in the course. The dual aims of this course are 1) to learn the main currents in critical theory today and 2) to apply those theories in your own interpretive work. Note that this course's prerequisites include both English 102/105 and English 310 and assignments are graded on the plus/minus scale. I want you to do well in this class. I will guide class discussion, present concepts and modes of analysis, and assess assignments. I expect you to read and study the material, attend and participate in class regularly, turn assignments in on time, and approach assignments with intellectual curiosity, educational investment, and academic honesty.


Course Materials


required (UofL Bookstore)

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

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

James, The Turn of the Screw (Bedford/St. Martin's edition)

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)

articles on Chopin, 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.

two take-home exams, 40% and 50%, sequentially

You will take two take-home essay exams, which will require you to review, debate, and apply four of 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 Professor Email

I encourage you to stop by my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course. 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. When emailing me or any instructor, observe etiquette by including a salutation such as Dr. Blazer (though you may address me as Alex if you wish), using standard written English, and signing your name. I respond to student email once per weekday, and I do not use Blackboard's messages feature.

Blackboard and Student Email

We will be using Blackboard for some assignments and Netmail for class communication. It is your responsibility to update your passwords so you can use Blackboard and check your email for possible course related messages. I suggest that you forward your university email to your private email account (or vice versa) and review my Blackboard Basics handout.


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. I do not excuse any class missed beyond the four days, even if you are ill or participating in extracurricular activities. Therefore, I suggest you use your four days both cautiously and wisely; and make sure you sign the attendance sheets. Habitual tardies or consistently 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. I sparingly give short extensions if you request one for a valid need; however you must make the request at least one day before the assignment is due. I will inform you via email if I cannot open an electronically submitted assignment; however, your assignment will be considered late until you submit it in a file I can open. I neither read nor grade assignments that are turned in more than five days late for whatever reason, be it extension or computer error. Failing to submit (or resubmit) 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. Failing to submit (or resubmit) a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.

MLA Style

Since English 491 course is designed for English majors, take-home exams should adhere to the Modern Language Association (MLA) style. Discussion board responses may be informally formatted. One-third of a letter grade will be deducted from a take-home exam for problems in each of the following three categories: 1) heading, running header, and margins, 2) font and line-spacing, and 3) in-text quoting, block quoting, and citing sources. Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by referring to my FAQ on papers and using the checklist on the MLA style handout.


Do not 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. 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. I have recently caught seven plagiarists: six failed their respective courses, three did not graduate with their class, and one no longer attends UofL. Do not plagiarize.

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, writing@louisville.edu, 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, 1-9

Interpretive Theory

W, 1-11

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, "A New Critical Reading of TGG" (Tyson 134-49)

Week 2
M, 1-16
No Class: Martin Luther King Day
W, 1-18

Theory: Brooks, "The Heresy of Paraphrase"

"The Formalist Critics" (Leitch 1350-70)

Week 3
M, 1-23

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

Wimsatt and Beardsley, "The Intentional Fallacy"

"The Affective Fallacy" (Leitch 1371-1402)

W, 1-25


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

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

Murfin, "What Is Deconstruction?" (Shakespeare 283-96)

Criticism: Tyson on Fitzgerald, "A Deconstructive Reading of TGG" (Tyson 261-74)

Week 4
M, 1-30

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, 2-1

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

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

Week 5
M, 2-6

Theory: de Man, "Semiology and Rhetoric"

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

Criticism: Felman on James, from "Turning the Screw of Interpretation" (online)

W, 2-8

Theory: Derrida, from Of Grammatology

from Dissemination (Leitch 1815-76)

Criticism: Herr on Joyce, "Deconstructing Dedalus" (Joyce 338-60 or online)

Week 6

M, 2-13

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

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

Criticism: Garber on Shakespeare, "H: Giving Up the Ghost" (Shakespeare 297-331)

W, 2-15


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

Murfin, "What is Marxist Criticism?" (Shakespeare 332-44)

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

Criticism: Tyson on Fitgerald, "A Marxist Reading of TGG" (Tyson 66-77)

Week 7
M, 2-20

Theory: Lukács, "Realism in the Balance" (Leitch 1030-58)

Criticism: Rowe on Chopin, "The Economics of the Body in KC's TA" (online)

Exam 1 Due

W, 2-22

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

Criticism: Robbins on James, "The Unfinished History of TToS" (James 333-46)

Week 8
M, 2-27

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

Criticism: Naremore on Joyce, "Consciousness and Society in APotA" (online)

W, 3-1

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 H" (Shakespeare 348-67)
Week 9
M, 3-6

Theory: Jameson, from "The Political Unconscious"

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

W, 3-8


Overview: Tyson, "Psychoanalytic Criticism" (Tyson 13-47)

Murfin, "What Is Psychoanalytic Criticism?" (Joyce 235-46)

Theory: Freud, from The Interpretation of Dreams

"The 'Uncanny'"

"Fetishism" (Leitch 913-55)

"Repression" (online)

"The Unconscious" (online)

Criticism: Tyson on Fitzgerald, "A Psychoanalytic Reading of TGG" (Tyson 34-44)

Week 10
M, 3-13
No Class: Spring Break
W, 3-15
No Class: Spring Break
Week 11
M, 3-20

No Class: Professor Out of Town

W, 3-22

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

Lacan, "The Mirror Stage"

from "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious"

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

Criticism: Renner on James, "Sexual Hysteria . . . in TTotS" (James 271-90)

McGowan on Chopin, "TA of Desire" (online)

***Note: Due to my unexpected business trip, we will fall behind schedule for a couple of classes.

Week 12
M, 3-27

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

Criticism: Brivic on Joyce, "The Disjunctive Structure of J's P" (Joyce 251-67)

W, 3-29

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

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

Criticism: Adelman on Shakespeare, "H and the Confrontation with the Maternal Body" (Shakespeare 256-82)

Week 13
M, 4-3
Theory: Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (Leitch 2179-92)
W, 4-5

Phenomenology and Existentialism

Overview: Magliola, from Phenomenology and Literature (online)

Solomon, Introduction, Existentialism (online)

Theory: Iser, "Interaction between Text and Reader" (Leitch 1670-82)

Criticism: Parr on Fitzgerald, "The Idea of Order at West Egg" (online)

Week 14
M, 4-10

Theory: Poulet, "Phenomenology of Reading" (Leitch 1317-33)

Criticism: Parvulescu on Chopin, "To Die Laughing and to Laugh at Dying: Revisiting TA" (online)

W, 4-12

Theory: Heidegger, "Language" (1118-34)

Criticism: Sussman on James, "James: Twists of the Governness" (online)

Week 15
M, 4-17

***Meet in Bingham Humanities Bldg 100 due to classroom renovation

Theory: Sartre, from What Is Literature? (Leitch 1333-49)

Criticism: Price on Joyce, "The Beauty of Mortal Conditions: J’s APotA" (online)

W, 4-19

***Meet in Bingham Humanities Bldg 100 due to classroom renovation

Theory: de Beauvoir, from The Second Sex (1403-14)

Criticism: Bielmeier on Shakespeare, "Hamlet, King of Infinite Space" (online)

Week 16
M, 4-24
No Class: Extended Office Hours 4:30-7:30
W, 4-26
Exam 2 Due