Introduction to Theory of Literature

Open Yale


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This is a survey of the main trends in twentieth-century literary theory. Lectures will provide background for the readings and explicate them where appropriate, while attempting to develop a coherent overall context that incorporates philosophical and social perspectives on the recurrent questions: what is literature, how is it produced, how can it be understood, and what is its purpose?

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What you'll learn on the course

Configurative Reading
New Criticism
Western Formalisms
Russian Formalism

Course programme

Lecture 1 Introduction

Lecture 2 Introduction (cont.)

Lecture 3 Ways In and Out of the Hermeneutic Circle

Lecture 4 Configurative Reading

Lecture 5 The Idea of the Autonomous Artwork

Lecture 6 The New Criticism and Other Western Formalisms

Lecture 7 Russian Formalism

Lecture 8 Semiotics and Structuralism

Lecture 9 Linguistics and Literature

Lecture 10 Deconstruction I

Lecture 11 Deconstruction II

Lecture 12 Freud and Fiction

Lecture 13 Jacques Lacan in Theory

Lecture 14 Influence

Lecture 15 The Postmodern Psyche

Lecture 16 The Social Permeability of Reader and Text

Lecture 17 The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory

Lecture 18 The Political Unconscious

Lecture 19 The New Historicism

Lecture 20 The Classical Feminist Tradition

Lecture 21 African-American Criticism

Lecture 22 Post-Colonial Criticism

Lecture 23 Queer Theory and Gender Performativity

Lecture 24 The Institutional Construction of Literary Study

Lecture 25 The End of Theory?; Neo-Pragmatism

Lecture 26 Reflections; Who Doesn't Hate Theory Now?