ENGL 3806-Literary Theory
Dr. Dennis Desroches; EC 116; Phone: 460-0364; Office: T/Th, 2:00-3:45


What exactly are we doing when we interpret or criticize something, whether that something is a literary text or a cultural phenomenon? What are the criteria by which we determine what is known, and thus what remains unknown-is knowledge really only that which is prescribed as knowable (by, for example, university professors)?

Such questions have been the focus for Western thought-in one form or another-for at least two millennia, and this course looks to familiarize the student with some of the larger trends of intellectual work in this vein. Thus, this course addresses the questions above (and others) from the point of view of a range of historical, philosophical, theological, sociological, literary-in a word, interdisciplinary-perspectives, whose overarching thematic has been to understand not simply how we know, but how we are.

It may seem as if I've described a course from just about any discipline but English, and in an important sense, this is precisely the case. For the fact remains that literary output over the past 2000 years has been intimately involved with the very modes of thought that have oriented questioning in other disciplines. It should be no surprise, then, that in order to think about literature, and the kind of knowledge it produces, we are by necessity drawn into the broader transhistorical and interdisciplinary space of Western thought as a whole. This is where literary theory finds its home, and where we shall be making ours for the next 8 months. Look forward to encountering some of the most important thinkers, and some of the most difficult texts, that Western culture has produced in the last 2000 years.

Required Texts
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch, 2001.

Attendance and Punctuality
ENGL 3806-Literary Theory promises to be one of the most difficult courses you will ever take. It behooves you, then, to make attendance in this class a very high priority. You are permitted 8 absences for the year, no questions asked. Subsequent absences, explicable or not, will produce a 0 for your participation grade. Upon reaching a total of 10 absences for the course, you will forfeit the pleasure of submitting the final paper. Punctuality is also a necessity for my course-if you think that you may have a hard time making it to class on time, please talk to me in advance. Being late by 2 or more minutes will count as 1 absence, so be punctual!

Lateness Policy
It is impossible to hand in anything late in this course, in the sense that an assignment would be penalized for transgressing a specific due date. However, any material handed in after a due date will not receive any commentary-just a letter grade (see reading schedule for specific due dates). Do keep in mind, too, that I will take no material from you after April 12th, the day before the examination period begins.

Should you undertake to plagiarize an essay, your punishment will be most dire. For the many and varied ways in which you will be disciplined, please consult the STU 2004-2005 Calendar, pages 244-246. Please do not hesitate to talk to me if you have any questions regarding plagiarism, or the various forms of punishment attendant thereupon.

Mark Distribution:
5 Journal Assignments (Term 1&2): 50% (described in separate hand-out)
Final Essay: 40%
Class Participation: 10%

Provisional Reading Schedule-Term 1


9. Introduction
14. Plato-Republic, X
16. Plato-Ion
21. Aristotle-Poetics
23. Aristotle-Poetics
28. St. Augustine-On Christian Doctrine; The Trinity
30. Maimonides-The Guide of the Perplexed


5. St. Thomas Aquinas-Summa Theologica
7. St. Thomas Aquinas-Summa Theologica
12. Landing Place
19. Phillip Sidney-An Apology for Poetry; Percy Bysshe Shelley-A
Defence of Poetry Journal Exercise Due
21. Pope-An Essay on Criticism
26. Johnson-The Rambler; The History of Rasselas
28. Kant-Critique of Judgment


2. Kant-Critique of Judgment
4. Kant-Critique of Judgment
9. Schiller-On the Aesthetic Education of Man
16. Hegel-Lecture on Fine Art
18. Hegel-The Master-Slave Dialectic
23. Nietzsche-On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense
25. Grundrisse; Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
30. Capital

2. Landing Place; Journal Exercise Due

Provisional Reading Schedule-Term 2


4. Marx-Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts; The German Ideology; The Communist Manifesto
6. Horkheimer and Adorno-The Culture Industry
11. Horkheimer and Adorno-The Culture Industry
13. Jameson-Postmodernism and Consumer Society
18. Freud-The Interpretation of Dreams
20. Freud-The Interpretation of Dreams
25. Lacan-The Mirror Stage
27. Lacan-The Signification of the Phallus; Journal Exercise Due


1. Foucault-History of Sexuality
3. Foucault-History of Sexuality
8. Foucault-History of Sexuality
10. Foucault-History of Sexuality
15. Sedgwick-Epistemology of the Closet
17. Sedgwick-Epistemology of the Closet
22. Butler-Gender Trouble
24. Butler-Gender Trouble-Journal Exercise Due


1. Saussure-Course in General Linguistics
3. Saussure-Course in General Linguistics-MAJOR ESSAY DUE
15. Heidegger-Language
17. Heidegger-Language
22. Plato-Phaedrus
24. Derrida-Plato's Pharmacy
29. Derrida-Plato's Pharmacy
31. Derrida-Plato's Pharmacy

5. Haraway-Journal Exercise Due
7. Review