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ENG 514: Studies in Critical Theories
Prof. Naomi Mandel

This course will serve as an introduction to and survey of contemporary critical theory. After tracing the development of seminal approaches to mimesis from ancient times to the present day, we will focus on theories of structuralism and poststructuralism that have powerfully influenced contemporary critical theory, analyzing the operations of critical theories in writings about gender, ideology and history.

Required Texts:    The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism
Additional Texts on reserve: marked with an * on the syllabus and can be accessed via electronic reserve at the library.

Readings are distinguished between recommended and required. I will be referring to the recommended readings throughout the lectures, and you will be expected to be conversant with them in order to produce passable presentations and essays in this course. Think of the required texts as primary texts, and the recommended readings as secondary texts: both are necessary, but we read them differently.

Schedule (subject to change)

January 22: Introduction

January 28: Sign and Structure in the Mimetic Tradition
Plato from The Republic
Aristotle Poetics
Longinus “On Sublimity”   

February 4: Truth and Art, Symbol and Form
Augustine from On Christian Doctrine
Maimonides from Guide to the Perplexed
Corneille “Of the Three Unities of Action, Time and Place”
Sidney, "An Apology for Poetry"
Kant from Critique of Judgment
Hegel from Phenomenology of Spirit*
Wordsworth, "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads
Kojeve, from Introduction to the Reading of Hegel*

February 11: The Foundations of Anti-Foundationalism
Marx and Engels from “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844”; from The German Ideology; from The Communist Manifesto; from Capital.
Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense”
Freud, from The Interpretations of Dreams; “Fetishism"; “Mourning and Melancholia”*

February 18: NO CLASS (Monday classes meet)

February 25: Legacy of Nietzsche: Structuralism, Post-Structuralism
Saussure from Course in General Linguistics: Introduction, Part One.
Bakhtin, from Discourse in the Novel
Barthes, from Mythologies; “The Death of the Author,” "From Work to Text"
White, “The Historical Text as Literary Artifact”
Derrida, “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”*, from On Grammatology

March 4: Legacy of Freud
Lacan, “The Mirror Stage”; from “The Agency of the Letter in the
Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa”
Bloom, from The Anxiety of Influence
Gilbert and Gubar, from The Madwoman in the Attic
Mulvey, from Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema
Sedgewick, from Between Men; from Epistemology of the Closet
March 11: Legacy of Marx
Althussar, from “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”
Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”
Horkheimer and Adorno, “from The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass
Williams, from Marxism and Literature   
Bakhtin, from Discourse in the Novel
Fanon, from The Wretched of the Earth
Bourdieu, from Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste


March 25: Legacy of Nietzsche Part 2: Foucault
Foucault, “What Is an Author?”; from Discipline and Punish; from History of
Sexuality; from “Truth and Power”

April 1: Legacy of Kant           
Brooks: from The Well Wrought Urn, “The Formalist Critics”
Wimsatt and Beardsley, “The Intentional Fallacy,” “The Affective Fallacy”
Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”   
Herrnstein Smith, from Contingencies of Value
Burke, "Kinds of Criticism"   

April 8: Theories of the Postmodern
Lyotard, “Defining the Postmodern”
Baudrillard, from The Precession of Simulacra
Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”
hooks, “Postmodern Blackness”
Moulthrop, “You Say You Want A Revolution? Hypertext and the Laws of

April 15: From the Margins
Achebe, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”
Said, from Orientalism
Spivak, from A Critique of Postcolonial Reason
Gates, “Talking Black: Critical Signs of the Times”
Bhabha, “The Commitment to Theory”
Christian, “The Race for Theory”

April 22: Enter/Exit the Body                       
Merleau-Ponty, from Phenomenology of Perception*
Butler, from Gender Trouble
Bordo, from Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body
Davis, from “Visualizing the Disabled Body: The Classical Nude and the
Fragmented Torso”
Hayles, from How We Became Posthuman*
Massumi, from Parables for the Virtual*

April 29: Catch-up; Presentations

Course Requirements:

Although this is a lecture class, I will expect you to have read the texts assigned for each class meeting and be present at each class armed with questions and comments.

Additional requirements for this course are as follows:

Option #1:
  • Midterm 40%    
  • Final 60%   
(both exams are take-home, short-essay style)


Option #2:
  • Annotated Bibliography    20%
  • Presentation        20%    (on one of the “Issues and Topics” in the Norton’s
  • “Alternative Table of Contents”)
  • Paper (12-15 pages)    60%    (based on the presentation)

If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact me within the first two weeks of class. For further assistance, please contact the staff at:
Disabilities Services for Students (in the Office of Student Life) 330 Memorial Union
 874-2098; Web:



This page last updated:12/25/2008 by: Naomi Mandel

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