Professor Maurice A. Pomerantz
Room A2 018
Spring 2017: 4.0 Credit Hours
Tuesday/Thursday, 1:15-2:30
Office: A2 room 1129
phone: 85290
Office hours: Tues. 4-5 or by appointment


This course is an introduction to the central questions and problems that drive literary studies. Drawing upon a long history of theoretical approaches, we will consider such questions as: What is literature? What is a text? What does a literary critic or scholar do? What does it mean to translate literature or to read literature in translation? How does language shape meaning? How do we construct meaning from a text—and when we do, what is the basis for our interpretation?

This class will engage these questions through two modes of engagement with the methods of literary studies and the frameworks that structure the discipline: 1) We will read widely, from primary theoretical and critical texts in order to trace the continuity, innovations, and intersections of key methodologies of literary studies. The course begins with the overarching problem of “literature” and considers the terms that define key problems such as “language,” “translation”, “text,” ending with “interpretation,” a keyword that returns us to the question of how literature continues to be crafted and redefined. 2) We will explore particular practices of literary scholarship that offer necessary skills for your own creative and critical practice. Short or longer-term, this course will prepare you for your Capstone project, helping you to engage with some of the central problems and methods of literary studies, which will also help you to situate your own work within the histories—and ongoing transformations—of literary thinking.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who complete this course will: understand major current problems, questions, and critical approaches to literary study; draw upon theoretical approaches to understand how texts function in cultural, historical, ideological, aesthetic and formal terms; evaluate the utility of varying critical approaches for specific texts or literary periods and select appropriate theoretical paradigms; know how to assess the state of a particular scholarly question or problem; know how to explore a topic by identifying archives and conducting relevant research; survey methodological innovations and engage texts using, as appropriate, digital resources.

Teaching and Learning Methodologies:

This course is structured as a seminar, informed by extensive engagement with theoretical and critical texts and dependent upon all participants to engage in vigorous discussion. Writing assignments for the course vary in length and technique, allowing students to synthesize their thinking and examine a research question from different angles. Each student’s engagement culminates in a term paper that affords the opportunity for sustained argument incorporating textual evidence, critical analysis, and theoretical approaches.

Required Texts:

Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2011)
The Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism, 2nd edition (Norton, 2010)


1.) Class participation (10%): This course is a seminar, a format that depends for success upon vigorous and thoughtful discussion from all participants. The instructor may occasionally give a short quiz at the beginning of class to gauge comprehension of the readings. Please come to class prepared to offer a question, or several places in the text which you feel might be worthy of serious discussion.

2.) Short Responses (10%) As Assigned. The night before each class (prior to 12 midnight) you will submit to the instructor a reflection on the next day’s reading of approximately 500-600 words. This reflection may include several of the following elements:

a.) A summary of the reading
b.) An explication of a key passage of the reading
c.) A series of key questions
d.) A response to a central question raised by the reading

3.) Presentation (10%) As Assigned. Over the course of the semester you will be responsible two times for beginning our class discussion: you will introduce the texts and their key ideas, offer around 5 guiding questions for our seminar conversation, and lead the discussion for about 10-15 minutes. Think aloud and help us engage with your ideas.

4.) Keyword Assignment 1 (10%): One short paper (5 pp. /1500 words) will ask you to rewrite an entry on a keyword. For this assignment it will be the entry, “Literature,” from Raymond Williams’ Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Raymond Williams, Keywords For a description of the Assignment

5.) Mid-term (20%): (10 pp. 2000 words)

6.) Annotated bibliography (10%) For this assignment it will be a keyword that is not found in Raymond Williams’ Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. For a description of the Assignment Raymond Williams, Keywords

7.) Final (30%): The final exam will involve both identifications and an essay question .

Classroom Etiquette and Expectations: Punctuality is mandatory: late admittance to the classroom will not be permitted. Attendance will be taken at each class. Please inform me beforehand if for any reason you are unable to attend. More than three absences may result in a failing grade for the course. Except for necessary use during critical exercises or student presentations, all electronic devices must remain silent and out of sight during the class period.

Class Schedule

<2017-01-24 Tue 13:15-14:30>
**** Introduction and Review of Syllabus
<2017-01-26 Thu 13:15-14:30>
Culler, Ch. 1 “What is theory?” and Chapter 2, “What is literature and does it matter?”


<2017-01-31 Tue 13:15-14:30>
Plato, from Book VII and X of The Republic (Norton 60-77)
<2017-02-02 Thu 13:15-14:30>
Aristotle, “Poetics” (Norton 88-117)
Percy Bysshe Shelley, from A Defence of Poetry (Norton 595-613)
Terry Eagleton, “The Rise of English” (Norton 2140-5)
<2017-02-07 Tue 13:15-14:30>
Erich Auerbach, from Mimesis (Norton 1030-1046)
Erich Auerbach, “Philology and Weltliteratur” pdf
David Damrosch, Chapter 1&2 from How to Read World Literature pdf
<2017-02-09 Thu 13:15-14:30> NO CLASS
<2017-02-14 Tue 13:15-14:30>
Ferdinand de Saussure, from A Course in General Linguistics (Norton 850-63)
J. L. Austin, “Performative Utterances” (Norton 1289-1300)
Culler, Ch. 7, “Performative Language.”
<2017-02-16 Thu 13:15-14:30> P&M
Friedrich Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense” (Norton 764-73)
Volosinov, from Marxism and the Philosophy of Language pdf
Unit 3: TEXT
<2017-02-21 Tue 13:15-14:30> P&M
Michel Foucault, “What Is an Author?” (Norton 1475-89)
Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” and “From Work to Text” (Norton 1322-32)
Short Paper is due.
<2017-02-23 Thu 13:15-14:30> P&M
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility” (Norton 1051-71)
Moretti, “Conjectures on World Literature”
<2017-02-28 Tue 13:15-14:30> P&M
What is a Translation?
Roman Jakobson, “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation” pdf
Lawrence Venuti, “The Translator’s Invisibility” pdf Chapter 1 only.
<2017-03-02 Thu 13:15-14:30> P&M
Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator.” pdf
Abdelfattah Kilito, Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language. Chapters 1 and 2 Trans. Wail S. Hassan (Syracuse, 2008) pdf
<2017-03-07 Tue 13:15-14:30>
<2017-03-09 Thu 13:15-14:30>
 No Classes: Final Exams for 7-week courses
<2017-03-28 Tue 13:15-14:30>
 Barbara Cassin, Untranslateables [pdf]
 Kwame Anthony Appiah, “Thick Translation”

<2017-03-30 Thu 13:15-14:30>
David Damrosch, “Translation and World Literature.”
Michael Cronin, “The Translation Age.”

<2017-04-04 Tue 13:15-14:30>
Friedrich Schleiermacher, “Hermeneutics: The 1819 Lectures.” (Norton 520-36)
Jacques Derrida, from “Of Grammatology” (Norton 1688-96)
<2017-04-06 Thu 13:15-14:30>
Sigmund Freud, from The Interpretation of Dreams and The Uncanny (Norton 1152-5)
Keyword Proposal Due
 <2017-04-11 Tue 13:15-14:30>
Roland Barthes, “Mythologies” (Norton 1320-1)
Louis Althusser, from On Ideology (Norton 1348-1357)
Frederic Jameson, “Preface” to The Political Unconscious (Norton 1822-1826)
<2017-04-13 Thu 13:15-14:30>
Simone de Beauvoir, from The Second Sex (Norton 1265-72)
Monique Wittig, “One is Not Born a Woman” (Norton 1906-12)
Judith Butler, from Gender Trouble (Norton 2540-53)
Keyword Due
<2017-04-18 Tue 13:15-14:30>
Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (Norton 2084-94)
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (Norton 2114-26)
Lisa Lowe, “Work, Immigration, Gender: New Subjects of Cultural Politics” (Norton 2519-2536)
<2017-04-20 Thu 13:15-14:30> P&M
Frantz Fanon, “The Fact of Blackness” pdf
Paul Gilroy, from The Black Atlantic (Norton 2556-74)
<2017-04-25 Tue 13:15-14:30> Orientalism and Empire
Edward Said, from Orientalism (Norton 1866-88)
Edward Said, “Jane Austen and Empire” (Norton 1888-1903)
<2017-04-27 Thu 13:15-14:30> Comparison
Haun Saussy, “Axes of Comparison,”
Susan Stanford Friedman, “Why not Compare?”
<2017-05-02 Tue 13:15-14:30> Literary History

|From David Perkins, Is Literary History Possible?

<2017-05-04 Thu 13:15-14:30> Narratology
Mieke Bal, “Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative.”
Narratology in Films
<2017-05-09 Tue 13:15-14:30> Aesthetics
Sianne Ngai, “The Cuteness of the Avant Garde.”pdf
<2017-05-11 Thu 13:15-14:30>
 John Berger, “Why Look at Animals?” pdf
Sara Salih, “The Animal You See: Zoos in Gaza” pdf
Final Paper Due