Junior Colloquium in Literary Theory

Comparative Literature and Society V3950, 4.0 points, Spring 2005

Prof. David Goldfarb

Time/location: TR 11:00-12:15, Milbank 227
Office Hours: R 3:00-4:00 and by appointment, 226a Milbank

18 Jan.—Introduction: The study of literary theory.

20 Jan.—Roman Jakobson, “The Dominant” and “Linguistics and Poetics,” Jonathan Culler, “The Literary in Theory”

Mimesis: Art and Nature

25 Jan.—Plato from Republic III and X

27 Jan.—Republic (cont’d) and Ion

1 Feb.—Aristotle Poetics I

8 Feb.—Plato and Aristotle (cont’d). Sir Philip Sydney from “A Defence of Poetry”

10 Feb.—Immanuel Kant from Critique of Judgment (41-134, Meredith tr.)

15 Feb.—Kant

17 Feb.—Erich Auerbach, “Odysseus’ Scar.”

1 Mar.—J. L. Austin, from How to Do Things with Words, 1-24, 45-52, 94-108, 116-20, 148-64.

3 Mar.—J.-F. Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, 3-82.


8 Mar.— Sigmund Freud “Dostoevsky and Parricide.” Wimsatt and Beardsley, “The Intentional Fallacy.” PAPER I DUE.

10 Mar.—Henry James, 1937 prefaces from Portrait of a Lady and The Golden Bowl in The Art of the Novel.


22 Mar.—Harold Bloom, “Clinamen or Poetic Misprision” from The Anxiety of Influence.

24 Mar.—T. S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” “Hamlet and his Problems”; Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” (1968) from Image, Music, Text.


29 Mar.—Horace, “Ars Poetica”; Quintillian from Instituto Oratoria; Roman Jakobson, “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances.”

31 Mar.—Ferdinand de Saussure from Course in General Linguistics.

5 Apr.—Mikhail Bakhtin, “Epic and Novel.”

7 Apr.—Georg Lukács from The Theory of the Novel.

12 Apr.—Claude Lévi-Strauss “A Writing Lesson.”

14 Apr.—Jacques Derrida from Of Grammatology.


19 Apr.—Wimsatt and Beardsley, “The Affective Fallacy”; Walter Pater from Studies in the History of the Renaissance.

21 Apr.—Wolfgang Iser from The Implied Reader.

26 Apr.—Edward Said “The World, the Text , and the Critic.”

28 Apr.—Mary Ann Caws from Women of Bloomsbury; Nancy Miller from Getting Personal.

TBA—Roundtable discussion of senior theses. THESIS PREPARATION ASSIGNMENT DUE 2 May 2005. This will be an extra session to make up for cancelled classes during term, providing a conclusion to the semester and a start toward the thesis for those who are embarking on that process.


Grades will be weighted as follows:

 Paper I            35%
 Paper II           35%
 Thesis Preparation 15%
 Participation      15%


READING—The readings above are listed as they will be discussed in class and should be read in advance of the day they we will cover them. Photocopies will be provided. Depending on the interests of the group, we may decide on some substitutions as the semester progresses.

PAPER I—Write an essay of about 7-10 pages on the theoretical problem of representation in a literary work that is of interest to you. You should refer in a substantial way to at least three of the texts discussed in class, and your reading of the literary work should also serve as a critique of at least one of the theoretical approaches under consideration. Paper I is due 8 March 2005.

PAPER II—Write an essay of about 7-10 pages on a problem in literary theory discussed in class. Your paper should take a historical perspective, using at least three of the sources under consideration from three different time periods, and should offer a substantial critique of at least one source. If there is a theoretical text that is of interest to you that is not on the syllabus, discuss it with me early in the term, and we can consider adding it to the readings. This paper may offer a reading of a literary work or it may be a straight theory essay. Paper II is due 6 May 2005.

THESIS PREPARATION—This course was designed for Comparative Literature majors in their Junior year with the assumption that they will write a senior thesis. Not all students in the colloquium will necessarily fit that description, so assignments may be adjusted according to individual needs. The assignment is due the last day of class, and will be presented both orally and in written form. The written assignment should be about five pages. Suggested assignments:

Sophomores—If you are taking the Junior Colloquium this year so that you can study abroad next year, you should take advantage of your time abroad to collect research materials that will be of value in your senior thesis. In about five pages, describe where you are going, possible research projects, and what resources you might use to develop your thesis.

If you are not going abroad and are taking the Junior Colloquium early for other reasons, then just follow the assignment for Juniors.

Juniors—The best theses are not written in one semester. The thesis should represent the culmination of coursework, individual reading, and research completed over one’s entire time at the university. Ideally, you should begin research focused on the thesis by the summer before the senior year, and you might try to select at least one or two courses that will relate directly to the thesis topic in the senior year. Write a preliminary thesis proposal of about five pages describing the problem you plan to investigate, at least two potential answers to that problem, the major texts under consideration, and one or more possible theoretical approaches.

Seniors—Senior theses in comparative literature should have some formal discussion of methodology. Using readings from this class and/or other relevant theoretical texts, discuss the theory at work in your thesis. If your thesis has a section devoted to methodology or theory, you may turn that in for the assignment. If not, you may write a separate theoretical exposition of about five pages, but you should consider writing it in such a way that it might be incorporated into the thesis itself.

The thesis preparation assignment is due 2 May 2005.

Computer problems are no excuse for late assignments. Extensions will be granted for delays due to computer failure, only if you can produce a backup or printout containing at least 80% of the assignment.

PARTICIPATION—This portion of the grade includes productive oral participation, attendance, the extent to which written assignments reflect the discourse of the colloquium, improvement in work over the course of the semester, intrepidness in research, and intellectual generosity in contribution to the colloquium.

You are welcome to discuss your ideas for the written assignments during office hours as soon as you are ready. You may turn in written proposals, outlines, and drafts, and they will be returned with comments, but without a grade. Though drafts are not formally assigned, most students who turn in drafts improve their work by one half to a full grade, and additional effort is reflected in the participation grade. Drafts will be accepted for comment up to one week before the assignment is due.


25 September 2005