現當代文學理論選讀

This course is designed for you to achieve three goals:

1) critical reading of both primary and secondary texts of modern and contemporary theories to understand the questions they ask and how they answer them,
2) engagement in some theoretical issues (such as meaning and interpretation, text and textuality, ethics and ideology, discourse, politics and power relations, etc.) as they arise from our reading of the primary texts, and
3) analyzing literary texts from different theoretical perspectives with an awareness of the limitations of each.

"Theory," as Myers points out, "is not a methodology or paradigm or 'strategy' that one puts on, in order to dress for academic success. It is an argument. It is an implacable reflective struggle to work out a vexing tangle in literary experience. Nor can a theoretical argument be easily applied, as if it were an ointment; it must be thought through, point by point and in detail; it must be interlocked with, in a reflective struggle. [. . .] To accept a theorist's argument in toto because it is daring or stylish, or because others have hailed it as unanswerable, is to be neither a theorist nor a student of theory." (D. G. Myers <http://www-english.tamu.edu/pers/fac/myers/teaching_theory.html >)

In other words, theories are not to be read, comprehended and then applied neatly to some literary texts. Rather, we struggle through their language and textuality to tease out their issues and the broader issues behind them. To use Stuart Hall's term, reading theories is to "wrestle with the angels," and there are actually two types of angels to deal with: the theoretical texts and our chosen literary/cultural texts. Negotiating the differences between theories and our texts in order to make a dialogue between them possible, then, is a major task in this course.

Since different maps can be drawn for this criss-crossing and endlessly extensive terrain of modern and contemporary critical theories, and different routes can be taken, I am open to your suggestions of which schools, theorists or texts to include. If one fourth of the students registered (or more than two) have similar interests, I will definitely accommodate them in our course. The other suggestions will also be put into consideration. Tentatively, I choose Structuralism, Poststructuralism, Feminism, and Topics of Trauma and Postmodern Ethics. But all of the above choices can be changed or modified if you desire so.

Requirements:
In this course, you will be responsible for:
1) active participation in class and on the internet,
2) a 30-minute report on a theoretical text with an outline ready for online publication,
3) a 30-minute report on how a certain theory can be "critiqued" by, "used" on, or articulated with another literary or theoretical text.
4) a term paper of both theoretical discussion and literary application.

Textbook: Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Eds. Vincent B. Leitch, et al. NY: Norton, 2001. Also selections from some other anthologies. Or A Reader.