Critical Practices: Marx, Nietzsche, Frued, Saussure and THEIR Legacies

L371 — Fall 2020

Shane Vogel
Course Description
The primary focus in this course will be on how to read theory. We will ease our way into some of the foundational theorists in literary and social theory, demystifying what can sometimes be an overwhelming course of study. Rather than a broad survey of every school of critical thought, we will focus our discussions on the work and intellectual legacy of four important thinkers: Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Ferdinand de Saussure, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The class will be devoted to an in-depth investigation into key works of these authors (including The Communist Manifesto, The German Ideology, and Capital; On Dreams and Civilization and Its Discontents; Course in General Linguistics; and The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals). Then we will trace their legacies in materialist criticism, psychoanalytic criticism, structuralism and deconstruction, anti- (or post-) foundational criticism, and varieties of feminist and critical race analysis. Students will write a number of formal reading responses and four short papers that will work through each of the critical traditions in relation to a selection of short stories. In the end, the class will provide an introduction to advanced thinking about literature and its relationship to the complex and messy worlds we all inhabit.

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