MA Gender, Sexuality and Culture / Course details
Year of entry: 2020
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Course unit details:
Key Issues in Literary and Critical Theory
|Unit level||FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Offered by||English and American Studies|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
This module is tailored to students on the MA Programme in Modern and Contemporary Literature but is open to all MA students interested in literary and critical theory.
Its aim is to equip students with advanced theoretical and critical understanding of some key texts that have shaped contemporary debates in literary and critical theory. The course is divided into three sections that address three broad categories: Marxism; psychoanalysis and deconstruction; and feminism. Each section will ask you to engage closely with both texts that have founded a discursive field – Marx, Freud, Derrida, de Beauvoir – and with recent developments and interpretation of that field that openly link theory and politics (for instance, contemporary feminist manifestos).
We will be thinking about historical developments and genealogies of thought, but the main aim of the course it to offer students a ‘hands on’ approach to theory. We will engage closely with texts in order to understand how they pose larger questions about the relationship between idealism and materialism, definitions of truth and knowledge, and the interconnections between nature, culture and writing. We will spend most of our time close reading specific passages that you may find relevant, productive, or even infuriatingly provocative. In this way, we hope to encourage you to develop your own critical practice, engaging with classic as well as new theoretical texts and reflecting on your own positions as critics.
Essay titles will be circulated in week 5 of Semester 2, but you are free, if you so wish, to devise your own title in consultation with your course tutor (Prof. Caselli). It is essential that you attend ALL seminars, even once you have decided what to focus on: without putting in the work needed to understand ALL texts studied on this module you will not be able to meet its objectives. Independent titles will have to be finalised before week 11 and you will be asked to consult your tutor during office hours in advance of this date. There are no set literary texts on this course, but you can develop an essay project with a literary component if you wish to do so.
On completion of this unit successful students should be able to:
- Demonstrate a sound knowledge of some key issues in modern cultural and critical theory and literary criticism covered on the course, as well as the manifold correlations between ‘theory’, ‘literature’, ‘culture’, and ‘politics’;
- Utilise this knowledge in intellectually rigorous ways;
- Demonstrate an ability to reconsider literary, cinematic, cultural and other texts in the light of the theories studied, and vice versa;
- Demonstrate an ability to engage with, evaluate and discuss sources in an academically sound manner;
- Critically evaluate the complex historical and ideological relationships between the texts studied on this course.
SECTION 1 – Marx and After
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, from The German Ideology (part one) ed. C.J. Arthur (London: Lawrence & Wishart,  2007). Focus on pp. 37–95 (‘Feuerbach: Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook’).
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, from The German Ideology (part one) ed. C.J. Arthur (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1970). Focus on pp. 121–3 (‘Theses on Feuerbach’).
Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1935), in Illuminations, edited and with an Introduction by Hannah Arendt, translated by Harry Zohn (London: Pimlico, 1999), pp. 211–244.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016). Focus especially on Chapter 7, ‘From #blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation’, pp. 191–219.
SECTION 2 – Psychoanalysis and other discontents
Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures to Psychoanalysis, trans. by James Strachey with the collaboration of Anna Freud, assisted by Alix Strachey and Alan Tyson (London: Vintage  2001), vol. XV (Parts I and II). Special attention should be given to lectures 1 to 4 and 5 to 11 and 15.
Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures to Psychoanalysis, trans. by James Strachey with the collaboration of Anna Freud, assisted by Alix Strachey and Alan Tyson (London: Vintage  2001), vol. XVI (Part III). Special attention should be given to lectures 18; 19; 27; and 28.
Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense’ , in Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language, edited and translated with a critical introduction by Sander L. Gilman, Carole Blair, David J. Parent (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).
Jacques Derrida, ‘Introduction to “The Age of Rousseau”’ and ‘The Violence of the Letter: from Lévi-Strauss to Rousseau’, Of Grammatology, translated by Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, with an Introduction by Judith Butler, fortieth anniversary edition (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,  2016), PART II, pp. 105-152.
Jacques Derrida, ‘…That Dangerous Supplement …’, Of Grammatology, translated by Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, with an Introduction by Judith Butler, fortieth anniversary edition (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,  2016), PART II, pp. 153–178.
Alenka Zupan¿i¿, What is Sex? (Cambridge: Massachussets, The MIT Press, 2017). ‘Introduction’, pp. 1–4 and Chapter 1, ‘It’s Getting Strange in Here…’, pp. 5–19.
SECTION 3 – Feminisms
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovaney-Chevallier (London: Vintage, 2010). Focus on Vol. 1, PART 1 ‘Destiny’ (pp. 21–72); PART III ‘Myths’ (pp. 163–288); Vol. 2, PART I ‘Formative Years’ (pp. 293–450) and PART IV ‘Towards Liberation’ (pp. 737 –782).
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, (London: Routledge, 1999 ).
‘Preface’, from Bodies
Teaching and learning methods
Weekly three-hour seminar
|Written assignment (inc essay)||100%|
On this course formative feedback will be given on students’ essay plans. Extensive summative feedback will be given on the essay.
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Daniela Caselli||Unit coordinator|