Professor Greg Dawes

Latin American literature and culture; literary theory

Dept. of Foreign Languages & Literatures

Office:  415 Withers Hall

Office Hours:  Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:00-2:00 pm


My homepage:


FALL 2010





Course Description:


This course is designed to give graduate students an overall understanding of contemporary literary and cultural theory in the 20th and 21st centuries. We will be covering New Criticism, formalism, structuralism, poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, feminism, marxism, sociological and ethnic studies, postcolonialism and postmodernism, and we will be examining their virtues and pitfalls as approaches to the study of culture, literature, and—to some degree—language.  This is a study of issues, concepts, theorists and the sociohistorical and political context in which the theorists are writing.  We will be making reference to Carlos Fuentes’ Aura when analyzing the different theories presented during the course of the semester.


Student Learning Objectives:


*Identify and describe the major theoretical works in 20th century criticism;

*Assess critically the strengths and weaknesses of those approaches;

*Write response papers and an analytical essay;

*Make oral presentations on the critical literature;

*Develop a coherent theory based on one or more of those covered in the



Required Texts:


Eagleton, Terry.  Literary Theory:  An Introduction.  Second Edition [or Third Edition, 2008] Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 


Fuentes, Carlos.  Aura.  New York:  Noonday, 1998 [1962]. 


Leitch, Vicent B. et. al. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.  New York:  W.W. Norton, 2001.


Parenti, Michael.  The Culture Struggle. New York:  Seven Stories Press, 2006.




Course Schedule:


August 24        Discussion of Fuentes’ Aura and Parenti’s The Culture Struggle.


August 31        Discuss Parenti and the Introduction to Eagleton’s Literary Theory:  An Introduction.  Formalisms: Viktor Shklovsky “Art as Technique” (pdf).


September 7    Cleanth Brooks, “The Well-Wrought Urn” (in Leitch, NATC);

T.S. Eliot, “Tradition and Individual Talent” (NATC); Structuralism, Linguistics: Eagleton, “Structuralism and Semotics” (LT), Tzvetan Todorov, “Structural Analysis of Narrative” (NATC).


September 14  Kenneth Burke, “Kinds of Criticism” (NATC), Claude Levi-Strauss, “From Tristes tropiques” (NATC), Roman Jacobson, “From Linguistics and Poetics” (NATC), Ferdinand de Saussure, “The Object of Linguistics” and “Nature of the Linguistic Sign” (NATC), William Labov, “Some Observations on the Foundations of Linguistics” (pdf).


September 21  Noam Chomsky, “Language and Thought” (pdf), Phenomenology/Reception Theory:  Eagleton, “Phenomenology, Hermeneutics and Reception Theory” (LT), Stanley Fish, “Interpreting the Valorium” (NATC), Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” and Wolfgang Iser, “Interaction between Text and Reader” (NATC). 1ST RESPONSE PAPER


September 28  Poststructuralism/New Historicism: Eagleton, “Post-Structuralism” (LT), Jacques Derrida, “The Exorbitant.  Question of Method” (NATC); Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?” (NATC).


October 5  Hayden White, “The Historical Text as Literary Artifact” (NATC), Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, “A Thousand Plateaus:  Capitalism and Schizophrenia” (NATC), Psychoanalysis: Eagleton,“Psychoanalysis” (LT), Sigmund Freud, “The Oedipus Complex” and “The Dream-Work” (NATC). 2ND RESPONSE PAPER


October 12 Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage” (NATC), Harold Bloom, “From The Anxiety of Influence” (NATC); Feminism: Annette Kolodny, “Dancing Through the Mine Field” (NATC), Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, “Infection in the Sentence...” (NATC).


October 19 Judith Butler, “Gender Trouble” (NATC), Louanne Brizendine “Love and Trust” (pdf), Jared Diamond, “What Are Men Good For?  The Evolution of Men’s Roles” (pdf), Marxism:  Eagleton, “Afterword” (LT). 3RD RESPONSE PAPER


October 26 György Lukács, “Realism in the Balance” (NATC), Walter Benjamin, “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (NATC). Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, “From Dialectic of Enlightenment” (NATC).


November 2 Louis Althusser, “From Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” (NATC), Fredric Jameson, “From The Political Unconscious:  Preface” and “From Chapter 1” (NATC), Roberto Schwarz, “A Brazilian Breakthrough” (pdf).


November 9     Postcolonialism:  Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (NATC)

Edward Said, “Orientalism” (NATC), Frantz Fanon, “From The Wretched of the Earth” (NATC), 4TH (AND LAST) RESPONSE PAPER


November 16   Cultural Studies:  Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies” (NATC). Roland Barthes, “Soap-powders and Detergents” and “Photography and Electoral Appeal” (NATC), Michel Foucault, “Discipline and Punish” (NATC),


November 23   Race, ethnicity studies and sociological approaches:  Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” (NATC), Henry Louis Gates, “Talking Black” (NATC), Pierre Bourdieu, “Distinction:  Introduction” (NATC), Néstor García Canclini, “Hybrid Cultures” (pdf).


November 30   Postmodernism:  Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” (NATC), Jean-Franćois Lyotard, “Defining the  Postmodern,” (NATC), David Harvey, “Postmodernism” (pdf).


December 7 FINAL ESSAY DUE (send as an attachment).




20%     Participation and attendance

15%     Oral presentations

25%     Response Writings

40%     Essay


Grading Scale:


97-100             A+                   77-79               C+

93-96               A                     73-76               C

90-92               A-                    70-72               C-

87-89               B+                   67-69               D+

83-86               B                     63-66               D

80-82               B-                    60-62               D-


Participation and attendance:  Participation in discussions and attendance is indispensable for this course since, like a graduate seminar, it depends heavily on student involvement.  You are allowed one absence during the semester.


Oral Presentations:  The oral presentation should last 15 to 20 minutes.  PLEASE do not go over the allotted time because it will affect other students’ presentations and the presentation of material in class.  Typically students prepare a power-point presentation on one of the readings in the NATC.  They present a thesis, main points of the argument, and conclusions the cultural theorist offers as well as the student’s critiques and questions.


Take into consideration the following questions when preparing your



1.  What is the thesis?


2.  What is the author’s theoretical approach?


3.  What are the main points in the author’s argument?


5.  Is the argument persuasive?  How so?


a) Is the argument presented logically?


b) Does the author explicitly state his/her thesis and conclusions?


c) Does the author’s argument support his/her conclusions?


Response writings:  Students are asked to write four short responses (3-4 pages in length) on the readings.  These should be well-organized discussions/analyses of the readings, following the traditional structure (Thesis-->argument-->conclusion).  Cite from the readings (and other sources if you wish) to back up your argument.  They are designed to be critical reflections on the readings.


Final Essay:  The final essay is an argumentative paper on the topic of your choice.  (It may have to do with your final project for the M.A.)  Use one or more of the critical methods studied during the semester as the basis for your analysis.  Please meet with me or e-mail regarding your topic as soon as you know what it will be.  Length:  12-15 pages.


Attendance:  You are allowed one absence during the semester, covering both excused and unexcused.  Every absence after that will affect your grade.  See the university regulations regarding attendance:


Policy on Missed Exams and Assignments:  A student may turn in assignments late only with documentation of an excused absence.  Make up work must be done within one week of returning to class.


Students with Disabilities:  Reasonable accomodations will be made for students with disabilities.  In order to take advantage of available accomodations students must register with Disability Services for Students.  Please see:


Academic Integrity Statement:  Academic integrity is expected of all

students.  Please see the university code of conduct at: