Critical Conditions – Syllabus

CRITICAL CONDITIONS
crisis, critique, criticism
The question of what literary study is or should be today, in the twilight of ‘the university,’ and in the dim din of the “critique of critique,” could not be more contentious. These heightened stakes are occasioning intensified reflections within our discipline (proliferating new methods and manifestos) and abundant experiments in more public criticism (Avidly, LARB, Jacobin, nonsite, Public Books). Our proseminar endeavors to activate introductory thinking about what literature can do, and what literary critics can do, and to thereby help new PhDs begin to position themselves purposefully in the field, as well as purposefully far afield. Our questions – about what literature is, what reading is, what criticism is, whether a theory of literature is possible, how and whether literature is contextualized by or caused by history – will be focused on modernity’s paradigmatic form, the novel, on prevailing trends in novel theory, on structuralism, Marxism, and formalism, and on recent critical debates.

TEXTS
Charles Dickens, Bleak House
Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
Tom McCarthy, Remainder

Georg Lukacs, Theory of the Novel
Caroline Levine, Forms

Articles and excerpts available via dropbox

SCHEDULE
26 August
CRISIS
Bleak House 1
Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism “Polemical Introduction”
Terry Eagleton, The Function of Criticism excerpt
Jonathan Culler, “Literary Criticism and the American University”
Colleen Lye and Christopher Newfeld, “Humanists and the Public University”
Bruce Robbins, “Public” and “The Scholar in Society”
Barbara Johnson, “The Critical Difference”
Pete Coviello, “Love in the Ruins, Or, Should I Go To Grad School?”
http://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/2012/11/13/love-in-the-ruins-or-should-i-go-to-grad-school/
Jeffrey Williams, “The New Modesty in Literary Criticism”
http://m.chronicle.com/article/The-New-Modesty-in-Literary/150993/
Virginia Jackson, The Function of Criticism at the Present Time
https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/function-criticism-present-time

2 September
CRITICISM
BH2
John Guillory, “Literary Study and the Modern System of the Disciplines”
Jacques Rancière, “The Aesthetic Revolution and Its Outcomes”
Jordan Stein, Silly Theory
http://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/2012/11/20/silly-theory/
Brian Droitcour, Vernacular Criticism
http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/vernacular-criticism/

9 September
INSTITUTIONS OF THE NOVEL
BH3
Georg Lukacs, Theory of the Novel
Franco Moretti, “History of the Novel, Theory of the Novel”

16 September
INSTITUTIONS OF LITERATURE
BH4
Hillis Miller, On Literature (1-44)
Jacques Derrida and Derek Attridge, “This Strange Institution Of Literature”
Culler, “The Most Interesting Thing in the World”
Rancière, “The Politics of Literature”

23 September
THE NOVEL OF INSTITUTIONS
BH5
D.A. Miller, “Discipline in Different Voices”
Eve Sedgwick, “Paranoid and Reparative Reading”
James Buzard, “Anywhere’s Nowhere”
Nasser Mufti, “Walking in Bleak House”
Bruce Robbins, “Telescopic Philanthropy”
Caroline Levine, Forms “Network”

30 September
CRITIQUE
Friedrich Nietzsche, “On the Use and Abuse of History for Life”
Paul De Man, “Literary History and Literary Modernity”
Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious “On Interpretation: Narrative as
Socially Symbolic Act” (excerpt from The Jameson Reader)
Edward Said, “Secular Criticism”

7 October
FORMALISMS
Mrs Dalloway 1
Claude Levi Strauss, “The Structural Study of Myth”
Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author”
Levine, Forms “The Affordances of Form”

**9-10 October V21 COLLECTIVE SYMPOSIUM**

14 October
MD2
Ann Banfield, Unspeakable Sentences excerpt
Rachel Bowlby, “Untold Stories in Mrs. Dalloway”
WJT Mitchell, “The Commitment to Form”
Paul Saint-Amour, “Mrs. Dalloway and the Gaze of Total War”

21 October
MARXISMS
Remainder 1
Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature excerpt
Pierre Macherey, Theory of Literary Production chapters 1-6
Jameson, “Ideological Analysis: A Handbook”

28 October
R2
Karl Marx, “The Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret”
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S4
Slavoj Žižek, “How Did Marx Invent the Symptom”
Žižek, Enjoy Your Symptom Preface to 3rd Edition?
Critical Resumé due

4 November
R3
Liesl Schillinger, “Play it Again”
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/25/books/review/Schillinger.t.html?_r=2&
Zadie Smith, “Two Paths for the Novel”
Walter Benn Michaels, The Beauty of a Social Problem “The Experience of
Meaning”
Namwali Serpell, “Metareading Remainder”

11 November
FOUNDATIONS AND FUTURES OF KRITIK
Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment?”
Michel Foucault, “What is Enlightenment?”
Judith Butler, “What is Critique?”
Alain Badiou, “The Democratic Emblem”
Žižek, Absolute Recoil, “Certainly there is a Bone here”
De Man, “The Resistance to Theory”

18 November
POSTCRITIQUE
Bruno LaTour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?”
Sharon Marcus and Stephen Best, “Surface Reading”
Rita Felski, “Context Stinks!”
Carolyn Lesjak, “Reading Dialectically”
CHP Review due

2 December
CONTEMPORARY CRITICALS and FINAL PARTY
Levine, Forms “The Wire”
David Alworth, “Form’s Function”
http://lareviewofbooks.org/review/forms-function
Maggie Nelson, The Art of Cruelty excerpt
Coviello, Tomorrow’s Parties “Made for Change: Olive Chancellor, Henry
James, and The Bostonians”
Madhu Dubey, “Speculative Fictions of Slavery”
Kate Marshall, “Novels of the Anthropocene”

joint celebration with Professor Julie Orlemanski’s University of Chicago proseminar