LITS3304 CONTEMPORARY CRITICAL THEORY:
POST-STRUCTURALISMS AND POST-COLONIALISMS

SEMESTER I, 2004 - 2005
 

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Please read the exam advice (the link is on your left) and collect your essays from me in my office A30.

MEETING TIMES

Two compulsory 1.5-hour seminars per week:

  • Seminar 1: Tu 10.30-12 am (A27) 
  • Seminar 2: Thur 10.30-12 am (A27)

Given the complexity of many of the readings, regular attendance is a must. Students should register for this course only when this is possible. If you are likely to miss class often, please click here.

COURSE DESCRIPTION

This course seeks to introduce students to two of the following Post-Structuralist schools of Continental philosophy and critical theory as well as Feminist, Post-colonial and African American thinkers who have engaged with these schools of thought:

In academic year 2004-2005, schools marked with * will be studied for six weeks each.

Module One is devoted to Structuralism.  In the first week, we will recap relevant foundational material covered in LITS2307.  Some of the areas covered include: What is Philosophy?  What is Critical Theory?  What is Philosophy of Language?  How do words signify?  We will also try to briefly summarise the views of key predecessors to Post-Structuralism such as Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger.  We then turn our attention to Saussure's philosophy of language which has been very influential in the Continental tradition.  (His term for this was 'semiology' but others would come to call it 'semiotics.')  We will examine in particular his critique of referential and expressivist models of language, that is, the view that signs mean what they do because they either reflect real objects or express the thoughts of the person speaking or writing.  We devote the next few weeks to a school of thought that has wholeheartedly embraced Saussure's theory of signification: Structuralism.  In the third week, we examine Lévi-Strauss' philosophical anthropology, that is, a theory of human culture and identity informed by Saussure's model of the sign.  We then explore the implications of Saussure's model of language for criticism.  We devote the fourth week to exploring the influence of Saussure's views on Barthes' critique of realism in the arts and Benveniste's critique of expressivism, and the fifth week to Structuralist insights into poetic (Jakobson) and prose (Todorov) structures ('narratology' is the term often used to denote the study of the latter).  In the final week of this module, we turn our attention to African American and Feminist thinkers who have engaged with Structuralism.  We focus on Gates' views on the implications of the critique of self-expression for minority writers, and Lanser's on the uses to which narratology may be put in the study of women writers.  The term paper is based on this module.

Module Two is devoted to Deconstruction.  We begin by exploring Derrida's (sympathetic) critique of Saussure's model of signification in his celebrated Of Grammatology.  The following week, we examine his own theory of signification (centred on his notion of 'différance') before examining his critique of Lévi-Strauss' theory of human culture and identity.  In week nine, we turn our attention to matters of critical theory by studying, firstly, De Man's deconstruction of realism and, secondly, Barthes' of the notion of the 'Author.'  In week ten, we explore the concept of 'intertextuality' with reference to the views of Bloom, look at Barthes' attempt to formulate a deconstructive approach to narratology, and consider Fish's views on how listeners and readers attribute meaning by contextualising the words they encounter.  In the last two weeks of the module, we study several Post-colonial theorists who have engaged with Derridean themes: both Bhabha and Hall make use of Derrida's notion of 'différance' in their attempt to rethink conventional concepts of cultural identity in Asia and the Caribbean, respectively, while Bhabha also argues that the Post-Structuralist critique of both realism and self-expression ought to make us revise our current understanding of Post-colonial literature, not least in the Caribbean.  The final exam is based solely on this module.

ASSESSMENT

  • Seminar participation and / or presentation(s): 10%
  • One term paper: 30%
  • Final examination: 60% (2 questions in 2 hours)

You should note that whatever may be the final mark, departmental regulations decree that students must pass at least one question in the final exam in order to pass any course in Literatures in English.  Students who fail the course in this way receive a FE ('Failed Exam') on their grade slip.