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The Languages of Literature: An Introduction to Literary Study

Robert Bennett--University of California at Santa Barbara

Course Description and Objectives
This course is an intensive introduction to the academic study of cultural texts and cultural criticism. It is intended to prepare English majors and others with an intense interest in literature for upper division literature classes. English majors should take this course instead of Writing 50 or 109. As an introduction to literary study, this course will introduce basic terms of contemporary cultural analysis by studying a range of cultural texts‹including both poems and novels‹in relationship to several seminal works of contemporary literary criticism. In particular, we will explore the following questions: What are cultural texts, how do they function, and what difference do they make? Why is literary language different from ordinary language? What influences the construction of cultural canons, and why do they change and evolve ? What are authors, and how are they influenced by their racial, sexual, socio-economic, and national identities? Why do people like certain works more than others?
In addition to introducing general principles of literature and literary criticism, this course is designed to teach students how to produce their own interpretations of cultural texts. Consequently, my primary objective in this course is to introduce students to the fundamental problems and basic tools of literary criticism in order to help students to learn how to develop their own personal interpretations with greater clarity and depth. In addition, by introducing the fundamentals of literary criticism, this course aims to teach students how to begin situating their personal interpretations within the conventions and conversation of a larger academic community of literary critics.

Required Texts
Nelson, Cary, ed. Anthology of Modern American Poetry.
Also see the anthology web site at:
Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury.
Pynchon, Thomas. The Crying of Lot 49.
Course Reader. Available at Kinko's in Isla Vista.

Course Schedule

I. What is Literature?

June 26: Introduction
June 27: Wellek "Modes of Existence of the Literary Work"

A) Text as physical object: Hughes (1230-1232), Brooks (1233), cummings (343-351), "Angel Island: Poems by Chinese Immigrants" (491-493)

AI's book covers
Alexie's book covers
Poetry carved on walls at Angel Island
City Lights Pocket Poets jacket covers

B) Text as sensory performance: Lindsay (only "The Congo" 115-118), Hughes (only "The Weary Blues"
504-505), Walker (735-736), Pinsky (1058-1061), Berryman (only Dream Song #1 721-722), Harper

Walker's "For My People"--Walker's performance
Pinsky's "Shirt"--Pinsky's performance, critical commentary
Berryman: Berryman's performance of Dream Song #1, commentary on Berryman's language

C) Text as reader's experience: Berryman (the rest of Berryman's The Dream Songs 722-728), Crosby

D) Text as author's intention: Berryman's comments on The Dream Songs

E) Text as collective social experience: Critical comments on The Dream Songs: 1, 5, 29, 76, 384

June 28: Whitman (1-8), "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry", "Mannahatta", "A Broadway Pageant", "Song of Myself"
(optional), Abrams "Orientation of Critical Theories," Hernadi "A Compass for Critics," Fisher from "Democratic Social
Space," Also read the information posted on the following web sites: world, biographical author, implied author,
audience, text, other Whitman resources (optional)

June 29: Scholes "The Semiotics of Literature," Dickinson (9-17), H.D. (232-243), Levine (925-933), Rich
(934-954), Alexie (1217-1223),

Levine Poems:
"They Feed They Lion": performance, commentary
"Animals Are Passing From Our Lives": performance, commentary
"On the Meeting of Garcia Lorca and Hart Crane": performance, commentary, additional commentary

II. Cultural Traditions: Canonicity, Intertextuality, and Cultural Politics

July 3: Eliot "Tradition and the Individual Talent," Eliot (277-311), Pound (202-231), hypervortext of Pound's Canto

July 5: Bloom "Repression, Revisionism, Repression," Whitman (review 1-8), Hartmann (21), Sandburg (107-113),
Williams (164-201), Crane (only "Cape Hatteras" 399-405), Ginsberg (only "Love Poem on Theme by Whitman" 848),
Anaya "Walt Whitman Strides the Llano of New Mexico," Cisneros "By Way of Explanation," Sherman Alexie,
"Defending Walt Whitman"

July 6: Gilbert "Literary Paternity," Lowell (only "The Sisters" 48-53), Dunbar-Nelson (106), Loy (149-161), Moore
(only "Poetry," "Marriage," and "An Octopus" 250-252, 256-268), McKay (314-319), Hughes (502-525), Bennett
(528-529), Cullen (530-535), Baraka (997-1001), Endrezze (1178-1180)

III. Linguistic Play: Differance, Jouissance, and Signifyin(g)

July 10: First paper due! Brooks "The Heresy of the Paraphrase," Stevens (124-144), MacLeish (331-332),
Faulkner (chapter 1), paraphrase of The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner resources

July 11: Derrida "Structure, Sign, and Play," summary of Derrida, Faulkner (chapter 2), Crane (384-399, 405-408)

July 12: Cixous "Laugh of the Medusa," summary of Cixous, Faulkner (chapter 3), Stein (54-83), essay on "Patriarchal

July 13: Gates from The Signifying Monkey, Faulkner (chapter 4), Tolson(412-472), commentary on "Dark
, commentary on "Libretto"

IV. Mimesis and its Discontents

July 17: Jameson "Cognitive Mapping"

A) Realism: Markham (18-20), Wright (584), Olsen (652-654), Forche (1168), Foster (1205-1209), Espada

B) Modernism: Zukofsky (551-556), Brooks (766-781), Dickey (800-806)

C) Postmodernism: O'Hara (827-834), Ashbery (894-905), Reed (1050-1053)

July 18: Lyotard from The Postmodern Condition, Reznikoff (354-370), Boyle (542-546), Hayden (691-705),
Japanese American Concentration Camp Haiku (717-720), Blackburn (824-826), Hass (1075-1077), Louis
(1125-1141), Hagedorn (1160-1161)

July 19: Jameson "The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," Pynchon (chapters 1-3), Pynchon resources

July 20: Film Delicatessen

V. Interpretive Communities

July 24: Second Paper Due! Pynchon (chapters 4-6)

July 25: Eco "The Role of the Reader," Olson (620-625), Duncan (785-791), Levertov (807-814), Merrill (835-846),
Creeley (875-880), Wright (1018-1022)

July 26: Fish "Is There a Text in This Class?", Kaufman (818-820), Ginsberg ("Howl" and "Wichita Vortex Sutra"
848-873), Snyder (955-959), Corso (960-967) (50)

July 27: Smith "Contingencies of Value," Brown (473-85), Walker (735-736), Dumas (991-996), Lorde
(1009-1017), Clifton (1029-1035), Inada (1054-1057), Smith (1062-1067), Rodgers (1095-1097), Komunyakaa
(1142-1148), "Rhythm Method", "Slam Dunk and Hook", "You and I Are Disappearing"

Komunyakaa's Performances:
"Tu Do Street"
"Rhythm Method"
"Slam Dunk and Hook"
"You and I Are Disappearing"

V. Authorship and Identity Politics:

July 31: Wimsatt and Beardsley "The Intentional Fallacy," Lowell (751-765), Plath (973-990), Sexton (921-924),
Knight (968-972), Strand (1007-1008), Chin (1202-1204)

Aug. 1: Foucault, "What is an Author?", Howe (1036-1042), Grahn (1068-1074), Palmer (1088-1092), Violi
(1093-1094), Silliman (1098-1124), Mullen (1187-1188)

Aug. 2: Anzaldua "Towards a New Consciousness," Cortez (1026-1028), AI (1149-1155), Rose (1156-1157),
Young Bear (1162-1167), Hongo (1169-1171), Baca (1175-1177), Castillo (1181-1182), Doty (1183-1186), Erdrich
(1189-1191), Cisneros (1192), Smith (1198-1201)

Aug. 3: Final exam

Aug. 4: Final Paper Due! (by 5:00 pm)

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