Review: Critical Theory Since Plato



To gather data for a future post on the “principal component of literature”, I’m skipping through Hazard Adams’ Critical Theory Since Plato, a 1271-page collection of the most-famous essays on Western literature from Plato up to 1988. It also includes texts not about literature that influenced literary theory, like excerpts from Locke, Kant, Schiller, Schopenhauer, Ferdinand de Saussure, Walter Benjamin, and Heidegger. This is a great way of finding parts of those texts about art without having to plow through, say, Kant’s entire Critique of Judgement.

I have the 2nd edition, not the 3rd. The third edition is 300 pages longer, and costs about 10 times as much.

You need to know that, until 1800, when people meant “literature” they said “poetry”. They didn’t have a concept of “prose literature.” Le Morte d’Arthur in 1485 seems to be the first Western story thought of as “literature” that wasn’t a poem, and Don Quixote in 1605 may have been the second. According to Google n-grams, the word “literature” didn’t even exist before 1750 [0].

The book is pretty cool, but frequently horrifying. Literature is again and again made slave to power, religion, or ideology.

The Ancients (390 BC – 260 AD)

The Greeks and Romans start by saying poetry must be a tool for moral instruction. Plato says it’s corrupt and should be banned [1]; Aristotle says it’s okay if it “delights and instructs.” This phrase echoes throughout the collection, down into the 19th century, yet few say out loud its more sinister implications:

1. Poetry’s purpose is to delight in order to instruct. Poetry that merely delights isn’t halfway successful; it’s degenerate and should be burned.

2. “Moral instruction” does not mean to make people think. Stories that question conventional morality are degenerate and should be burned [2].

(The first writer in the volume to say that it’s okay to just enjoy a story is Joseph Addison in 1712, who justifies this by saying that people are so evil that it’s good to allow them any pleasure that isn’t actively evil, just to keep them out of trouble.)

Plato said, more specifically, that literature is an imitation of reality, and reality is an imitation of the Forms.  (The Platonic Forms.) A person thus does better to observe reality than to read poetry, and better still to study philosophy and contemplate the Forms directly.

Aristotle and the Romans thought that the purpose of literary theory was to help writers to write good poetry, just as the purpose of theories of engineering is to enable engineers to build things that work.

What a concept!

Aristotle’s Poetics is the must-read from this section. I don’t agree with everything he says, but as far as I know, he’s the only person before the 20th century who analyzed fiction structurally, asking how all its parts fit together to convey a message or effect. Others look at different pieces independently, but never synthesize them [6]. He approaches the task in the right way.

The Medievalists and the Renaissance (400 AD – 1700)

It’s conventional to put the cut between Renaissance and Enlightenment closer to 1600, but I just don’t feel it here. The critics in the 17th century seem more like the guys in the 16th century than like those in the 18th. The literature was very different (Shakespeare, Cervantes, opera), but the critics were still judging them by Aristotle and the Bible while trying not to get executed for heresy. (Perhaps art leads, and philosophy follows?)

The 1300 years of Christian piety from 400 to 1700 A.D. are probably the bleakest part of the book, and the second most full of worthless essays (St. Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas, Boccaccio, Bacon, Henry Reynolds, Boileau-Despreaux). Some still give advice on how to write, but it takes a backseat to theology, moralizing, and mysticism, and the analysis of poetry often becomes instead the classification of authors into the virtuous and the villainous. I get the sense that independent thought was anathema to Europe during this time, and a need for some authority to worship and adore, whether God, Homer, Aristotle, or Shakespeare, recurs through the 19th century. The degree of praise a man of this time heaped on his chosen idols sometimes verged on psychotic, like Pope’s praise for Homer in his preface to the Iliad (not in this volume), yet was no guarantee that he perceived his most obvious qualities (as shown by Pope’s abominable translation of Homer’s Iliad).

A lot of the discussion on how to write was arguments over how closely to observe Aristotle’s Three Unities of action, time, and place. The fact that Aristotle never even said anything about unity of place tells you something about how useful this discussion was. Shakespeare eventually convinced everybody that the unities of time and place were useless by writing great plays that ignored them.

The emphasis on morality lingers on through the 18th century. It’s impossible to tell when it’s sincere and when it’s forced, which complicates my attempt to associate each writer’s views with the properties of his or her art. Boileau-Despreaux reminds his reader of a local poet who had recently been hanged for a poem that was judged impious.

Just as Pope’s adoration of Homer didn’t help him read Homer, the people who demand morality from literature always seem blind to morality–as the act of hanging a poet in Jesus’ name suggests. They often praise the Iliad, a poem that glorifies rape and murder, for its virtue. Samuel Richardson’s 1740 novel Pamela, or, Virtue Rewarded, was considered indecent by Britain’s upper class, not because its heroine was “rewarded” by getting to marry (rather than be raped by) the evil man who imprisoned and abused her, but because shewasn’t good enough for him, being born to a lower class. Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’urbervilles was considered outrageous in 1890 not because its heroine, Tess, was raped, not because this led to her meeting a horrible end, but because Hardy implied that she didn’t deserve to be punished for being raped.

(Moral literature is surprisingly rapey.)

A common approach to art theory during this period, and on through the 18th century, was to respond to Plato by saying that art could approximate the Forms even better than direct observation of reality could, if the artist were careful to depict idealized people, lacking any distinctive personalities, having idealized emotions, rather than real people with real emotions. You can see this in the essays by Philip Sydney and Francis Bacon, and also Joshua Reynolds and Samuel Johnson in the 18th century. This is what Johnson means (in 1765) when he praises Shakespeare because “in the writings of other poets a character is too often an individual; in those of Shakespeare it is commonly a species.” Characters were not supposed to have depth. Depth meant individuality, and individuality was merely the way in which a particular person fell short of the Form.

This was… a terrible idea, which led to nearly 2000 years of bad literature. You know how lovers in old romances (I mean, really old romances) are smitten with a crippling love at first sight, based on the transcendent beauty of the beloved? Like in Chaucer’s Troilus and Crisyde, and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? That wasn’t lazy writing. That was deliberate. That was the accepted theoretically correct way to portray the highest form of love. Anything else was degenerate.

But then again, men of these times seem not to have had a concept of romantic love. This sounds hard to believe, especially since they spent their whole lives writing about it. But there are a couple of essays that try to analyze romantic love, and they seem to be talking about lust, and one uses the words interchangeably. When they write of love and its proper portrayal, trying to enumerate the possible kinds of love, all they can come up with is lust and this mystical Platonic pure-spirit hogwash. Some of these guys knew Greek, so they must have heard of pragma, the love of old married couples. But they don’t think to mention it.

I’ve read nearly all of this section, and the only essay I recommend is John Locke’s “An essay concerning human understanding” (1690). It demolishes Plato’s essences, and is one of the best rational investigations into how words work in all philosophy. It’s especially stunning because it doesn’t rely on any technology or scientific discoveries. It seems Aristotle could have written this, and saved us from 2000 years of nonsense. An interesting question is, why didn’t he, or someone else during the next 2000 years?

The Enlightenment and Modernity (1700 – 1950)

These two and a half centuries seem to me to fit together, and to contrast with the pious 18th century before them, and the angry late 20th century after them. It stands out to me as the time period during which critics could think clearly. This is the brightest part of the book, and the longest. I’ve read very little of it, but most of what I’ve read, I’ve liked. People are back to talking about writing techniques and the purpose of stories. Plus, they’re talking about novels! Also language, and literary movements.

And often, they’re… how do I say this… not stupid. Bouncing back and forth between the 17th and 19th centuries, I’m struck by the contrast: The 17th-century writers have an amazing command of the language. Some twist their sentences in flourishes like Bacon; some have only the grandeur of precision and clarity. And yet, though each sentence is constructed with great care, their train of thought usually runs into the ground, in accidental assumptions, unjustified assertions, appeals to authority, overconfidence, dismissals of evidence or of alternative hypotheses, or wishful thinking. Alternately, they have nothing to say but trite common sense. It’s as if constructing beautiful sentences used up all their mental powers. The 19th-century writers may muddle along in ugly run-on sentences, but they often have something to say.

If I’d read more 17th-century poetry, maybe I could draw a parallel here…

Locke’s 1690 essay, which I talked about above, is a watermark. I look before it and see fearful piety, reverence for the ancients, high style, and less reasoning than rationalizations for pre-drawn conclusions. I look after it and see free and diverse opinions, degenerate style, and clear thought. It seems to me that freedom of speech and a loss of reverence was the crucial change. Strangely, this made people able to observe and think where they could not before, even along lines that were acceptable under the old rules, such as Lessing’s 1766 analysis of Homer.

It’s worth noting that the monarchs were “right” in suppressing thought, for by 1800 most of them had been overthrown.

Also, a woman! Until Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 “A vindication of the rights of woman”, and Madame de Stael’s 1800 “Literature in its relations to social institutions”, it’s all by men, about men, for men. There are more women as you get towards the end of the book, but most write only about how literary criticism oppresses women.

I’ve read only a few of these entries. You might like Alexander Pope’s poem about poetry. It’s kind of fun, and a little useful. Lessing’s “Laocoon” (1766) is the first to look closely at Homer’s writing style and pick out his techniques. Kant’s excerpt from Critique of Judgement is required reading if you want to argue with philosophers about aesthetics. Emile Zola’s essay is very interesting but about 20 times as long as it should be. Anatole France’s is, by contrast, wonderfully compact; a few paragraphs, each sentence loaded with meaning. Mallarme’s interview is entertaining, if a little irritating. He messes up my theory: he’s an idealist, yet also an individualist. (Literary idealism, which means the belief that literature should be about idealized people, and written in an idealized style, is usually found in the service of a state or a religion, and advises unity and censorship.)

In the 20th century, the articles by De Saussure, Hulme, Eliot, Wimsatt & Beardsley, and Brooks are probably the must-reads.

Post-Modernity (1950 – 1988)

In the 1950s there’s a sudden plunge into ideology and sloppy armchair epistemology [3]. Aristotle’s original idea, that literary criticism was to help writers write, is completely lost. There’s nothing more about writing techniques or the purpose of story.

Instead, literature is used as a one-sided battleground for ideological wars, where victims seek proof of their oppression. There are no conservative voices in this part of the book, as if conservatives were all dead and gone by 1960. Maybe that’s just what got published in the late 20th century.

Other than liberal ideology, literature becomes anthropology and philosophy. Instead of the theory of how to write stories about society, criticism becomes the discipline of how to read between the lines and see what the author has unwillingly confessed about society. Instead of using philosophy to ask what stories are worth telling, now it is philosophy using literature as data. Literary interpretation is attempted not in order to interpret anything, but to observe the process of interpretation and draw philosophical conclusions. No longer can an English major read the essays; they use more and more specialized vocabulary drawn from semiotics and post-modern philosophy.

The Christian era’s need for heroes to worship is mirrored by the late 20th century’s need for heroes to tear down. Instead of praising something, every essay seems to be complaining about something, or claiming to have debunked, dissolved, or deconstructed something. All of this is probably important. None of it is useful to me as a writer.

Nor is much of the philosophy very good. Literary theory and philosophy since the 1930s have both turned on the study of language, yet few in either field thought to study language. By “study” I mean either count data, perform experiments, or read the works of those who counted data or performed experiments. Noam Chomsky developed his influential theory of a universal grammar a decade after Claude Shannon developed the communication theory needed to debunk Chomsky’s key argument [4]. Eleanor Rosch experimentally debunked the entire semiotic tradition only a few years after Jacques Derrida’s tremendously influential essays [5], but to this day no one in literature or philosophy has noticed.

That cultivated ignorance of science is, throughout this collection, the dog that doesn’t bark in the night. The selected essays show the close historical relationship between literary criticism, philosophy, theology, and ideology. By the mid 20th century you couldn’t even call them separate fields. Yet it shows almost no connections between literary criticism and science, except when it’s pseudo-science (like Marx, Saussure, Freud, and Lacan), or science-bashing (like Kuhn). Many literary theorists use testable ideas, yet no one tests them. Even such a basic endeavor as finding experimentally, say, what fraction of people or what kind of people actually like Homer, is never attempted. It seems literary theorists deliberately avoid quantitative thought.

The sole exception I’ve found is Emile Zola’s 1880 essay, “The experimental novel.” The title is accidentally ironic; this was before what we call experimental novels. Zola meant the naturalistic novel, the novel which depicts ordinary people in ordinary circumstances, which is considered an invention of 19th-century French writers. He said that philosophy and poetry are the muses to science, asking questions that they don’t have the tools to solve, and so giving science direction and inspiration to press onward and actually solve them. “The philosophers [are] musicians often gifted with genius, whose music encourages the [scientists] while they work and inspires the sacred fire of their great discoveries. But the philosophers, left to themselves, will sing forever and never discover a single truth.” Zola says that naturalistic novels can now fulfil that role. A classic poem uses as its material only the phenomena of human nature: anger, greed, love. Homer says Diomedes is brave, but if you ask him why, he can only say it is because of his noble ancestry. A naturalistic novel posits a hypothesis about why someone is brave, and works it out scene by scene.

This is pretty close to my own view of the “purpose” of literature. When we read, we are “conducting experiments,” exploring things that might happen, and asking ourselves what we might do in someone else’s shoes. Some of the pleasure we get from reading is pleasure from vicarious gratification, but some, I suspect, is the pleasure we get from learning.

There was good work in literary theory during this time period; it just isn’t included. This was when “empirical criticism” developed. Willie van Peer and Colin Martindale independently developed a scientific literary theory which constructs and tests hypotheses about literature. I should probably post about their work. van Peer gained a lot of followers. Their work is interesting, but hampered because none of them seem to be writers. They often ask what a writer would say were the wrong questions. Martindale’s favorite thesis was that art was driven by the search for novelty, and that this led to predictable, cyclic stylistic change. He gathered a lot of data, but his analysis is marred by his unfamiliarity with information theory and statistics. He uses baroque ad-hoc metrics when what he really wants is just to measure entropy, and he seems unable to compute confidence intervals or adjust for degrees of freedom correctly. Once he fit an equation with 6 degrees of freedom to 10 data points, and was pleased that it explained 71% of the variance.

In closing, I give you semi-random quotes from the book’s closing essays. Maybe they will inspire you as you write your next story.

Because we are never not in a situation, we are never not in the act of interpreting. Because we are never not in the act of interpreting, there is no possibility of reaching a level of meaning beyond or below interpretation. But in every situation some or other meaning will appear to us to be uninterpreted because it is isomorphic with the interpretive structure the situation (and therefore our perception) already has.

Stanley Fish, 1978

Despite Ricouer’s simplified idealization, and far from being a type of conversation between equals, the discursive situation is more usually like the unequal relation between colonizer and colonized, oppressor and oppressed. Some of the great modernists, Proust and Joyce prominent among them, had an acute understanding of this asymmetry; their representations of the discursive situation always show it in this power-political light.

Edward Said, 1983

If we are conscious of the provisional nature of the aesthetic dream that the poem nurtures, we also look for the poem’s own self-consciousness about its tentative spatializing powers. Its fiction, and our awareness of it, contain the twin elements of symbol and antisymbol, of words that fuse together even while, like words generally, they must fall apart in differentiation. Even further, the poem, together with our apprehension of it, combines its transformation of time into myth with its resignation to the countermetaphor of time as mere historicity.

Murray Krieger, 1981

[0] I’ve looked at the samples from the 17th century, but they all turned out to be collections of 17th-century stories published in the 18th century, when books didn’t include their own publishing dates. Google’s computers scanned them for the publishing date and picked up the dates of the stories in them.

[1] Not really, but that’s what everybody remembers him as saying.

[2] It doesn’t even mean stories that support conventional morality if you think about them. Dangerous Liasons, an 18th-century French libertine novel, is about two wicked people whose wicked schemes lead them to bad ends. It was universally condemned as wicked. Presumably figuring out that you’re not supposed to imitate the wicked people was considered too difficult for readers. Stories are supposed to have a clear, black-and-white morality, in which good people do good things and win a reward.

[3]  Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.

[4] Chomsky said grammars of human languages take more information to specify than humans can glean from the language they hear in the time it takes them to learn the language. Shannon showed how to measure the information content in a grammar. Measure it, and it turns out Chomsky is very wrong.

[5] Semiotics is based on a logical theory of categories, in which linguistic “signifiers” (words) mediate between “signs” (not signs, but concepts; blame Saussure) and things in the world. It assumes that people can think only in words, and so words correspond exactly to concepts, and so you lose no information by examining only words without asking about mental representations. This means words must mean the same thing in every context. Yet words have different implications in different contexts. Saussure interpreted this as showing that meaning is not present within the words, nor associated with words, but is something mystic and non-decomposable, brought to life by a body of words in the way that a soul is brought to life by the body of a man (my interpretation).

Wittgenstein and Derrida showed that words have different meanings in different contexts, and argued, more or less, that this meant they had no fixed meaning at all. Rosch’s study of categories, especially color terms, shows that categories have a lot of internal structure, and that the whole “a thought is a mental representation of a sentence, and a concept is a pointer to a word” theory is wrong.

[6] I may write a blog about analysis and synthesis. This is a distinction made often in philosophy. People say that Aristotle and scientists are “analysts” who break things down into their components, while Plato and mystics are “synthesizers” who combine things together into unified wholes. The distinction is often made in order to dismiss science as reductionist and say, “Yeah, sure, you guys can break things down into pieces, but you need a poet / a philosopher / God to put them back together.”

This is stupid. Look at the Poetics, and you can see that what Aristotle does is first analysis, breaking poetry down into its parts, and then synthesis, showing how the parts come together into a unity greater than the sum of its parts. That’s synthesis. What Plato, Hegel, and the other people who are called synthesizers do is make shit up. They aren’t doing synthesis because they never isolated any parts to combine.

Here’s the table of contents of the 3rd edition:

Plato.  Ion.  From “Republic.” From “Phaedrus.” From “Sophist.”From “Philebus.” From “Cratylus.”

Aristotle.  From “Metaphysics.” Poetics.  From “Rhetoric.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero.  From “Brutus.”

Horace.  Art of poetry.

Strabo.  From “Geography.”

Publius Cornelius Tacitus.  From “A dialogue on oratory.”

Pseudo-longinus.  On the sublime.

Plutarch.  From “How the young man should study poetry.”

Flavius Philostratus.  From “Lives of the sophists.”

Plotinus.  From “Enneads.”

Saint Augustine.  From “On Christian doctrine.”

Anicus Manlius Severinus Boethius.  From “Consolation of philosophy.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas.  From “Summa theologica.”

Dante Alighieri.  From “The banquet.” From “Letter to can grande della scala.”

Giovanni Boccaccio.  From “Life of Dante.” From “Genealogy of the gentile gods.”

Giralomo Fracastoro.  Naugarius.

Julius Caesar Scaliger.  From “Poetics.”

Lodovico Castelvetro.  From “The poetics of Aristotle translated and explained.”

Sir Philip Sidney.  Apology for poetry.

Giordano Bruno.  From “The cause, the principle, and the one.”

Giacopo Mazzoni.  From “On the defense of the comedy of Dante.”

George Puttenham.  From “The arte of English poesie.”

Torquato Tasso.  From “Discourses on the heroic poem.”

Sir Francis Bacon.  From “Novum organum.”

From “The advancement of learning.” From “The wisdom of the ancients.”

Pierre Corneille.  Of the three unities of action, time, and place.

John Dryden.  An essay of dramatic poesie.

Nicolas Boileau-despreaux.  The art of poetry.

John Locke.  From “An essay concerning human understanding.”

Alexander Pope.  Essay on criticism.

Joseph Addison.  From “On the pleasures of the imagination.”

Giambattista Vico.  From “The new science.”

David Hume.  Of the standard of taste.  Of tragedy.

Edmund Burke.  From “A philosophical inquiry into the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful.”

Edward Young.  From “Conjectures on original composition.”

Samuel Johnson.  Rambler 4.  From “Rassalas.” From “Preface to Shakespeare.”

Henry Home, Lord Kames.  From “Elements of criticism.”

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.  From “Laocoon.”

Denis Diderot.  From “The paradox of acting.”

Sir Joshua Reynolds.  From “Discourses on art.”

Immanuel Kant.  From “Critique of judgment.”

Mary Wollstonecraft.  From “A vindication of the rights of woman.”

William Blake.  From “The marriage of heaven and hell.” From “Letter to thomas butts.”

From “Annotations to Reynolds’ discourses.” From “A vision of the last judgment.”

Friedrich Schiller.  From “Letters on the aesthetic education of man.”

Friedrich Schlegel.  From “Critical fragments (lyceum fragments).”

From “Athenaeum fragments.” On incomprehensibility.

William Wordsworth.  Preface to the second edition of lyrical ballads.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  From “Shakespeare’s judgment equal to his genius.” From “The principles of genial criticism.”

From “Biographia literaria.” From “”essays on method” in the friend.”

From “The statesman’s manual.” From “On the constitution of church and state.”

Wilhelm Von Humboldt.  From “The eighteenth century.” From “Essay on aesthetics.”

From “Catium and Hellas.” From “Introduction to general linguistics.”

From “Announcement of an essay on the language and nation of the basque.”

From “On comparative linguistics.”

From “On the national characteristics of languages.”

From “Basic characteristics of linguistic types.”

From “On the episode from the mahabharata known as the bhagavad-gita ii.”

From “On the differences in human linguistic structure.”

John Keats.  From “Letter to benjamin bailey.” From “Letter to george and thomas keats.”

From “Letter to john taylor.” Letter to richard woodhouse.

Thomas Love Peacock.  The four ages of poetry.

Percy Bysshe Shelley.  A defense of poetry.

Arthur Schopenhauer.  From “The world as will and idea (representation).”

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.  From “The philosophy of fine art.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson.  From “The american scholar.” The poet.

Edgar Allan Poe.  From “The poetic principle.”

Matthew Arnold.  Preface to the 1853 edition of poems.

The function of criticism at the present time.  From “The study of poetry.”

Charles Baudelaire.  From “The salon of 1859.”

Karl Marx & friedrich engels.  From “The communist manifesto.” From “The German ideology.”

From “A contribution to the critique of political economy.”

Walter Pater.  From “Studies in the history of the renaissance.” Introduction: the modern era.

Hippolyte Adolphe Taine.  From “History of English literature.”

Charles Sanders Peirce.  On a new list of categories.

From “Lessons from the history of philosophy.” The first rule of reason.

From “Training in reasoning.” From “What pragmatism is.”

Walt Whitman.  From “Democratic vistas.”

Friedrich Nietzsche.  From “The birth of tragedy from the spirit of music.”

From “Truth and falsity in an ultramoral sense.”

Emile Zola.  From “The experimental novel.”

Oscar Wilde.  The decay of lying.

Stephane Mallarme.  The evolution of literature.

The book: a spiritual instrument.  Mystery in literature.

Gottlob Frege.  Sense and meaning.

Sigmund Freud.  Letter to Wilhelm Fleiss.  From “Archaic and infantile features in dreams.”

From “Development of the libido and sexual organization.”

Leo Tolstoy.  From “What is art?”

Edmund Husserl.  From “Logical investigations.”

Ferdinand De Saussure.  From “Course in general linguistics.”

Viktor Shklovsky.  Art as technique.

T.  S.  Eliot.  Tradition and the individual talent.  The frontiers of criticism.

Bertrand Russell.  Descriptions.

Paul Valery.  From “Leonardo and the philosophers.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein.  From “Tractatus logico-philosophicus.”

From “Philosophical investigations.”

C. K. Ogden & I. A. Richards.  Thoughts, words, and things.

I. A. Richards. From “Principles of literary criticism.”

From “Science and poetry.” Four Kinds of Meaning.

Leon Trotsky.  The formalist school of poetry and marxism.

Boris Eichenbaum.  The theory of the “formal method.”

Virginia Woolf.  From “A room of one’s own.”

William Empson.  From “Seven types of ambiguity.”

Mikhail M. Bakhtin.  Epic and novel: toward a methodology for the study of the novel.

V.  N.  Volosinov.  Verbal interaction.

Antonio Gramsci.  From “Prison notebooks.”

John Crowe Ransom.  Poetry: a note in ontology.

R.  P.  Blackmur.  A critic’s job of work.

Rudolf Carnap.  The elimination of metaphysics through logical analysis of language.

Empiricism, semantics and ontology.

Jacques Lacan.  The mirror stage.

Walter Benjamin.  Theses on the philosophy of history.

Max Horkheimer.  The social function of philosophy.

William Carlos Williams.  Against the weather: a portrait of the artist.

Kenneth Burke.  Literature as equipment for living.  Four master tropes.

Ernst Cassirer.  From “An essay on man.”

W.  K.  Wimsatt AND monroe c.  Beardsley.  The intentional fallacy.

Cleanth Brooks.  The heresy of paraphrase.  Irony as a principle of structure.

Martin Heidegger.  From “Letter on humanism.”

Ronald S.  Crane.  The critical monism of Cleanth Brooks.

From “The languages of criticism and the structure of poetry.”

M.  H.  Abrams.  Orientation of critical theories.

Theodor Adorno.  Cultural criticism and society.  From “Negative dialectics.”

Claude Levi-strauss.  The structural study of myth.

Roman Jakobson.  The metaphoric and metonymic poles.

Georg Lukacs.  The ideology of modernism.

Northrop Frye.  From “Anatomy of criticism.”

Noam Chomsky.  From “Review of verbal behavior.” From “Aspects of the theory of syntax.”

Jean-Paul Sartre.  Marxism and existentialism.

Frantz Fanon.  On national culture.

Jacques Derrida.  Structure, sign, and play in the discourse of the human sciences.

Meaning and representation.  From “Of grammatology.”

Hans Robert Jauss.  Literary history as a challenge to literary theory.

Roland Barthes.  The death of the author.

Michel Foucault.  What is an author? truth and power.

Thomas S.  Kuhn.  From “The structure of scientific revolutions: postscript, 1969.”

Louis Althusser.  From “Ideology and ideological state apparatus.”

Paul de Man.  Criticism and crisis.  The resistance to theory.

Clifford Geertz.  Thick description: toward an interpretive theory of culture.

Laura Mulvey.  Visual pleasure and narrative cinema.

Mary Louise Pratt.  From “Toward a speech act theory of literary discourse.”

Raymond Williams.  From “Marxism and literature.”

Edward W. Said.  From “Orientalism.”

Annette Kolodny.  Dancing through the minefield: some observations on the theory, practice, and politics of a feminist literary criticism.

Stanley Fish.  Is there a text in this class?

Pierre Bourdieu.  The production and reproduction of legitimate language.

Identity and representation: elements for a critical reflection on the idea of a region.

Jean Francois Lyotard.  Answering the question: what is postmodernism?

Benedict Anderson.  From “Imagined communities.”

Jurgen Habermas.  From “The philosophical discourse of modernity.”

Gilles Deleuze & felix guattari.  Rhizome.

James Clifford.  On ethnographic authority.

Richard Rorty.  The contingency of language.

Eve Sedgwick.  From “The epistemology of the closet.”

Philipe Lacoue-labarthe.  The truth of the political and the fiction of the political.

Stephen Greenblatt.  Resonance and wonder.

Judith Butler.  Imitation and gender insubordination.

John Guillory.  From “Cultural capital: the problem of literary canon formation.”

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.  Teaching for the times.

Slavoj Zizek.  From “The ticklish subject: the absent center of political ontology.”

Ernesto Laclau.  Subject of politics, politics of the subject.