Literary Criticism: Readers and their Texts - ENG 5283 - Spring 2009


Frank Kermode, The Genesis
of Secrecy

Harvard UP, 1979
ISBN: 06743445355

King James Version of the Bible

Revised Standard Version of the Bible

Lori Anne Ferrell, The Bible and the People
Yale UP, 2008
ISBN: 09780300114249

Plato, Republic (Waterfield trans.)
Oxford UP, 2008

Hackett, 1995
ISBN: 0872202208

Aristotle, Poetics, trans. Gerald Else, Michigan UP, 1967
ISBN: 0472061666

 Charlaine Harris, Dead Until Dark
ACE, 2001
ISBN: 0441008534

Shakespeare, The Tempest
Cambridge School Shakespeare, 1999
ISBN: 1903436087

Jonathan Rose, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes
Yale UP, 2001
ISBN: 0300088868


Bruce Krajewski
CFO 906

Rather than a tour through the mall of literary theory, this course will take a particular path in the history of hermeneutics.  For the mall approach, you can read a wonderfully useful anthology entitled The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

We will be exploring some salient questions about literary theory that pertain to groupings of texts from the Bible to the Sookie Stackhouse series of novels.  This exploration will require digging, and a level of attention that might seem taxing at times. We will ask some basic questions, such as Kermode does in his book -- "Why are some narratives obscure?"  How are things hidden in writing? Is this always a secondary effect, or are the psychoanalysts correct that we also (1) hide things, like the truth, from ourselves, and/or (2) refuse to see? We will also think about the ways in which ideology impacts our capacities for clear vision. That is, we apparently have the capacity to live a grand illusion, and not necessarily as a Second Life.

"Allegory is not a playful illustrative technique, but a form of expression, just as speech is expression, and, indeed, just as writing is." Walter Benjamin makes that declaration in The Origin of German Tragic Drama (162 in the standard translation). As Renaissance authors used to say, confirming Benjamin's point above, allegory is the captain of all rhetorical figures of speech. For that reason alone, the topic of allegory deserves our attention. Part of the task involves developing distinctions among allegory, figuration, metaphor, and symbol, and delving into epistemological and political considerations (e.g., Plato's "Seventh Letter").

Part of the course will focus on a play that will be offered this spring (April 23-26) on TWU's campus, The Tempest.  We will see that play, and I hope to arrange for all of us to talk with the cast and the director about interpretive choices they made for staging the play.  In connection with that, we will see some cinematic interpretations of the text, and we will study why that Shakespearean work became a focal point for a movement called New Historicism, and later, Postcolonialism.

How do people deal with words on a page?  What happens when we try to understand texts?  How have the texts we read come down to us?  Which ones are binding on us, and function as a kind of scripture?

Charlaine Harris
(above) was born in Mississippi in 1951. A native of the Mississippi Delta, she grew up in the middle of a cotton field. Now she lives in southern Arkansas with her husband, her three children, three dogs, and a duck. The duck stays outside.

Though her early output consisted largely of ghost stories, by the time she hit college (Rhodes, in Memphis) Charlaine was writing poetry and plays. After holding down some low-level jobs, she had the opportunity to stay home and write, and the resulting two stand-alones were published by Houghton Mifflin. After a child-producing sabbatical, Charlaine latched on to the trend of writing mystery series, and soon had her own traditional books about a Georgia librarian, Aurora Teagarden. Her first Teagarden, Real Murders, garnered an Agatha nomination. -- excerpt from the official Charlaine Harris web site

TWU Home Department of English, Speech, and Foreign Languages International Society for the History of Rhetoric • Last updated 16 January 2009.