Introduction to Theory of Literature (Open Yale Courses)

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In this final lecture on literary theory, Professor Paul Fry revisits the relationship between language and speech, language and intention, and language and communication. Over the course of this discussion, he retrospectively defines theory as a means of establishing the extent to which "it is legitimate to be suspicious of communication." Along the way, he reconnects with New Criticism, Jakobson, Bakhtin, Saussure, de Man, Fish, and Knapp and Michaels. Through an analysis of epitaphs and a final tour through Tony the Tow Truck, he underscores the central role of language in the variety of literary theories presented in the course.

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Tags: criticism, higher education, lacan, yale, queer, fry, formalism, linguistics, education, humanities, literary, post-colonial, literature, theory, freud, courses, semiotics, postmodern, hermeneutics, feminist, structuralism, paul, open, english

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In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry takes on Knapp and Michaels's influential article, "Against Theory." The historical context of the piece is given and key aspects of the theorists' critical orientations, specifically their neo-pragmatism, are defined. A lengthy discussion of the relationships between, on the one hand, intention and meaning …
In this lecture on critical identities, Professor Fry examines the work of Stanley Fish and John Guillory. The lecture begins by examining Tony the Tow Truck as a site for the emergence of literary identities, then brings the course's use of the children's story under scrutiny through the lens of …
In this lecture on queer theory, Professor Paul Fry explores the work of Judith Butler in relation to Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality. Differences in terminology and methods are discussed, including Butler's emphasis on performance and Foucault's reliance on formulations such as "power-knowledge" and "the deployment of alliance." Butler's fixation …
In this lecture on post-colonial theory, Professor Paul Fry explores the work of Edward Said and Homi K. Bhabha. The complicated origins, definitions, and limitations of the term "post-colonial" are outlined. Elaine Showalter's theory of the phasic development of female literary identity is applied to the expression of post-colonial identities. …
In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry examines trends in African-American criticism through the lens of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Toni Morrison. A brief history of African-American literature and criticism is undertaken, and the relationship of both to feminist theory is explicated. The problems in cultural and identity studies of …
In this lecture on feminist criticism, Professor Paul Fry uses Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own as a lens to and commentary on the flourishing of feminist criticism in the twentieth century. The structure and rhetoric of A Room of One's Own is extensively analyzed, as are its core …
19 - The New Historicism March 31, 2009
In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry examines the work of two seminal New Historicists, Stephen Greenblatt and Jerome McGann. The origins of New Historicism in Early Modern literary studies are explored, and New Historicism's common strategies, preferred evidence, and literary sites are explored. Greenblatt's reliance on Foucault is juxtaposed with …
In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry explores Fredric Jameson's seminal work, The Political Unconscious, as an outcropping of Marxist literary criticism and structural theory. Texts such as Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" and Shakespeare's seventy-third sonnet are examined in the context of Jameson's three horizons of underlying interpretive frameworks--the …
This first lecture on social theories of art and artistic production examines the Frankfurt School. The theoretical writings of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin are explored in historical and political contexts, including Marxism, socialist realism, and late capitalism. The concept of mechanical reproduction, specifically the relationship between labor and art, …
In this first lecture on the theory of literature in social contexts, Professor Paul Fry examines the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and Hans Robert Jauss. The relation of their writing to formalist theory and the work of Barthes and Foucault is articulated. The dimensions of Bakhtin's heteroglossia, along with the …
In this lecture on the postmodern psyche, Professor Paul Fry explores the work of Gilles Deleuze, and Felix Guattari. and Slavoj _i_ek. The notion of the "postmodern" is defined through the use of examples in the visual arts and architecture. Deleuze and Guattari's theory of "rhizomatic" thinking and their intellectual …
14 - Influence Feb. 26, 2009
In this lecture on the psyche in literary theory, Professor Paul Fry explores the work of T. S. Eliot and Harold Bloom, specifically their studies of tradition and individualism. Related and divergent perspectives on tradition, innovation, conservatism, and self-effacement are traced throughout Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent" and Bloom's …
In this lecture on psychoanalytic criticism, Professor Paul Fry explores the work of Jacques Lacan. Lacan's interest in Freud and distaste for post-Freudian "ego psychologists" are briefly mentioned, and his clinical work on "the mirror stage" is discussed in depth. The relationship in Lacanian thought, between metaphor and metonymy is …
12 - Freud and Fiction Feb. 19, 2009
In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry turns his attention to the relationship between authorship and the psyche. Freud's meditations on the fundamental drives governing human behavior are read through the lens of literary critic Peter Brooks. The origins of Freud's work on the "pleasure principle" and his subsequent revision of …
11 - Deconstruction II Feb. 17, 2009
In this second lecture on deconstruction, Professor Paul Fry concludes his consideration of Derrida and begins to explore the work of Paul de Man. Derrida's affinity for and departure from Levi-Strauss's distinction between nature and culture are outlined. De Man's relationship with Derrida, their similarities and differences--particularly de Man's insistence …
10 - Deconstruction I Feb. 12, 2009
In this lecture on Derrida and the origins of deconstruction, Professor Paul Fry explores two central Derridian works: "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences" and "Différance." Derrida's critique of structuralism and semiotics, particularly the work of Levi-Strauss and Saussure, is articulated. Deconstruction's central assertions that language …
In this lecture on the work of Roman Jakobson, Professor Paul Fry continues his discussion of synchrony and diachrony. The relationships among formalism, semiotics, and linguistics are explored. Claude Levi-Strauss' structural interpretation of the Oedipus myth is discussed in some detail. In order to differentiate Jakobson's poetic functions, Professor Fry …
In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry explores the semiotics movement through the work of its founding theorist, Ferdinand de Saussure. The relationship of semiotics to hermeneutics, New Criticism, and Russian formalism is considered. Key semiotic binaries--such as langue and parole, signifier and signified, and synchrony and diachrony--are explored. Considerable time …
07 - Russian Formalism Feb. 3, 2009
In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry explores the works of major Russian formalists reviewed in an essay by Boris Eikhenbaum. He begins by distinguishing Russian formalism from hermeneutics. Eikhenbaum's dependency on core ideas of Marxist and Darwinian philosophies of struggle and evolution is explained. Formalism's scientific language and methodical aspirations …