ENGL 311 (Section 901, Schedule #39969)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Spring 2020
MW 4:00-5:15 pm :: Hibbs 440
Prof. David Golumbia
Office: 333 Hibbs Hall
Spring 2020 Office Hours: MW 12:00-1:30pm

Introduction to Literary Theory

A survey of major contributions to literary theory, focusing especially on text and textuality, and especially the social, cultural and political aspects of textual interpretation. Readings largely made up of essays by major figures such as Culler, Foucault, Derrida, Spivak, Said, Butler, Morrison, Sedgwick, Winters, Sharpe, and  Jameson. Evaluation is via vigorous participation in class discussion, a short paper, and two exams.


Texts for purchase (note that in some cases, students are required to obtain the specific edition of the book listed below). Most of the readings for the class will be articles available on Blackboard.

Assignments and Evaluation

Evaluation will be based on written exercises and course participation as follows:

Course-Specific Policies

Official VCU Policy Statements

Students should visit http://go.vcu.edu/syllabus and review all syllabus statement information. The full university syllabus statement includes information on safety, registration, the VCU Honor Code, student conduct, withdrawal and more.

Week-by-Week Syllabus

Week One. Introduction

Background reading: Plato (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, SEP); Aristotle (SEP)

Week Two. Introduction

Background reading: Idealism (SEP); Realism (SEP); Representation (arts) (Wikipedia); Theory of Forms (Wikipedia); Rationalism vs Empiricism (SEP); René Descartes (SEP); John Locke (Wikipedia); David Hume (SEP)

Week Three. Overview: Culler

Background reading: Immanuel Kant (SEP); Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (SEP); Enlightenment (SEP); Karl Marx (SEP)

Week Four. Poststructuralism: Derrida

Background reading: Psychoanalysis (Wikipedia); Martin Heidegger (SEP); Jacques Derrida (SEP); Deconstruction (Wikipedia); Structuralism (Wikipedia)

Week Five. No classes

Week Six. Poststructuralism: Foucault

Background reading: Michel Foucault (SEP)

Week Seven. Poststructuralism: Spivak

Background reading: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Wikipedia); "Critical Intimacy: An Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak" (web)

Week Eight. Critical Theory: Adorno, Jameson

Background reading: "Critical Theory" (SEP); "Theodor W. Adorno" (SEP); "Fredric Jameson" (Wikipedia)

Week Nine (Spring Break)

Week Ten. (COVID-19 Break)

Week Eleven. Race: Spillers

Background reading: "Hortense Spillers" (Wikipedia); "The Scholarly Journey of Hortense Spillers" (interview, web)

Week Twelve. Race: Spillers & Wynter

Week Thirteen. Race: Wynter & Sharpe

Week Fourteen. Media & Technology: Baudrillard

Background reading: "Jean Baudrillard" (Wikipedia); William Merrin, "'Did You Ever Eat Tasty Wheat?': Baudrillard and The Matrix" (web)

Week Fifteen. Media & Technology: Han, Agony of Eros

Week Sixteen. Paper conferences.

Final paper is due by the end of the final exam period for the course, 6:50pm, Weds, May 6, 2020, per the registrar's exam schedule. The paper should be submitted on Blackboard. No late papers can be accepted for the final paper assignment. There is no other final exam for the course.

Last updated  April 8, 2020.