ENGL311 (Section 001, Schedule #40361)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Fall 2021
MW 2pm-3:15pm :: MPC Academic Learning Commons 2107
Prof. David Golumbia
Office: 333 Hibbs Hall
Fall 2021 Office Hours: Tues 2-4pm (over Zoom)

Linguistics and Literary Theory

Literature is made out of language, especially written language, so there are many strong connections between the theoretical questions raised by the study of literature and those raised by the study of language. This class explores some of those connections. We will cover topics such as the relationship between written language and spoken language; the incorporation of spoken language into written texts (such as the use of dialogue in novels); poststructuralist questions about the nature of language; the question of “style” in writing; the historical relationship between the study of language and the study of literature; the idea of “literary” writing; the question of interpretation in the production and reception of language; and the use of linguistics concepts in the practice of literary criticism. Evaluation will be via short written assignments and vigorous participation in discussion. Some familiarity with literary theory and/or linguistics will be useful but is not required.


Texts for Purchase (all other readings will be provided in Canvas and on the web)


This class uses a hybrid modality. We may need to adjust the specifics over the course of the term, but in general it will work this way:

Assignments and Evaluation

Official VCU Policy Statements


Week-by-Week Syllabus

Week One. Introduction.

Week Two. Culler, Literary Theory

Week Three. Culler, Literary Theory

Week Four. McWhorter, What Language Is

Week Five. Study Week. No class meetings

Week Six. McWhorter, What Language Is

Week Seven. Heteroglossia

Week Eight. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Signifying Monkey (selections)

Week Nine. Study week; no class meetings

Week Ten. Derrida

Week Eleven. Spillers, "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe"

Week Twelve. Christina Sharpe, In the Wake (selections)

Week Thirteen. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?"

Week Fourteen. Thanksgiving week; no class meetings

Week Fifteen. Fascism and Rhetoric

Week Sixteen. Individual paper meetings

Week Seventeen. Individual paper meetings