The Theory and Practice of Criticism

Course Outline:

This is the core course of English at Lancaster. It is designed to enable students to reflect on the ways in which they approach literature and to introduce them to key concepts in contemporary literary studies. By examining major thinkers like Marx, Freud, Foucault and Derrida, and examining key ideas like ideology, the unconscious, discourse and biopolitics, this course asks fundamental questions about the status and function of literature in society: What is literature? What makes it an object suitable for an academic discipline? Who reads it, produces it, and why? How is literature connected to the critical movements that seem to define literature even as they seek to appreciate and explain it? We ask questions about the relationship between author, text and reader, we analyse various theories about the process or practice of writing and reading as students, as critics, and in general as ‘consumers’ of literature in the culture of today. In relation to the English degree as a whole, 201 aims to equip students with the knowledge, experience and skill necessary to bring a greater sophistication, care and rigour to their literary studies in their final year.