This introductory course offers a survey of different understandings of cultural criticism and of different practices of critical reading; it also aims to develop students' ability to engage critically with particular works of literature.
This seminar is inspired by the idea of cultural criticism as put forward by Edward Said in his book The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983). It aims to develop your awareness of the multiple ways in which literature can offer a creative response to the world in which it is written and read. How does literature offer a resource for understanding the world? How have modern cultural theorists thought about the potential of literature to provide insight into the ways of the world and ideas about how it might become different? How have critics gone to work in articulating and making visible this potential? And finally, what is the future of cultural criticism and of 'experts' in the age of new media?|
Focussing on the work of major practitioners, the course will explore these questions. We will examine long-term changes (since c.1800) in the concept of literature and culture, and shifting attitudes to the role of the critic in an age of democratisation. You will be asked to participate actively in the form of class assignments; you will complete the course by writing an essay demonstrating your own ability to read critically.
This course provides understanding of the public role of the 'expert' critic; as such it contributes to the self-understanding of the students as academically-trained literary 'experts' as well as enhancing their competence in the practice of critical reading and writing.