30:386 History of Literary Criticism


Fall 2013 (tentative) 

Instructor: Dr. Reinhold Kramer

John Martin, The Bard 1817

John Martin, The Bard, 1817

109 Original Building/Clark Hall

727-7344 kramer@brandonu.ca

Office hours: 2:40-3:30 p.m.

                    (Mon., Wed., Thur.)



Course Description:

A survey of Western literary theory, especially thought about aesthetics and signification, from the 6th Century B.C. to the beginning of the 20th Century. The course will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of selected theories that informed the writing and reading of literature during various literary periods. Emphasis will fall on the historical context for each theorist, but we will also de-contextualize: finding where seemingly superseded theories still address contemporary concerns.



  1. Class Participation                                                                                              10%
  2. Reading Tests (on whole books)                          18, 20 September                 10%
  3. Mid-term Test                                                       11 October                             20%
  4. Essay  (12-14 pages)                                           27 November                         20%
  5. Final Exam                                                            17 December, 9-11 a.m.       40%

Note:  There may be penalties for lateness, depending upon circumstances.  Reading tests cannot be postponed, and missed tests cannot be rewritten without a doctor’s note or other documentation.  Cite all your sources – assignments containing plagiarism will be graded “0” and will result in disciplinary action.  See BU General Calendar 4.2.2 “Academic Integrity.”  No cell phones in class.

For the very shy:  in place of “class participation” you may hand in, 5 times during the course, short (1 page, double-spaced, typed) analyses, not paraphrases, of the readings under discussion that day.  These commentaries must be handed in before the readings are discussed in class and are worth 2% each.  No commentaries will be accepted after class discussions for any reason.

It’s possible that a student may find readings and/or discussions of controversial matters troubling.  If so, please contact the instructor immediately for alternative assignments or an alternative course.



Outstanding    A+  90 & up                A    84-89        A-   80-83       

Good               B+ 77-79                     B   74-76         B-  70-73                    

Satisfactory     C+ 67-69                     C   64-66         C-  60-63                    

Weak               D+ 57-59                     D   54-56         D-  50-53        

Inadequate      F 0-49



Leitch, Vincent B.  The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd edition.  Norton.

Norman, Colin.  Writing Essays:  A Short Guide.  2nd ed.  Queen’s. (optional)

Plato.  The Symposium.  Penguin.

Shakespeare.  King Lear.  Signet.



Sept. 4-6          Introduction:  theory’s reason



         9                       Gorgias of Leontini, from Encomium of Helen, pp. 38-41

         11                     Plato, Ion (photocopy)

         13 – 16             Plato, from The Republic Book X, pp. 64-77                        

        18                      King Lear  *(bring to every class, as a test case for the theories)

         20 – 25             Plato, The Symposium

Sept. 27 – Oct. 2        Aristotle, Poetics, pp. 88-105 (#20), 109 (#23)-15

Oct. 4                         Horace, Ars Poetica, pp. 122-33

        7, 9                     Longinus, from On Sublimity, pp. 136-54

        11                       Mid-term Test

        14                       Thanksgiving (no class)



        16 – 23               Augustine, from On Christian Doctrine, pp. 156-62 & photocopy

                                   Maimonides, from The Guide of the Perplexed, pp.169-73, 175-7

                                   Dante, from The Letter to Can Grande della Scala, pp. 188-90



Oct. 25 – 30                Sidney, An Apology for Poetry, pp. 254-83



Nov. 1 – 6                   Dryden, from An Essay of Dramatic Poesy, pp. 302-4

                                   Behn, “Epistle to the Reader,” The Dutch Lover, pp. 307-12

                                                “Preface,” The Lucky Chance, pp. 312-15

Nov. 8                         Johnson, from Rasselas; from Preface to Shakespeare, pp. 371-86

Nov. 11                       Remembrance Day (no class)

Nov. 13 – 15               Kant, from Critique of Judgement, pp. 411, 414-20, 423-5, 430-2,

                                                   436-40 (§1-7, §13-14, §23, §27-8)



Nov. 18 – 22             Wordsworth, “Preface to Second Edition,” Lyrical Ballads, pp. 559-79

Nov. 25 – 27             Coleridge, from Biographia Literaria, pp. 584-90

Nov. 27                      Essay due



Nov. 29 – Dec. 4         Arnold, The Function of Criticism at the Present Time, pp. 695-714

                                                 “Sweetness & Light,” pp. 714-21

Dec. 6                         Review

Dec. 17, 9-11 a.m.    Final Exam