The department of English is offering an interdisciplinary upper level elective course called “Literature, Theory and Criticism,” which will discuss psychoanalysis, queer theory, historicism, Marxist theory, ecocriticism and disability studies. The class is open to any student who has completed two classes in literature.
According to Priya Menon, an associate professor of English and the instructor for the course, the class begins with the examination of concepts such as history, voice and author and then moves to the study of various schools of literary theory developed in the 20th century.
“The closest discipline that comes to (literary) theory is philosophy in that both the disciplines build systems and seek answers to fundamental questions,” Menon said. “Theory differs from philosophy in that it is skeptical of the various schools it investigates while being skeptical of itself as a method.”
The reading list for the class includes works by a variety of scholars ranging from Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud to Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida.
According to Corina Wieser-Cox, an alumna who took the class in 2016 and is currently working on her master’s degree at Universität Bremen, the class taught her how to read dense texts, how to think critically and how to write papers for academic journals.
“Right now, my focus is on post-colonial and transcultural studies, and that is mainly because of this class,” Wieser-Cox said. “I loved the class and would definitely recommend it to students who want to push themselves in English literature.”
Michael Orlofsky, a professor of English, said that a course in theory opens students up to diverse ideas about a text – particularly the views of the traditionally overlooked perspective — of women, minorities, non-western people and the disabled.
According to him, students considering going into literary studies in graduate school would find a course in theory beneficial because some graduate seminars can be heavily influenced by the theoretical leanings of the professor. Knowing some of the basic schools of thought and their vocabulary would be good preparation for advanced study.
Menon said the class has been successfully completed by communication, history, sociology and economics major students alongside English majors in the past, and the course will benefit any student who wishes to learn how to read texts using interdisciplinary lenses that enable them to better understand the word, or rather world.
Students who have not completed the prerequisites may speak with the instructor. Menon can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.