26 episodes

(ENGL 300) This is a survey of the main trends in twentieth-century literary theory. Lectures will provide background for the readings and explicate them where appropriate, while attempting to develop a coherent overall context that incorporates philosophical and social perspectives on the recurrent questions: what is literature, how is it produced, how can it be understood, and what is its purpose?

This course was recorded in Spring 2009.

Literary Theory - Audio Yale University

    • Books
    • 4.2, 73 Ratings

(ENGL 300) This is a survey of the main trends in twentieth-century literary theory. Lectures will provide background for the readings and explicate them where appropriate, while attempting to develop a coherent overall context that incorporates philosophical and social perspectives on the recurrent questions: what is literature, how is it produced, how can it be understood, and what is its purpose?

This course was recorded in Spring 2009.

    01 - Introduction

    01 - Introduction

    In this first lecture, Professor Paul Fry explores the course's title in three parts. The relationship between theory and philosophy, the question of what literature is and does, and what constitutes an introduction are interrogated. The professor then situates the emergence of literary theory in the history of modern criticism and, through an analysis of major thinkers such as Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, provides antecedents for twentieth-century theoretical developments.

    • 39 min
    02 - Introduction (cont.)

    02 - Introduction (cont.)

    In this second introductory lecture, Professor Paul Fry explores the interrelation of skepticism and determinism. The nature of discourse and the related issue of discursivity is read through two modern works, Anton Chekov's Cherry Orchard and Henry James' The Ambassadors. Exemplary critical focus on literary authority is located in Michel Foucault's "What Is an Author" and [Roland] Barthes' "The Death of the Author," both of which are read with an emphasis on their historical contexts. Objections to the approach and conclusions of the two theorists are examined, particularly in light of the rise of cultural studies.

    • 46 min
    03 - Ways In and Out of the Hermeneutic Circle

    03 - Ways In and Out of the Hermeneutic Circle

    In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry examines acts of reading and interpretation by way of the theory of hermeneutics. The origins of hermeneutic thought are traced through Western literature. The mechanics of hermeneutics, including the idea of a hermeneutic circle, are explored in detail with reference to the works of Hans-George Gadamer, Martin Heidegger, and E. D. Hirsch. Particular attention is paid to the emergence of concepts of "historicism" and "historicality" and their relation to hermeneutic theory.

    • 46 min
    04 - Configurative Reading

    04 - Configurative Reading

    The discussion of Gadamer and Hirsch continues in this lecture, which further examines the relationship between reading and interpretation. Through a comparative analysis of these theorists, Professor Paul Fry explores the difference between meaning and significance, the relationship between understanding and paraphrasing, and the nature of the gap between the reader and the text. Through Wolfgang Iser's essay, "The Reading Process," the nature of textual expectation and surprise, and the theory of their universal importance in narrative, is explained. The lecture concludes by considering the fundamental, inescapable role that hermeneutic premises play in canon formation.

    • 52 min
    05 - The Idea of the Autonomous Artwork

    05 - The Idea of the Autonomous Artwork

    In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry explores the origins of formalist literary criticism. Considerable attention is paid to the rise and subsequent popularity of the New Critics and their preferred site of literary exploration, the "poem." The idea of autonomous art is explored in the writings of, among others, Kant, Coleridge, and Wilde. Using the work of Wimsatt and Beardsley, the lecture concludes with an examination of acceptable categories of evidence in New Criticism.

    • 46 min
    06 - The New Criticism and Other Western Formalisms

    06 - The New Criticism and Other Western Formalisms

    In this second lecture on formalism, Professor Paul Fry begins by exploring the implications of Wimsatt and Beardsley's theory of literary interpretation by applying them to Yeats's "Lapis Lazuli." He then maps the development of Anglo-American formalism from Modernist literature to the American and British academies. some time is spent examining the similarities and differences between the works of I. A. Richards and his protegé, William Empson. The lecture turns finally to a discussion Cleanth Brooks's conception of unity.

    • 50 min

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5
73 Ratings

73 Ratings

Drownout ,

Great lectures, great syllabus

Enjoyed these a great deal. Do require you to pay attention and have some knowledge/reading but it is an advanced class. Perhaps not a casual fun podcast but one should know what you want before wading in.

berthemorisot ,

Fantastic

Loved this series. A good refresher course from undergrad lit theory and a few new faces along the way. I'm not sure what textbook he used...pretty sure it wasn't the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Also wish I had a list of other assigned readings. I mostly followed what was going on, but I could have learned more if I had been able to do the homework.

andysphere ,

Useless, Shoddy, Inscrutable Lectures

These lectures make a terrible podcast, for many reasons. The professor is simply a poor lecturer. He wanders, he lacks coherent points or threads, he does not concern himself with making any of the texts or authors easier to understand (I am fairly familiar with these thinkers and found that he only made them more obscure), he stumbles and forgets things, he arrogantly assumes vast knowledge of literary references that he narcissistically name-drops without explanation, he makes elliptical allusions without any clarification, etc. etc. The lecture are also not at all structured to make sense as a podcast, especially not an “open college” one or an introductory one. Too much reliance on the reading materials and too little to facilitate the lectures for a listener who’s not actually a Yale student (which is of course the whole point of making these available for free). The subject matter is treated both at times as far too surface level and at other times far too concerned with minutia to be a good introduction or layperson podcast. There are *far* better places to get the same material for free, with much better speakers and strutted far more to work as a podcast. In short: DO. NOT. BOTHER!

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