Syllabus / Schedule

—ENGL 871:101    Fall 2018—
2:00-4:50 W    ANDR 113

Last Updated: 11 Aug. 2018

Contact InfoSyllabusSchedule
Midterm EssayFinal EssayClass Presentation
Course "NOTES" Page (incl. immediate assignments)

Contact Information: THOMAS C. GANNON        

OFFICE:346 Andrews Hall
MAILBOX:227 Andrews Hall
OFFICE HOURS:W, 11:30-1:30; TH, 2:00-3:00 pm; and by appointment . . . and email, of course::::
COURSE WEB PAGEs: Note: this SYLLABUS page and the course "NOTES"/Assignments page are accessible via CANVAS, as are all course PDFs.


"There are no facts, only interpretations."

COURSE DESCRIPTION/OBJECTIVES: This is a survey course that introduces students to the various philosophical and theoretical foundations necessary for the study of contemporary literary and cultural criticism. The course will be divided roughly in half, with the first part dedicated to the foundational figures of continental philosophy and critical theory (e.g., Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Derrida, and Foucault) and the second part devoted to contemporary interventions in critical theory in this (Mis)Information Era of ours, including philosophies (and philosophical critiques) of the natural, social, & political sciences (e.g., Latour, McIntyre).

To foster the intersection of the lecture series and our readings, students will be asked to attend two Humanities on the Edge events (see Requirements, below); moreover, the book of one of our speakers is on the syllabus.

The second emphasis—call it "what is truth"?—issues from the 2018-2019 theme of UNL's Humanities on the Edge speaker series —"Post-Truth Futures." Synchronistically, before I knew of this topic, I had already thought of subtitling the course as "Truth and Lies in the (mis/dis)Information Age." (Or: "Is Trumpian Politics Le Dernier Cri of Postmodernism?") If the earlier texts of the course will already have asked the grand question, "What is truth, and how can we know it?," later readings—from Nietzsche on, actually—will also ask how intrinsically related "truth" is to ideology, and indeed, whether there is such a thing as objective truth at all. This will lead us to the fascinating contemporary question: is there now an ironic relationship between the alt-right's seemingly absurd appeals to "alternative facts" & "fake news" and—gasp—postmodernism itself? And thus ultimately to ostensibly radical French poststructuralist theory? Have we come to some sort of ideological impasse, some new "monstrous birth," to use Derrida's phrase? How might the liberal humanist (or post-humanist?) mind deal with the vertigo involved in such problems as the "squishiness" between scientific "facts" and matters of "opinion," etc.? . . . In sum: fun stuff.

Let me try it again: from the beginnings of Western philosophy, and maybe especially with the advent of Continental philosophy (i.e., Kant & Hegel on), one may perceive a fundamental thread: "Reality is not what it seems." Thus Kant can claim that we can't really know the "thing itself," Nietzsche can say, "There are no facts, only interpretations," and Derrida, by the late 20th century, can claim to "deconstruct" all assertions of truth in discourse. Has this whole thread led, as some have claimed, to such 21st-century terms and notions like "factish[ness]" (Latour), "truthiness" (Colbert), "alternative facts" (Conway), and even "fake news" (Trump, et al.: especially true news that you don't like!?)? Of course, this is merely one of many fascinating themes to follow in a sequence of texts from Kant to Sandoval.

REQUIRED Hardcopy TEXTS (in order of use):
• McIntyre, Lee. Post-Truth. MIT Press, 2018.
• Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy & The Genealogy of Morality. 1872, 1887. Translated by Francis Golffing, Doubleday, 1956.
• Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. 1927. Edited by Todd Dufresne, translated by Gregory C. Richter, Broadside Press, 2012.
• Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. 1975. Translated by Alan Sheridan, 4th ed., Vintage Books, 2007.
• Latour, Bruno. Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Harvard UP, 1999.
• Sandoval, Chela. Methodology of the Oppressed. U Of Minnesota P, 2000.
—Plus, a good number of PDF files on CANVAS (see schedule, below)—

(A Few) AUXILIARY Texts:
• Adams, Hazard, and Leroy Searle, editors. Critical Theory Since Plato. 3rd ed., Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.
—I might have required this as a course text, if it weren't over two hundred freaking dollars?! There's a copy at both the LOVE and CYT (east campus) libraries. Most importantly, perhaps, here's the origin of many of the PDFs on Canvas, for citation purposes. (BTW, I converted all these MLA-style Works Cited entries to the new 8th-edition guidelines of the MLA Handbook. If you still want to employ the 7th ed. format for your papers, no prob; just be consistent.)
• Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. 2nd ed., U of Minnesota P, 1996.
—This book is now a little long in the tooth, but it's still one of the best & clearest introductions to 20th-century theory around. Better yet, I found a complete (& searchable) PDF version (and put it on Canvas, under "Miscellanea"). . . . And on second thought, I've ultimately assigned many of the chapters (see schedule, below). In fact, finding a used (hard)copy might not be a bad idea in the long run.
• Holcombe, Colin John. A Background to Critical Theory. Ocaso Press, 2016.
—Something of a(n eccentric, even reactionary) "Theory for Dummies" guide, but the brief summaries of the DWEM (Dead White Euro-Male) philosophers & theorists are worth looking at, if you know little about them. (Hey, it was free! The full, searchable PDF is available on Canvas under "Miscellanea." I've referenced relevant sections on the reading schedule, below.)
• Russell, Bertrand. A History of Western Philosophy. 1945. Simon & Schuster, 1961.
—This PDF on Canvas includes all of Part III ("Modern Philosophy," from the Renaissance on). So it has chapters on Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. Unfortunately, the British philosopher Russell is pretty biased against all these German dudes, especially since he originally wrote it towards the end of World War II. Fortunately, his treatments are often funny as hell.

ATTENDANCE is "highly recommended," of course. You will be allowed ONE unexcused (& already unconscionable!) absence; each subsequent one will result in your final course grade being lowered by one letter grade. Excused absences will be granted to those who email me in advance with a dang good reason; but note that these, too, will be detrimental to your participation score. . . . (NOTE that this and several of the sections that follow retain some wording originally aimed at those $%#@#&^@# irresponsible undergraduates. I know that you know better. Excuse the apparent condescension. [But all stated rules still apply!])


AssignmentNumber of ~PointsTotal Points
Final Essay1400400
Midterm Essay1200200
Informal Responses450200
Class Presentation1100100
Total:- - - - - - - -- - - -1,000
Final Point Total -> Final Grade:
970-1,000 = A+930-969 = A900-929 = A-- - - -
870-899 = B+830-869 = B800-829 = B-- - - -
770-799 = C+730-769 = C700-729 = C-- - - -
670-699 = D+630-669 = D600-629 = D-0-599 = F

    For the formal ESSAY assignments, each component of the assignment (content, organization, and grammar/mechanics)—the detailed guidelines of which will be eventually spelled out below on this web syllabus—will be assigned a grade (translated into a point total) based upon the following rubric:
  A: "You are to be applauded for 'going beyond' most or all of the required criteria in an outstanding fashion!"    8-)
  B: "Not only did you meet the required criteria but, for at least some of these criteria, you went 'beyond the call of duty' in some noteworthy manner!"    :-D
  C: "Okay! You fulfilled the required/minimum criteria for this component!"    :-)
  D: "You failed to meet at least some of the minimum criteria for this component."    :-(
  F: "Your lack of attention to the minimum criteria for this component reveals a basic misunderstanding of the assignment and/or a lack of class attendance."    :'-{

PARTICIPATION: Oral Participation points will be allotted twice, at midterm and at semester's end, based on the quality of your contribution to at-large oral discussions of the readings and to various small-group activities involving said readings. Consider it your standing informal assignment, for each day's readings, to come to class with "things to say": in other words, annote as you read, even if it's only via "!," "?," and "WTF?!" . . . To reinforce a previous if obvious bullet point, attendance per se is essential to acquiring a decent point total for this component of your final grade. A less obvious point (to some previous students, apparently): coming to class without the assigned readings (texts, Canvas PDFs, etc.) is nearly as useless as not coming to class at all, and will also be noted and taken into account in determining your participation score.

        • Digital Text Policy: Only dedicated eReaders (e.g., Nook, Kindle, even the iPad) are allowed as substitutes for hardcopy texts and PDF printouts. Accessing the material on a mobile phone is, frankly, absurd (and reveals an ad hoc unpreparedness); also, accessing course PDFs on your laptop in class says to me that you may not have read them in the first place. . . . For this course in particular, I would expect students to print out and annotate all assigned PDFs—unless you can demonstrate to me a viable digital annotation method (or eidetic memory). In other words, I still adhere to the old-school position that nothing beats a hard copy for the close reading of difficult texts.

Informal RESPONSES: students will write FOUR 2-page-or-more informal responses (hard copy required); high-scoring responses will do what Humanities/English/critical-theory folks should do best: make connections. The first two will involve the previous two- or three-weeks' readings (specific prompts will be forthcoming). The second two will respond to/evaluate the two HotE lectures this semester (see schedule, below). In these latter responses, connections with our course readings will be especially welcome. (Make-up assignments will be devised if your schedule absolutely prohibits you from attending one or both of these events. ["However, the make-up may well involve Kant or Hegel." ;-}])

PRESENTATION: You will also moderate an in-class discussion of either one (or part of one) of the later course readings, OR your own final (likely in-progress) essay. Once the guidelines & choices are posted (below), you can "sign up" for your text choice (or . . .) via email, thru midterm (Week 8; see below). "First come, first served."

FORMAL ESSAYS: Guidelines for the formal essays will be presented later, on a detailed "handout" for each (to be available on this page, below). . . . Instead of requiring hard copies of essays, I will instead ask for electronic submissions of the two major essays: email them in .doc or .docx format by the beginning of class, the day that they are due. I spend more time "marking up" essays via WORD's comments feature, but since this should be a relatively small class, and you deserve special treatment! (Seriously.)

        ** DUE DATES, PAPER LENGTH, & ESSAY FORMAT:Unless special arrangements have been made, LATE written essays will be docked 10% (= one letter grade) of their assigned point total for EACH DAY LATE, including all non-class days. (This includes Saturdays & Sundays.) . . . Because of problems in the past in this regard, all written work is due by/at the BEGINNING of the class period of the day it is due. If you will be absent (and EXCUSED) on a particular due date, email me a copy of your assignment by the beginning of class to demonstrate its completion; then provide me with a hard copy later, for me to grade. (For this course, this applies only to the informal responses, obviously.) . . . While there is no "short" penalty per se, a paper that obviously fails to meet the assignment's minimum length guidelines will no doubt fail to gain a goodly number of points in criterion areas such as adequate development and support. Note, too, that a page padded with margins > 1" and a font > 12 pt. type does not equal "one page." Essays should follow the MLA stylesheet format, including the documentation of sources via parenthetical citations and a Works Cited page.

 PLAGIARISM is the undocumented use of another's words or ideas as your own, whether it be an entire paper that you didn't write or an almost word-for-word "paraphrase" from an outside source. Don't do it. Not only are you cheating yourself by wasting your time and money, but plagiarism is one of the most serious of academic offenses and will result, at a bare minimum, in a score of 0 for the assignment. You may also be failed from the course and be subject to further University sanctions, as the incident warrants.

STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: I would like to hear from anyone who has a disability that may require some modification of seating, testing, or other class requirements so that appropriate arrangements may be made. Please talk with me before/after class or during my office hours.
        [Official SSD Statement:] Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) provides individualized academic support for students with documented disabilities. Support services can include extended test time, textbooks and handouts in alternative formats (electronic texts, Braille, taped texts, etc), classroom notes, sign language interpreters, and transcriptionists. SSD not only accommodates students that have visible disabilities, but students with other varying types of disabilities that impact college life. If you have a documented disability that is impacting your academic progress, please call SSD at 472-3787 and schedule an appointment. If you do not have a documented disability but you are having difficulties with your coursework (such as receiving low grades even though you study more than your classmates or find you run out of time for test questions when the majority of your peers finish their exams in the allotted time), you may schedule an appointment to discuss the challenges you are experiencing.



Class Notes page at any time for the next class's immediate assignments—)


WEEK 1 (W, Aug. 22nd):: Syllabus, course introduction; Putting the Cart Before the Horse: Latour: "Why Has Critique Run out of Steam?" {Canvas PDF}; Nealon: "Interpretation. The Swerve around P: Theory after Interpretation" {Canvas PDF}; McIntyre: "Did Postmodernism Lead to Post-Truth?" (Post-Truth 123-150); Crit-Theory Flow Chart {Canvas PDF, under "Miscellanea"}
                —Suggested Background Reading:
                • Ernst: "Donald Trump Is The First President To Turn Postmodernism Against Itself" {Canvas PDF}

WEEK 2 (W, Aug. 29th):: The Critical Conversation: Eagleton's Literary Theory {Canvas PDF, under "MISCELLANEA"}: "Introduction: What is Literature?" (1-14); "The Rise of English" (15-46); "Conclusion: Political Criticism" (169-189); "Afterword" (190-208)

WEEK 3 (W, Sept. 5th):: German Idealism: Kant: from Critique of Judgment {Canvas PDF}; Hegel: from The Philosophy of Fine Art and The Phenomenology of Mind [Spirit] {Canvas PDF}
                —Suggested Background Readings:
                • Kant: Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime
                • Hegel: Preface to Phenomenology of Mind
                • "Continental Philosophy"/"German Idealism": Encyclopedia Brittanica Online {Canvas PDF, under "GERMAN IDEALISM"}
                • "19th Century Philosophy": Holcombe 113-122 {Canvas PDF, under "Miscellanea"}
                • "Immanuel Kant: Aesthetics": Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy {Canvas PDF, under "GERMAN IDEALISM"}
                • "Kant": from Russell's A History of Western Philosophy (701-718) {Canvas PDF, under "MISCELLANEA"}
                • "Hegel": from Russell's A History of Western Philosophy (730-746) {Canvas PDF}
                • "Immanuel Kant": Holcombe 123-131 {Canvas PDF}
                • "Georg Hegel": Holcombe 132-136 {Canvas PDF}

WEEK 4 (W, Sept. 12th):: The Descent into Materialism: Marx & Engels: Manifesto of the Communist Party, from The German Ideology, and from A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy {Canvas PDF}; Adorno: from "On Popular Music" {Canvas PDF}; Althusser: from "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" {Canvas PDF}
• Response #1 DUE at beginning of class (hardcopy)
                —Suggested Background Readings:
                • "Karl Marx": from Russell's A History of Western Philosophy (782-790) {Canvas PDF}
                • "Marxist Views": Holcombe 412-426 {Canvas PDF}
                • Nealon: "Genealogies of Capitalism: Foucault, with Deleuze and Jameson" (Ch. 3 of Foucault beyond Foucault) {Canvas PDF, under "(More) Nealon Readings"}

WEEK 5 (W, Sept. 19th):: The Descent into Radical Skepticism: Nietzsche—from The Birth of Tragedy: 19-42 (sect. I-V), 46-52 (VII), 76-102 (XII-XVI), 108-121 (XVIII-XIX), 124-131 (XXI), 140-146 (XXIV-XXV); (I'll hit the highlights!); from The Genealogy of Morals: 149-155, 157 (Preface: I-VI, VIII), 158-161 (First Essay: I-II), 165-180 (VI-XIII), 185-188 (XVI-XVII), 189-198 (Second Essay: I-VI), 202-205 (VIII-X), 209-213 (XII-XIII), 217-220 (XVI-XVII), 224-230 (XXI-XXV), 231 (Third Essay: I), 250-257 (X-XIII), 265-266 (XVI), 286-293 (XXIV-XXV), 295-299 (XXVII-XXVIII); "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral [Ultramoral] Sense" {Canvas PDF}; from Beyond Good and Evil: "Epigrams and Interludes" (my selections) {Canvas PDF}
                —Suggested Background Readings:
                • "Nietzsche": from Russell's A History of Western Philosophy (760-773) {Canvas PDF}
                • "Nietzsche": Holcombe 146-149 {Canvas PDF}
                • Illing: "The alt-right is drunk on bad readings of Nietzsche. The Nazis were[,] too." {Canvas PDF}

WEEK 6 (W, Sept. 26th):: The Descent into the Unconscious: FreudThe Future of an Illusion: 11-51; 71-113, (155-162, 169-178); 115-152
• Response #2 DUE at beginning of class (hardcopy)
                —Suggested Background Readings:
                • "Psychoanalysis": Eagleton 131-168 {Canvas PDF}
                • "Sigmund Freud": Holcombe 169-175 {Canvas PDF}

WEEK 7 (W, Oct. 3rd):: Eagleton's Literary Theory {Canvas PDF}: on Lacan (142-151); Bloom: "Poetry, Revisionism, Repression" {Canvas PDF}; Gilbert: "Literary Paternity" {Canvas PDF}
                —Suggested Background Readings:
                • Lacan: "The Mirror Stage as Formative . . ." {Canvas PDF}
                • "Psychoanalysis": Eagleton 131-168 {Canvas PDF}
                • "Lacan": Holcombe 180-185 {Canvas PDF}

WEEK 8 (W, Oct. 10th):: The Descent into the Sign: Eagleton's Literary Theory {Canvas PDF}: "Structuralism and Semiotics" (79-109) and "Post-Structuralism" (110-130); Jakobson: "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles" {Canvas PDF}; Barthes: "The Death of the Author" {Canvas PDF}; Derrida: "Structure, Sign, and Play . . ." {Canvas PDF} (I'll hit the highlights!) . . . Ono reading(s) (for TH; see below): "[TBD]" ({Canvas PDF(s)}
                —Suggested Background Readings:
                • "Linguistics": Holcombe 377-387 {Canvas PDF}
                • "Barthes": Holcombe 79- {Canvas PDF}
                • "Derrida": Holcombe 84- {Canvas PDF}
                • Nealon: "The Discipline of Deconstruction" (Ch. 2 of Double Reading) {Canvas PDF, under "(More) Nealon Readings"}

 HotE Lecture (TH, Oct. 11th)
    • 2:00 pm, in the Bailey Library—class meeting with Prof. Ono (do/bring reading[s])
    • 5:30 pm, at the Sheldon—Kent A. Ono talk: "[TBD]"

• MIDTERM ESSAY DUE: FR, Oct. 12th, midnight (CANVAS submission)
• Presentation Text(/Topic) Choice DUE: SU, Oct. 14th, midnight (via email)

WEEK 9 (W, Oct. 17th):: The Descent into the Sign: Foucault: "The Discourse on Language" {Canvas PDF}; Deleuze & Guattari: "The Rhizome" {Canvas PDF}; Cixous: "The Laugh of the Medusa" {Canvas PDF}; Griffin: "His Power: He Tames What Is Wild" {Canvas PDF}
• Response #3 (re Ono talk) DUE at beginning of class (hardcopy)
                —Suggested Background Reading:
                • "Foucault": Holcombe 94-97 {Canvas PDF}

WEEK 10 (W, Oct. 24th):: MacIntyre: (the rest of) Post-Truth: xiii-122, 151-172 (Hey, some light reading for a change!?)

 HotE Lecture (TH, Oct. 25th)
    • 2:00 pm, in the Bailey Library—class meeting with Prof. McIntyre (bring his book!?)
    • 5:30 pm, at the Sheldon—Lee McIntyre talk: "Post-Truth in the Internet Age"

WEEK 11 (W, Oct. 31st):: FoucaultDiscipline and Punish: Parts II & III (73-228); [optional—Nealon readings, for FR {all Canvas PDFs, under "(More) Nealon Readings"}]
• Response #4 (re McIntyre talk) DUE at beginning of class (hardcopy)
                —Suggested Background Readings:
                • "Foucault": Holcombe 94-97 {Canvas PDF}
                • Nealon: "Today; or Between Emergence and Possibility: Foucault, Derrida, and Butler on Performative Identity" (Ch. 1 of Alterity Politics)
                • Nealon: "Once More with Intensity: Foucault's History of Power, Revisited" (Ch. 2 of Foucault beyond Foucault)
                • Nealon: "The First Birth of Biopower: From Plant to Animal Life in Foucault" (Ch. 1 of Plant Theory)
                • Nealon: "Literature. Can Literature Be Equipment for Post-Postmodern Living?" (Ch. 7 of Post-Postmodernism)

 FR, Nov. 2nd, 2:00-3:30: class meeting with Jeff Nealon, author of for I'm Not Like Everybody Else: Biopolitics, Neoliberalism, and American Popular Music (new book in the U of Nebraska Press's PROVOCATIONS series)

WEEK 12 (W, Nov. 7th):: begin Latour: Pandora's Hope 1-23, 113-144, 174-215

WEEK 13 (W, Nov. 14th):: finish up Latour: Pandora's Hope 216-235, 266-300; student presentations (2): ______; ______

WEEK 14 (W, Nov. 28th):: begin Sandoval: Methodology of the Oppressed 1-79; student presentations (3): ______; ______; ______
                —Suggested Background Readings {all Canvas PDFs, under "POCO & CRIT RACE THEORY"}):
                • Fanon: "On National Culture"
                • Said: from Orientalism
                • Spivak: Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism"
                • Spivak: "Teaching for the Times"
                • Vizenor: "Ishi Obscura"
                • Gannon: "Immigration as Cultural Imperialism"

WEEK 15 (W, Dec. 5th):: finish up Sandoval: Methodology 81-136, 179-184; student presentations (3): ______; ______; ______

• FINAL ESSAY DUE: SU, Dec. 9th, midnight (CANVAS submission)

  Literary & Critical Theory--MIDTERM ESSAY: "Oh, That Long, Long Nineteenth Century"

ENGL 871:101—Fall 2018


  Literary/Critical Theory--FINAL ESSAY: Methodologies of the Grad-Student Oppressed

ENGL 871:101—Fall 2018


** Class Presentation **

ENGL 871:101—Fall 2018


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 Class Notes/Commentary

 TCG's Lit Crit/Theory (Resource) Page

 TCG's Outline of Lit-Crit TERMINOLOGY Page

ENGL 871 Class SYLLABUS Page--Fall 2018

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