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Literary Theory

Class at Faculty of Arts |

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* Week 1. Introduction

* Week 2-3. Antiquity 2. reading - Plato: Phaedrus (selected passages) presentation - Plato: Phaedrus, Ion, Republic ch. X 3. reading - Aristotle: Poetics (selected passages) presentation - Aristotle: Poetics

* Week 4-5. From Antiquity to Renaissance: the language of poetry 4. Development of rhetorics. Tropes / schemes, metaphor / metonymy, conceit / allegory / symbol handout #1 5. reading & presentation - Sidney: Apologie of Poetrie

* Week 6-7. Classicism 6. reading - Dryden: Essay on Dramatic Poesy 7. reading & presentation - Pope: Essay on Criticism

* Week 8.-9. Romanticism 8. reading & presentation - Wordsworth: Preface to "Lyrical Ballads",

Coleridge: Biographia Literaria (selected chapters) 9. presentation - Shelley: Defence of Poetry

* Week 10. Metre, Rhyme, Free Verse handout #2

* Week 11-12. New Criticism, Structuralism 11. presentation - Brooks: The Well-Wrought Urn (chapters I, XI)

Mukařovský: Studie z estetiky (selected chapters, pp.85-89, 89-108) 12. presentation - Wellek, Warren: Theory of Literature (chapters 12, 18) reading & presentation - Barthes: Mythologies (Wine and Milk, Myth Today)

* Week 13. Narrative Strategies handout #3




To introduce students to the main features of English and American aesthetic and literary theories and to the major developments in literary criticism from the Renaissance to the present time. To give a survey of the most important theories and concepts of antiquity (Aristotle, Plato, Horace, Longinus) used in later theoretical and critical discourses.


The lecture starts with a survey of relevant works of ancient Greek and Roman aesthetics, rhetoric and poetics (Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle, Horace, Longinus) and concentrates on the explanation of major categories and concepts taken over by modern (and postmodern) authors. Then it discusses in some detail Renaissance notions of poetry and rhetoric (Sir Philip Sidney, George Puttenham). It explains Classicist, Augustan and Neo-classical opinions of the author, the style and the unity of the work of art (John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Dr Samuel Johnson), and deals with Romantic theories of imagination, metre, poetic language and ideas of the function of poetry (William Wordsworth, S.T.Coleridge, William Hazlitt, P.B.Shelley). Victorian views of the social function of art, cultural development, aesthetic value and the perception of art (Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, William Morris, Walter Pater) are also analyzed. In 20th-century criticism the focus is on the aesthetics and poetics of the New Criticism in Britain and the USA (I.A.Richards, William Empson, J.C.Ransom, Percy Lubbock, W.K.Wimsatt), the influence of structuralism mediated by the Prague School (Roman Jakobson, René Wellek, Jan Mukařovský), the structuralist nature of recent archetypal and mythological criticism (Northrop Frye), and the influence of French Structuralism (Roland Barthes).


The lecture is geared to the seminar Literary Theory (111. Literární teorie). Students must answer correctly at least sixty percent of the questions in the final test which includes topics covered in the lecture (Literární teorie / Main Trends in Anglo?American Aesthetic Thought and Literary Criticism) or the course book (Literary Theory. A Historical Introduction), and in the handouts (available in digital form).


OBJECTIVES 1. To revise and extend the knowledge of theoretical terminology and to practise the use of poetic and rhetorical terms in textual analysis. 2. To make the students acquainted with selected representative texts of British and American literary theory, criticism and aesthetics.


M.H.Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp, Norton

Wellek & Warren, Theory of Literature, Cape (Teorie literatury, Votobia)

The New Princeton Encyclopaedia of Poetry and Poetics, Princeton

Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Literary Theory, Toronto

Hawthorn, A Concise Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory, Arnold

Ronberg, A Way With Words, Arnold

Průvodce po světové literární teorii, Panorama

Slovník literární teorie, ES

Procházka, Literary Theory. A Historical Introduction, UK FF, 1995, 1997

Philip Hobsbawm, Metre, Rhythm and Verse Form, Routledge

Aidan Day, Romanticism, Routledge

Paul Cobley, Narrative, Routledge

All other books are included in the detailed reading list for the seminar. A principal study material is the lecture Main Trends in Anglo?American Aesthetic Thought and Literary Criticism (111., 226. Literární teorie) and the course book Literary Theory. A Historical Introduction.


The seminar is compulsory for SSE students in the third year and highly recommended for TSS students in the same year, since it helps them to prepare for the test concluding the course.


To obtain credit students are expected to deliver at least one oral presentation (which may be substituted by a shorter essay of approx. 2000 words) and to participate actively in discussions. In addition they must answer correctly at least sixty percent of the questions in the final test which includes topics covered in the lecture (Literary Theory: Main Trends in Anglo-American Aesthetic Thought and Literary Criticism).