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Selected Chapters of American Literary Criticism

Class at Faculty of Arts |



?If there is such a thing as literary theory, then it would seem obvious that there is something called literature which it is the theory of,? says Terry Eagleton in his Literary Theory: An Introduction. If there is a course named Selected Chapters of American Literary Criticism, it would seem obvious that there is such a thing as American literary criticism. To prove this (or rather, to examine this), we will concentrate on two main questions: What is criticism? and Is there anything specific about American criticism? In doing so, we will read and discuss ? and criticize, if possible ? texts by representative American critics (with several exceptions: two Englishmen and one Czech) that somehow deal with the above questions.


T. S. Eliot: ?The Function of Criticism?; ?The Frontiers of Criticism?, in On Poetry and Poets

Northrop Frye: ?Polemical Introduction?, in Anatomy of Criticism

Terry Eagleton: ?What Is Literature??, in Literary Theory: An Introduction

D. H. Lawrence: ?Foreword?, ?The Spirit of Place?, in Studies in Classic American Literature

Sacvan Bercovitch: ?The Myth of America?, in Litteraria Pragensia vol. 13, no. 25, 2003

R. W. B. Lewis: ?Prologue: The Myth and the Dialogue?; ?Epilogue: Adam as Hero in the Age of Containment?, in The American Adam

W. K. Wimsatt ? Monroe Beardsley: ?The Intentional Fallacy?, in The Verbal Icon

Leslie Fiedler: ?Archetype and Signature?, in Collected Essays

Josef Škvorecký: ?Literární kritika a sebevražda Ernesta Hemingwaye?, in Podivný pán z Providence a jiné eseje

Leslie Fiedler: ?Adolescence and Maturity in the American Novel?, in Collected Essays

Susan Sontag: ?Against Interpretation?

Ihab Hassan: Radical Innocence (excerpts, to be specified)

Harold Bloom: The Anxiety of Influence (excerpts, to be specified)

Helen Vendler: ?Defensive Harmonies: On Harold Bloom?, in The Music of What Happens


Regular attendance; active participation in the class; one short essay (3 pp.); a substantial oral presentation.

Note: Students will be given photocopies of all texts in advance; the schedule will be specified and commented on and students will choose texts for their oral presentations in the first class.