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C LIT 507 A: History Of Literary Criticism And Theory I

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
SMI 307
Henry Staten

Additional Details:

This course will be on Plato and Aristotle. In the first half of the quarter we will track the thread of Plato‟s critique of poetry, and of representation (mimesis) in general, through several key dialogues. My special focus will be on the meaning of the concept of techne in Plato. This word is translated into English in various ways, depending on the context; sometimes as 'art,' sometimes as 'craft,' depending on the context; but the Greeks had no word that means what our word 'art' means, and this makes translations confusing. In Ion, Socrates argues that poetry is not techne, but fishing and charioteering are; in English this is often translated as saying that poetry is not art, but the others are. Obviously techne doesn't mean art in our sense; we will see exactly what it does mean. In the second half of the course we will see how Aristotle attempted to prove, contra Plato, that poetry is indeed techne, mainly in the Poetics. The Poetics is the first and foundational work of literary theory, and knowledge of it is invaluable as a basis for understanding modern debates in this area. In order to understand the Poetics, however, it is necessary to understand the entire context of the metaphysics of form (eidos), which was initially worked out by Plato and then developed in a more systematic and refined form by Aristotle. In both Plato and Aristotle, moreover, the metaphysics of form is intimately related to the concept of techne. We will also read selections from other works of Aristotle that bear directly on the concepts he uses in the Poetics.

Readings from Plato:
Oct 1-Ion
Oct 6, 8, 13--Phaedo
Oct. 15, 20, 22--Phaedrus
Oct. 27, 29; Nov. 3, 5, 10--Republic
Readings from Aristotle:
We will spend the remainder of the quarter on the Poetics, sprinkling in selections from Metaphysics, Physics, and Nichomachaean Ethics as appropriate.

I will ask you for a 2 page working paper on the definition of techne in the third week, a 5-7 page paper on Plato at mid-term, a 2 page working paper on Aristotle in the eighth week, and a 5-7 page final paper on Aristotle.

Texts: Plato: Complete Works (Hackett Publishers), ed. John M. Cooper; The Philosophy of Aristotle (Mentor), ed. Renford Bambrough. Recommended: Preface to Plato (Harvard), by Eric A. Havelock. The Plato and Aristotle texts have been ordered through the University Bookstore. You can use different translations if you want, but you might have problems following lecture and discussion in class, both of which will be based on close attention to the letter of the text.

Catalog Description: 
A general introduction to the major issues in the history of criticism followed by the study of the classical theorists, including Plato, Aristotle, Longinus, and the major medieval critics. Offered: jointly with ENGL 507.
GE Requirements Met: 
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
April 28, 2016 - 9:20am