(X-posted from the Valve)
A brief conversation with Jeffrey Williams and Vincent Leitch at the MLA haunts all my talk of theories and anthologies:
Williams: These are things people don’t think about when putting together anthologies.
Leitch: Which De Man would you include? And why?
Me: Something from Blindness and Insight, probably.
Leitch: But which one? And why?
Me: (stares dumbly)
As I said, a brief conversation. One reason I didn’t answer Leitch’s question is that I couldn’t—I have a terrible memory for essay titles and didn’t want to say, “You know, the one in which he argues X, Y and Z,” only to be informed that I was actually thinking of the “Preface” to Allegories of Reading. The other was that I couldn’t (and can’t) divorce the question of what to include in an anthology from its implicit pedagogical concerns: What would I teach, and why?
I labor over my syllabus, often spending weeks reading and re-reading
material, justifying the inclusion of this text and the exclusion of
that one; then reversing course, concocting an equally compelling
counter-justification for excluding the former and including the
latter; then re-reversing, re-re-reversing, &c. To be honest, I still don’t know which De Man I’d include in The Norton
(although I have many impressively credentialed candidates); but I’m
determined to come up with some sort of answer, as I want to create a
portfolio of sample syllabi. So when I stumbled upon Williams’ “Packaging Theory“ [JSTOR] again last week, I read his account of writing a theory syllabus with a keener, more practical eye.
The syllabus for his class, which he calls “The Rise of Professionalism,” underscores “that theory is not formed as a set of monuments or great thoughts, transpiring in some Platonic realm of Ivory Towers, where one leads an abstract Life of the Mind; rather, it is very much a function of professional forces and institutional structures [which are] the social forms we establish that enable us to do certain kinds of work, here the work called theory” (292). So he decides to include two types of work: primary theoretical texts and secondary accounts of their professional context. Here’s the syllabus—primary texts in bold, secondary italicized—as it would be taught:
- R.S. Crane’s “History vs. Criticism in the Study of Literature"
- John Crowe Ransom’s “Criticism, Inc."
- Culler’s “Literary Criticism and the American University"
- Graff’s Professing Literature, ch. “History vs. Criticism: 1940-1960” and “Rags to Riches to Routine"
- Wimsatt and Beardsley’s “The Intentional Fallacy” and “The Affective Fallacy"
- Crane’s “The Critical Monism of Cleanth Brooks"
- Wimsatt’s “The Chicago Critics: The Fallacy of the Neo-Classical Species"
- Cain’s The Crisis in Criticism, ch. “English Studies and the Emergence of New Criticism” and “The Institutionalization of New Criticism"
- Jerome Christensen’s “From Rhetoric to Corporate Populism"
- Fish’s “The Affective Affective Fallacy"
- De Man’s “Form and Intent in the American New Criticism"
- Jameson’s The Prison-House of Language (excerpt)
- Robinson’s “Treason Our Text"
- Abrams’ “The Deconstructive Angel"
- Miller’s “The Critic as Host"
- Graff’s “Tradition vs. Theory"
- Pease’s “J. Hillis Miller: The Other Victorian at Yale"
- Martin’s The Yale Critics ("Introduction")
- Bate’s “The Crisis in English Studies"
- De Man’s “Resistance to Theory"
- Showalter’s “Towards a Feminist Poetics"
- Moi’s Sexual/Textual Politics (excerpt)
- Knapp and Michaels’ “Against Theory"
- Ellis’ Against Deconstruction (excerpt)
- Lehman’s Signs of the Times (excerpt)
- Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women (excerpt)
- Harding’s “The Instability of Feminist Categories"
- Gallop, Hirsch, Miller’s “Criticizing Feminist Criticism"
- Larson’s The Rise of Professionalism, ch. “Standardization of Knowledge and Market Control"
- Ohmann’s English in America, ch. on “What English Departments Do,” “Why They Do It,” and “Universities and Industrial Culture"
- Watkin’s Work Time, ch. on “English Departments as Workplaces” and “Literary Criticism: Work as Evaluation"
What do you think? Is this the type of theory class you’d want to teach? Would it need updating? (The article appeared in 1994.) I’d add a section on historicism, given its current status. (Click here for a discussion of what that might entail.) I’d also want to include nods to queer and postcolonial theory, but I’m not sure which works I’d teach. Given the emphasis on deconstruction and its legacy in the sixth unit, Spivak would make more sense than Said, but which Spivak? And over what Said?