Sunday, 18 February 2007

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Of Theories and Anthologies; Also, a Syllabus (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: Unit 1: 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" Unit 2: 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" Unit 3: 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" Unit 4: Abrams’ “The Deconstructive Angel" Miller’s “The Critic...

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