1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences


  • ENCR 5620 The History of Literary Criticism

    1400-1515 TR - CABELL 235

    Instructor: Walter Jost

    Much if not all of what currently goes under the name of “cultural studies” and “critical theory,” not to mention concepts like genre, period, author, literature, imagination, poetry and so on, cannot go far without feeling the tug of the extensive root system in which they are grounded in the “history of literary criticism” (terms whose meanings are themselves multivalent and historical). One cannot study everything at once, to be sure; but judicious selection among the major critical texts of our changing traditions can serve both to make one feel at home in his or her culture, and to help de-mystify (as well as organize) large swatches of contemporary literary thinking. Along with a range of poems, we read a variety of short primary works, from a Platonic dialogue and Aristotle’s Poetics to Sidney’s “Defense of Poetry” to Pater, Eliot, Greenblatt and Cavell; and selections from an extremely useful secondary volume, M. A. R. Habib’s A History of Literary Criticism and Theory (Blackwell, paperback). Our reading load is manageable, though it requires hard thinking; our reading list is exciting and varied; and our class discussions about our readings and how they might be applied take primary place in the design of the class. We will write papers, present research, gather examples, and learn to "go on" from others in new ways.

  • ENCR 5650 Books as Physical Objects

    1100-1215 MW - Harrison/Small Special Collections Library

    Instructor: David Vander Meulen

    We know the past chiefly through artifacts that survive, and books are among the most common of these objects. Besides conveying a text, each book also contains evidence of the circumstances of its manufacture. In considering what questions to ask of these mute objects, this course might be considered the "archaeology of printing"--that is, the identification, description, and interpretation of printed artifacts surviving from the past five centuries, as well as exploration of the critical theory that lies behind such an approach to texts. With attention to production processes, including the operation of the hand press, it will investigate ways of analyzing elements such as paper, typography, illustrations, binding, and organization of the constituent sections of a book. The course will explore how a text is inevitably affected by the material conditions of its production and how an understanding of the physical processes by which it was formed can aid historical research in a variety of disciplines, not only those that treat verbal texts but also those that deal with printed music and works of visual art. The class will draw extensively on the holdings of the University Library's Special Collections Department, as well as on its Hinman Collator (an early version of the one at the CIA). Open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates

  • ENCR 8100 Introduction to Literary Research

    0900-1200 MTWRF - CABELL 119

    Instructor: Gordon Braden

    This course is required for all students entering the English Department MA and PhD programs, and all such students should register for it, in addition to their regular three-course load. The course will meet every morning for the week of 16-20 August, before the beginning of regular classes, and incoming graduate students in English must plan on being in Charlottesville for that week. The course will end on 20 August, and grading will be Pass/Fail. More information about this course will be sent to incoming graduate students over the summer.

  • ENCR 8559 Literature and Philosophy: Sources of the Self

    1530-1645 TR - BRYAN 310

    Instructor: Walter Jost

    In this course we dedicate a semester to studying Charles Taylor’s magisterial Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Harvard, 1989), and to several satellite readings that will help us to apply, illuminate, and question Taylor’s philosophical speculations.  Taylor’s work involves questions ranging across philosophy’s traditional concerns—among others the nature of the cosmos and of reason, the means and ends of the good life, the possibilities of human knowing, agent and agency, objectivity and evidence and interpretation, and the status of modern art.  As critics and theorists of literature and culture, our aim is to follow Taylor’s narrative in such a way as to “thicken” class members’ particular interests in their own research, in part by engaging with the reflective presentations of others of their own work, by sustained reading and discussion, and by several papers. For a work so rich in ideas, Taylor’s book is accessibly written for non-philosophers involved in advanced thought who seek a sweeping narrative understanding of fundamental issues in humanistic study.

  • ENCR 8610 - An Introduction to Modern Literary Theory and Criticism

    1800-2045 T - BRYAN 312

    Instructor: Jennifer Wicke

    Theory is inseparable from practice, and this course encourages both.  The seminar is a comprehensive introduction to twentieth and twenty-first century literary and critical theory, seen above all in a global framework, and also explores the key directions in contemporary literary studies and the field of English where the “practice” of theory is asked of all graduate students.  It offers grounding and context for those who are new to the study of theory, and for those who are already well acquainted with it, a chance to investigate and shape the debates and question that animate the study of literature and culture today.  The seminar emerges from a global context for theory, with an expanded definition of literature that includes its cultural immersion in a world of media, commodity culture, multiple disciplines, and digital information.  The global framework brings critical theory’s controversies and modes to bear on a world stage, where contemporary controversies occur across what is now a worldwide discipline.  We will pay special attention to the current critical environment and where “theory” belongs, especially under the sign of the global.  The course puts into global context the “new formalism,” literary theory and deconstruction, the “new historicism,” cultural studies, critical race studies, gender and queer theory, postcolonial theory, global theories of world literature, and new versions of aesthetic, formal, and material inquiry, while also addressing urgent issues of political agency, reason, emotion and affect, creativity and imagination, love and justice.  The main goal of the seminar is to help graduate students situate their own compelling interests in relation to critical models and theoretical methods of the past and present, with an eye to empowering the work they plan to do.  The course is interdisciplinary, inflected by global questions, and includes multiple genres, among them film and video.  Critics/writers include James, Marx, de Saussure, Freud, Benjamin, Lukacs, Bakhtin, Lacan, Kafka, Barthes, Derrida, Fanon, Said, Althusser, Foucault, Jameson, Kristeva, Deleuze, Zizek, Spivak, Bourdieu, Butler, Badiou, Habermas, Sedgwick, Gates, Appiah, Bhabha, and others.  Requirements include a one-page analysis/review/question-posing per week of the semester, a group presentation on a current area of critical debate within English studies, and a critical essay, conference paper, or digital project at the end of the semester that carries out an argument in theory between and among several theorists or works, or that directs attention to a specific artifact—literary, visual, cinematic, historical, digital—in a theoretically adventurous and personal way.

  • ENCR 8670 - Feminist Theory

    1100-1215 TR - CABELL 334

    Instructor: Susan Fraiman

    An introduction to American feminist theory and criticism, considered in relation to cultural texts from nineteenth-century novels to contemporary movies.  In addition to work in such subfields as transnational feminism and feminist cultural studies, we will also read essays spawned by feminist theory in the areas of queer, race, and film studies. Some units juxtapose older (late 70s/early 80s) foundational texts with more recent scholarship building on and revising these; others assemble pieces suggesting divergent feminist approaches or positions.  The idea is to trace the development of thinking about gender, sexuality, race, and culture over the last three decades, to identify major concerns and delve into formative debates.  Primary texts will be engaged in their own right but will largely serve to launch our exploration of such theoretical topics as the canon and questions of literary value, feminist theory versus queer theory, the uses/dangers of identity politics, the cinematic gaze, epistemologies of the closet, hybrid identities, the gendering of race, and more. Figures likely to appear on our syllabus include Robyn Wiegman, Barbara Smith, Susan Stanford Friedman, Chandra Mohanty, Janice Radway, Sharon Marcus, Laura Mulvey, Eve Sedgwick, Sara Ahmed, and Ann Cvetkovich.  Requirements: short paper, article-length paper, and a final exam.