A Word of WelcomeEdit

This is the course wiki for ENGL 661 Literary Criticism and Interpretation at CSU, Chico. This wiki constitutes a major component of our work as we trace several theoretical currents that shape the understanding of literature, culture, and self. Specifically, we will focus on the foundational issues of meaning and pleasure. Rather than approach the variety of texts we'll be encountering as passive spectators, this wiki is a chance for us as a community to actively enjoy and make meaning together. [For help getting started using Wikia, you can visit the Help pages, here.]

CSU, Chico stands on traditional Mechoopda Indian tribal lands.  Without them and other native peoples, we would not have access to this campus or our education.

Major Wiki Pages Edit

Schedule Edit

Schedule of Readings and Assignments

Other Information Edit

Community Standards and Practices

Miscellaneous Materials

Editor Bios

Past Wiki Pages

Readings Edit

Walter Benjamin

John Unsworth

Dalida Maria Benfield
9781405103213 cover
Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 7.09.36 PM
Title “The Work of Art in the Age of It's Technological Reproducibility” “What Is Humanities Computing, and What Is It Not” "Decolonizing the Digital/Digital Decolonization: Introductory Notes"
Date 1936 2002 2009
Link Walter Benjamin John Unsworth Benfield
Pages 1051-1071 PDF PDF

Guiding questions Edit

We will pursue a set of guiding questions to help us engage, utilize, and critique the varied ways scholars have understood what it means to “make meaning” and “take pleasure” in literary texts and cultural objects. Our evolving answers to these questions constitute the learning objectives of the course.

  • What relationships are there between what we find meaningful and what we enjoy?
  • How does thinking about the conjunction of meaning and pleasure help us say something about the work of English studies?
  • Who is included or excluded from making meaning and/or taking pleasure?
  • How do recent developments in posthumanism and the digital humanities contribute to accounts of meaning and pleasure?

Required texts Edit

  • The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, Second Edition. Eds. Leitch, et al. 2010.
  • Recommended: The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, Third Edition. Eds. Murfin and Ray. 2008.
  • Various handouts and digital materials available online.

Grading Edit

Assignment Percentage

of Total

Wiki Work 50%
-page editorship
-forum participation
-final reflection
Analytical Explication 1 25%
Analytical Explication 2 25%

A word about this Wiki thingEdit

This Wiki is something more than a supplement to our time "in class." It extends our work together into a digital space, allowing for asynchronous collaboration. As much as it is a collaborative space, it is also a laboratory space in which we try on and work through ideas that emerge from our course readings and through our discussions. Finally, because this is a wiki - a kind of public space - our working-through together takes place openly. Collaboration, experimentation, and openness thus constitute three core values of our work this semester.[1]

A word about approaching theoretical textsEdit

I am excited about this course, and I hope that you will find it compelling and exciting as well. The texts we will be reading are challenging (to say the least), and require careful and repeated engagement. Here are some habits and attitudes that will serve you well this semester.

  • Though I state this elsewhere, it bears repeating: read each text several times, being sure to carefully and thoughtfully annotate while you read.
  • Also, be okay with uncertainty. Uncertainty and its more threatening cousin, confusion, can be highly productive states of mind. But for your uncertainty and confusion to be productive, you have to note them, voice them, and work at them.
  • Play the “believing game” and avoid rushing to judgment – both in reading and in your writing. Avoid outright dismissing a seemingly “wrong” idea. In the words of Peter Elbow, “try to be as welcoming or accepting as possible to every idea we encounter: not just listening to views different from [your] own and holding back from arguing with them; not just trying to restate them without bias; but actually trying to believe them [. . . . Use] believing as a tool to scrutinize and test.”[2]
  • Conversely, don’t be afraid to challenge the ideas, thinkers, and movements we encounter. Play the “doubting game” with them once you’ve tried them on and worked to understand them.
  • Finally, enjoy yourself. This course is invested in interrogating our usual divisions between and characterizations of the “serious” matters of meaning and the “frivolous” matters of pleasure. Difficult things can be pleasurable, and enjoyable things can be downright serious.

References Edit

  1. For a fuller explication of these values in the context of the Digital Humanities, see Lisa Spiro, "'This is Why We Fight': Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities." Debates in the Digital Humanities, 2012 edition.
  2. Peter Elbow, "The Believing Game--Methodological Believing," 2008. [1]

Latest activityEdit