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Literary Theory and Critical Theory

This course presents contemporary literary theory in connection with related developments in contemporary philosophy of language. Philosophy of language asks: What is it for a set of signs or symbols to have meaning? How is meaning, in general, possible, and how is it that a particular set of signs can have a particular meaning? What is a language? What is the relation between the sign and the signifier, the word and the object? What is the relation between writing, speech, and being? Literary theory and critical theory ask: What is a literary text? What is a genre and why do we distinguish them? What is an author? What is interpretation? Is paraphrase (saying the same thing two different ways) really possible? What is the role of the critic? How do the norms governing interpretation help to shape the "reality" that is interpreted? Readings range from ordinary language philosophy (e.g., Wittgenstein, Austin, Searle) to structuralism to new criticism to reader-response theory, deconstruction, and post-structuralism.

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