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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: The Literary Absolute (ENLI11037)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course aims to extend students' knowledge of the growth of the idea of the literary aesthetic and its relations to philosophy, and in particular to questions of truth and value. After an introduction to eighteenth and nineteenth-century constructions of mimesis, imagination and the aesthetic as "literary absolute," the course turns to the implications of the epistemic and moral disengagement of the aesthetic in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The course then charts how through developing interest in notions of the unconscious, experience, expression, the sublime and power, the aesthetic is drawn into an attack upon the notion of truth. Finally, two weeks will be spent considering the location of the literary aesthetic within the context of a culture which has largely collapsed the meaning/truth distinction traditionally nurtured by philosophy, and which is disposed to view the aesthetic as a type of ideology rather than a value. Correspondingly, in the light of the review of the aesthetic's relation (both synchronic and diachronic) to truth, the central theoretical question will concern the possibility of the recovery of a sphere of autonomous literary value.
Course description Week 1: The Literary Absolute
Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, ¿Preface: The Literary Absolute,¿ The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism, trans. Philip Barnard and Cheryl Lester (SUNY Press, 1988), pp. 1¿17; Friedrich Schlegel, extracts (handout)

Week 2: Representation
Plato; Aristotle, Poetics; Samuel Johnson, from Preface to Shakespeare

Week 3: Imagination and the Aesthetic
Immanuel Kant; Friedrich von Schiller; Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Percy Bysshe Shelley

Week 4: Aestheticism
Walter Pater; Oscar Wilde, ¿The Decay of Lying¿ (handout); Leo Tolstoy, ¿What is Art?¿ (handout)

Week 5: The Unconscious
Sigmund Freud; Jacques Lacan

Week 6: Experience and Expression
Martin Heidegger; Benedetto Croce, from Aesthetic (handout)

Week 7: Realism and Formalism
Georg Lukacs, ¿Realism in the Balance¿ (handout); Theodor Adorno, ¿Reconciliation Under Duress¿ (handout)

Week 8: The Sublime
Longinus; Edmund Burke; Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement (handout); Jean-François Lyotard (handout)

Week 9: Power
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power (handout); Harold Bloom; Michel Foucault, from ¿Truth and Power¿

Week 10: Dialectic and Metaphor
George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel; Jacques Derrida
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs Essential course texts
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate knowledge of and critical engagement with some of the central topics and themes in Romantic literature and critical theory.
  2. demonstrate an understanding of the relationships between these themes and the history, philosophy and culture of the periods studied.
  3. demonstrate knowledge of selected debates and concepts in the history of philosophy and critical theory.
  4. theory. demonstrate the ability to deploy a variety of methodological approaches to the study of literature.
  5. demonstrate the ability to reflect constructively on the development of their own learning and research practice.
Reading List
Core text:
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, gen. ed. Vincent B. Leitch (Norton, 2001).

Secondary Reading:

Gary Banham, Kant and the Ends of Aesthetics (St Martin's P, 1999)
Andrew Bowie, Aesthetics and Subjectivity: from Kant to Nietzsche (Manchester, 1990)
Malcolm Bowie, Lacan (1991)
David Carroll, Paraesthetics, Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida (1987)
David Cooper, A Companion to Aesthetics (1992)
Arthur Danto, The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art (1988)
Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990)
Victor Erlich, Russian Formalism, History-Doctrine, rev. ed. (1964)
E.H. Gombrich, Art and Illusion (1960)
Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art, 2nd. ed. (1988)
E.D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (1967)
Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, The Literary Absolute, 1978, trans. Philip Barnard and Cheryl Lester (1988)
Peter Lamarque and Stein Haugom Olsen, Truth, Fiction, and Literature (1994)
Kendall Walton, Mimesis as Make-Believe (1990)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements PG Version
Course organiserDr Tim Milnes
Tel: (0131 6)50 3615
Course secretaryMiss Kara McCormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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