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Literary Theory - Audio

Literary Theory - Audio

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13 - Jacques Lacan in Theory

In this lecture on psychoanalytic criticism, Professor Paul Fry explores the work of Jacques Lacan. Lacan's interest in Freud and distaste for post-Freudian "ego psychologists" are briefly mentioned, and his clinical work on "the mirror stage" is discussed in depth. The relationship in Lacanian thought, between metaphor and metonymy is explored through the image of the point de capiton. The correlation between language and the unconscious, and the distinction between desire and need, are also explained, with reference to Hugo's "Boaz Asleep."

6 Oct 2009

Rank #1

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03 - Ways In and Out of the Hermeneutic Circle

In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry examines acts of reading and interpretation by way of the theory of hermeneutics. The origins of hermeneutic thought are traced through Western literature. The mechanics of hermeneutics, including the idea of a hermeneutic circle, are explored in detail with reference to the works of Hans-George Gadamer, Martin Heidegger, and E. D. Hirsch. Particular attention is paid to the emergence of concepts of "historicism" and "historicality" and their relation to hermeneutic theory.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #2

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17 - The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory

This first lecture on social theories of art and artistic production examines the Frankfurt School. The theoretical writings of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin are explored in historical and political contexts, including Marxism, socialist realism, and late capitalism. The concept of mechanical reproduction, specifically the relationship between labor and art, is explained at some length. Adorno's opposition to this argument, and his own position, are explained. The lecture concludes with a discussion of Benjamin's perspective on the use of distraction and shock in the process of aesthetic revelation.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #3

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08 - Semiotics and Structuralism

In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry explores the semiotics movement through the work of its founding theorist, Ferdinand de Saussure. The relationship of semiotics to hermeneutics, New Criticism, and Russian formalism is considered. Key semiotic binaries--such as langue and parole, signifier and signified, and synchrony and diachrony--are explored. Considerable time is spent applying semiotics theory to the example of a "red light" in a variety of semiotic contexts.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #4

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10 - Deconstruction I

In this lecture on Derrida and the origins of deconstruction, Professor Paul Fry explores two central Derridian works: "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences" and "Différance." Derrida's critique of structuralism and semiotics, particularly the work of Levi-Strauss and Saussure, is articulated. Deconstruction's central assertions that language is by nature arbitrary and that meaning is indeterminate are examined. Key concepts, such as the nature of the text, discourse, différance, and supplementarity are explored.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #5

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04 - Configurative Reading

The discussion of Gadamer and Hirsch continues in this lecture, which further examines the relationship between reading and interpretation. Through a comparative analysis of these theorists, Professor Paul Fry explores the difference between meaning and significance, the relationship between understanding and paraphrasing, and the nature of the gap between the reader and the text. Through Wolfgang Iser's essay, "The Reading Process," the nature of textual expectation and surprise, and the theory of their universal importance in narrative, is explained. The lecture concludes by considering the fundamental, inescapable role that hermeneutic premises play in canon formation.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #6

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12 - Freud and Fiction

In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry turns his attention to the relationship between authorship and the psyche. Freud's meditations on the fundamental drives governing human behavior are read through the lens of literary critic Peter Brooks. The origins of Freud's work on the "pleasure principle" and his subsequent revision of it are charted, and the immediate and constant influence of Freudian thought on literary production is asserted. Brooks' contributions to literary theory are explored: particularly the coupling of multiple Freudian principles, including the pleasure principle and the death wish, and their application to narrative structures. At the lecture's conclusion, the professor returns to the children's story, Tony the Tow Truck, to suggest the universality of Brooks' argument.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #7

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18 - The Political Unconscious

In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry explores Fredric Jameson's seminal work, The Political Unconscious, as an outcropping of Marxist literary criticism and structural theory. Texts such as Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" and Shakespeare's seventy-third sonnet are examined in the context of Jameson's three horizons of underlying interpretive frameworks--the political, the social, and the historical, each carefully explained. The extent to which those frameworks permeate individual thought is addressed in a discussion of Jameson's concept of the "ideologeme." The theorist's work is juxtaposed with the writings of Bakhtin and Levi-Strauss. The lecture concludes by revisiting the children's story Tony the Tow Truck, upon which Jameson's theory of literature is mapped.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #8

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05 - The Idea of the Autonomous Artwork

In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry explores the origins of formalist literary criticism. Considerable attention is paid to the rise and subsequent popularity of the New Critics and their preferred site of literary exploration, the "poem." The idea of autonomous art is explored in the writings of, among others, Kant, Coleridge, and Wilde. Using the work of Wimsatt and Beardsley, the lecture concludes with an examination of acceptable categories of evidence in New Criticism.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #9

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20 - The Classical Feminist Tradition

In this lecture on feminist criticism, Professor Paul Fry uses Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own as a lens to and commentary on the flourishing of feminist criticism in the twentieth century. The structure and rhetoric of A Room of One's Own is extensively analyzed, as are its core considerations of female novelists such as Austen, Eliot, and the Brontës. The works of major feminist critics, such as Ann Douglas, Mary Ellman, Kate Millett, Elaine Showalter, and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, are mentioned. The logocentric approach to gender theory, specifically the task of defining female language as something different and separate from male language, is considered alongside Woolf's own endorsement of literary and intellectual androgyny.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #10