English 622: The Poet as Critic 

Dr. Michael Bryson
Sierra Tower 832
818-677-5695
michael.bryson@csun.edu
 

Picture of Oscar Wilde For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.
Oscar Wilde
 
Pardoned on 1/31/2017 for the crime of "gross indecency" along with Alan Turing, and some 50,000 other gay men whose sexuality is no longer considered criminal by the British government.
  You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive. [...] This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important. [...] All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story, to vomit the anguish up.
James Baldwin

Picture of Friederich Nietzsche Die Wissenschaft unter der Optik des Künstlers zu sehn, die Kunst aber unter der des Lebens. [To see Science under the lens of Art, but Art under the lens of Life.]
Friedrich Nietzsche

Assignments
Each student will do 2 assignments.

1) The Midterm:

A narrative/apologia pro vita sua of yourself as an English graduate student (reader, writer, etc.). How did you come to literature in the first placein other words, why do you read, outside the purview of a bureaucratized higher-education institution that seems well-nigh obsessed by doing "smart things" with literature? (One might well ask why literature needs to have anything "done" with it in the first place, but that would be to reveal oneself as unmutual.) What has the "educational" experience of being a gradutate (and/or undergraduate) student of literature given you, not given you, even taken from you where literature (especially poetry) is concerned? What has been your experience with the uses (and abuses) of literary theory, the way it has been taught to you/the way(s) you have (not) been taught to use it? This will be in the range of 8 pages (a rough estimate, not meant to cause hyperventilation issues either way), and be due via email attachment (Word-compatible, please, as I intend to use the margin-comment function to respond/comment) to my email address (above) by the end of Friday, 3/16.

2) The Final:

Option #1: An historical project—tracing the development and continuing expressesions of a poetic form (the alba/tagelied, the sonnet—no Shakespeare didn't invent it, and neither did Petrarch—, the carpe diem motif, etc.)

or

Option #2: an inversion of the typical "X reading of Y" application of literary theory ("In this paper I will demonstrate how theory X reveals the hidden [operations of power, linguistic tangles, various sorts of political, economic, gender, or ethnic privilege] in poem/story/play/novel Y") by reading a poem through/alongside the images/concepts/structures of another poem.

For either option, no pre-provided templates are expected, and no predetermined conclusions are particularly welcome. That isn't thought. That is filling out paperwork. And there is already a choking surfeit of that kind of pseudo-activity flooding academia, including our own local corner thereof.

Either option will be in the realm of 10-12 pages (again, a rough, and hopefully panic-free estimate), and will be due to me via email attachment to the address above by the end of Friday 5/18.


Weekly Preview

Week 1 (1/25)
Poetry as Music/Poetry as Performance
Gilgamesh (video), Sappho (video) plus translation, Dietmar von Aist (video) plus translation, Bob Dylan (video), Peggy Lee (video), The Rolling Stones "Sympathy for the Devil" (video). Discussion of Introduction from Robert Alter, "The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age,"  translation from Avelina Lésper "The Fraud of Contemporary Art,", Richard Klein, "The Future of Literary Criticism." Plus John Cage's 4'33" (video), Ivan Khemnitzer "The Metaphysician," Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes (video), and Stupid Otto scene from "A Fish Called Wanda."


Week 2 (2/1)Oscar Wilde, Letter to the Scots Observer, "Ye Shall Be as Gods," Sontag "Against Interpretation," Love and its Critics chapter 1, a brief selection from Milton's Areopagitica (paragraph beginning with "I deny not"), Rod Coltman "Hermeneutics, Literature and Being," Robert Herrick "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time" (1648), and Bob Dylan, "In His Own Words: Why Bob Dylan Paints"

Week 3 (2/8)Plato (selections from Classical Literary Criticism 1-56), Wilde "A Fragment from the Agammemnon of Aeschylos," (766). Speeches from the Book of Job (1-31, 38-42) (KJV version, read online or from a print copy of your own).

Week 4 (2/15)Aristotle (selection from Classical Literary Criticism, 57-97), Horace (selection from Classical Literary Criticism, 98-112), Brief discussion of Lit Theory chart (and lit theory site/summary analyses)

Week 5 (2/22)—Philip Sidney, The Defence of Poesy, Astrophil and Stella #1 and #71, Stephen Gosson "The School of Abuse." In The School of Abuse, 1579, London: Alexander Murray & Son, 1868, 19-54.

Week 6 (3/1)
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, All Religions Are One, There is No Natural Religion, Percy Shelley, "Preface to Prometheus Bound," A Defence of Poetry, Sonnet—"Lift not the Painted Veil," Queen Mab

Week 7 (3/8)—Friederich Schiller, Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, "Resignation," Friedrich Nietzsche "An Attempt at Self Criticism" (focus on section 5).

Week 8 (3/15)—Matthew Arnold, The Function of Criticism at the Present Time, "Dover Beach"

Week 9 (3/22)Off. Spring Break.

Week 10 (3/29)—Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying, "Preface to Dorian Grey"

Week 11 (4/15)—Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist, Wallace Stevens, "The Man with the Blue Guitar"  / Picasso Painting


Week 12 (4/12)—Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism, and De Profundis (section on Christ, Individualism, and the Artist 1026-1042)

Week 13 (4/19)—Leo Tolstoy What is Art?, Ezra Pound pages 28-40 of ABC of Reading (PDF), Wilde "Charmides," Neil Young "Old Man" (video)


Week 14 (4/26)Gorgias of Leontini, Stéphane Mallarmé, Maurice Blanchot, Wimsatt & Beardsley, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Exchange of letters (17th-century) between Mehmed IV of the Ottoman empire and the Zaporozhian Cossacks (video), Soundgarden "Burden in My Hand" (video), Oscar Wilde "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," Tchaikovsky, Adaigo Lamentoso, 4th Movement from Symphony no. 6, "Pathetique" (video)

Week 15 (5/3)Sontag "On Style," Felicia Hemans "Properzia Rossi" in Records of Woman, [Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1828], 45-54), Printable version, Lear's final speech (contrasting Folio and Quarto editions of King Lear—distributed in class)


Week 16 (5/10)Love and its Critics epilogue, Nizar Qabbani (pp. 21-140), Walther von der Vogelweide "Under den Linden" (video) plus translation) Leadbelly, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" (video), Nirvana cover of "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" (video), Fantastic Negrito cover of "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" (video),  Catullus 5 (plus translation), Homer, Odyssey 23:231-62, Ovid, Elegy 1.13 "Ad Aurorum," Troubadour Alba, "En un vergier sotz fuella d’albespi" (plus translation), John Donne, "The Sun Rising," Wilde "Love Song," reprise of Herrick, "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time," The Rolling Stones, Time Waits for No One (video)
 

Reading List
(All readings will be available either at the Campus Bookstore—specific editions listed below—or will be distributed by the instructor though links on this syllabus or handouts in class.)  

Penelope Murray, Editor and Translator: Classical Literary Criticism (Penguin Classics) ISBN-13: 978-0140446517
Sir Philip Sidney: The Major Works (Oxford) ISBN-13: 978-0199538416
William Blake: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Dover) ISBN-13: 978-0486281223
Percy Shelley: Selected Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics) ISBN-13: 978-0241253069
Matthew Arnold: 'Culture and Anarchy' and Other Writings (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought) ISBN-13: 978-0521377966
Oscar Wilde: Complete Works of Oscar Wilde (Collins Classics) ISBN-13: 978-0007144365
Susan Sontag: Against Interpretation: And Other Essays (Picador) ISBN-13: 978-0312280864
Friedrich von Schiller: Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (Penguin Classics) ISBN-13: 978-0141396965
Leo Tolstoy: What is Art? (Penguin Classics) ISBN-13: 978-0140446425
Nizar Qabbani: Journal of An Indifferent Woman ISBN-13: 978-1508887805
Michael Bryson and Arpi Movsesian: Love and its Critics. (Cambridge: Open Book) ISBN-13: 978-1-78374-348-3 available to download as a free PDF (ISBN-13: 978-1-78374-350-6)