Introduction to Literary and Cultural Studies is a two-part course running over two semesters.
Part I (winter semester) is a lecture course which addresses such questions as: What exactly do we mean when we speak of “literature” and “culture”? For instance, does all literature have to be written, or can it also include oral storytelling, performance poetry, and theatre productions? Does literature proper only include ‘serious’ and complex works of art to be enjoyed by an educated minority, or does it also include popular bestsellers written for a mass market and achieving mainly entertainment? Is the distinction between ‘high culture’ and ‘low culture’ useful? What are the purposes and problems of such distinctions? What is the role of literature and other cultural products in society? How have these concepts changed over time? Are they the same everywhere in the world? And how does representation in print literature differ from representation in other media, such as photography, film, or the internet?
How do we approach literature and culture as critics, how do we study them academically? How have literary and cultural studies developed over time? Which methods, theories, and approaches are currently important in this field?
We will also discuss the problems of canon formation, uses of literary history, the ways in which cultural representations (e.g. in literature, visual art, or the media) shape our perception of ‘reality’, and how culture reflects, cements, or subverts existing power structures in society. Approaches which explore these issues include new historicism, Marxism (concerning class), postcolonialism (concerning race and multiculturalism), feminism (concerning gender), and ecocriticism (concerning the relationship between human beings and the natural environment).
Part II (summer semester) will focus on the ways in which these broader theoretical, methodological, and historical considerations can be usefully applied to literature and other media. This requires analytical tools and methods such as genre theory and narratology. This will be illustrated by examples from a variety of primary texts.
Our main text book for this course is:
Berensmeyer, Ingo. Literary Theory: An Introduction to Approaches, Methods and Terms. Stuttgart: Klett, 2014. ISBN 978-3-12-939026-9
All students should possess a copy of this book. It is, for instance, available at the Rosta bookshop (Aegidiistr.12) or at rosta-online.kommbuch.com. If you already own the 2009 edition of the book, you don't need to buy the new edition, they are near identical.
All other course texts will be made available via an electronic course platform on Learnweb. Students will receive an invitation to this platform at the start of term.
The first session takes place on 16.10.2014. All students should attend this session, even if their online registration is not yet completed.
In addition to attending the weekly lectures of this course, all students in BA-2fach or BK programmes require an Independent Study Group (ISG). (This is not the same as a tutorial!) Each ISG consists of 4–6 students and is organised by the students themselves. Each ISG meets once a week, without a lecturer, and at a place of their own choice. The ISGs are expected to read and discuss several texts in addition to the weekly reading assignment given to all lecture students. ISG students also complete an additional assignment (Studienleistung - details to be announced in the lecture course & its online learning platform).
The tutorials, by contrast, are optional (participation voluntary) and open to all students. Tutorials are smaller classes which supplement the lecture. They are taught by students from higher semesters. Tutorials also meet once a week. They allow students to ask more detailed questions about the materials taught in the lecture, and practice the application of their new skills on exemplary primary texts.