I’ve looked at (and used) several introductory textbooks to literary and cultural theory over the years. Most of them approach this subject matter in the same way: once there was undisciplined “Old Criticism,” then there was “New Criticism,” then all hell broke loose and literary studies disaggregated into schools, lenses, movements, approaches, etc. The textbooks …

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Gilles Deleuze’s preoccupation with (and reverence for) Spinoza is well known among theory heads and students of contemporary philosophy, as is his frequent quotation or paraphrase of a sentence from the Ethics: “No one has yet determined what the Body can do” (III, 2, scholium). “This declaration of ignorance,” he writes in Spinoza: Practical Philosophy (1970, 1981), …

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During the first six weeks of the semester, each of my Introduction to Criticism students composed three “close readings” of three poems of their choice. Most poems (per my suggestion) were chosen from Poetry Foundation‘s online archive. Below is a complete list of the poets and poems students chose to analyze, along with links to texts of these poems. Next to the titles, …

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After several weeks of reading Cleanth Brooks’s essays, my Intro to Criticism students turned to The Barbara Johnson Reader (2014) and the theory / practice of deconstruction. This word—”deconstruction”—has a funny effect on people. Whenever I say, “My students are reading Derrida,” or, “We’re beginning a unit on deconstruction,” I tend to get pessimistic responses. “Ouch.” “Yikes.” …

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After several weeks of reading Cleanth Brooks’s essays, my Intro to Criticism students turned to The Barbara Johnson Reader (2014) and the theory / practice of deconstruction. This word—”deconstruction”—has a funny effect on people. Whenever I say, “My students are reading Derrida,” or, “We’re beginning a unit on deconstruction,” I tend to get pessimistic responses. “Ouch.” “Yikes.” …

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