Theories of Literature and Social Justice Syllabi

Spring 2015
English 481: Theories of Literature and Social Justice
Professors Ed Whitley and Mary Foltz

Course Description:
In this course on theories of literature and social justice we will explore questions such as these:  What is literature? What is social justice? How are literary forms  and literary criticism  distinctive in the ways in which they grapple with questions of social justice? How do literary works reinforce or challenge dominant ideologies? In what ways do literary works provide tools to map exploitative or oppressive social and economic formations? In what ways do they create practices for imagining human flourishing and more just ways of living? How do literary works produce varying emotions in readers that might serve to promote  or undermine  social justice?  What role have literary works played in emancipatory and egalitarian political movements?  We will consider a range of reading, writing and teaching strategies as practices of social justice. In pursuing this inquiry, we will pair scholarship by major theorists in the fields of Marxism, Feminism, Critical Race Theory, Postcolonialism, and Environmental Studies with works of literature from the Medieval period to today, and with literary criticism by faculty from the Department of English at Lehigh.

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Spring 2014
English 481: Theories of Literature and Social Justice
Professors Lyndon Dominique and Seth Moglen

Course Description:
This course introduces students to theories of literature and social justice. We will explore questions such as these: What is literature? What is social justice? How are literary forms (and literary criticism) distinctive in the ways in which they grapple with questions of social justice? How do literary works reinforce or challenge dominant ideologies? In what ways do literary works provide tools to map exploitative or oppressive social and economic formations? In what ways do they create practices for imagining human flourishing and more just ways of living? How do literary works produce varying emotions in readers that might serve to promote (or undermine) social justice? What role have literary works played in emancipatory and egalitarian political movements? We will consider a range of reading, writing and teaching strategies as practices of social justice. In pursuing this inquiry, we will focus mainly on critical and theoretical readings, but we will also read a sampling of literary texts to provide common ground for our collaborative inquiry and to provide opportunities for methodological experimentation in your critical practice.

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Spring 2013
English 481: Theories of Literature and Social Justice
Professors Beth Dolan and Kate Crassons

Course Description:
This course introduces students to theories of literature and social justice. As we explore the very definitions of "literature" and "social justice" throughout the semester, we will address the following broad questions: Is literature a vehicle for social justice, and if so, what distinctive resources does it offer for thinking about just forms of life? How are conceptions of justice shaped by writing in particular historical moments, or in particular genres and narrative forms? How do theoretical paradigms including Marxism, feminism, virtue ethics, affect theory, and ordinary language philosophy contribute to the study of social justice? Finally, how might social justice inform our pedagogy as teachers of literature seeking to bridge intellectual concerns with "real world" issues?

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Spring 2012
English 481: Theories of Literature and Social Justice
Professors Scott Gordon and Dawn Keetley

Course Description:
This course introduces students to theories of literature and social justice. We will address the following broad (and frequently overlapping) questions: What is literature? What is social justice? How are literary forms (and literary criticism) distinctive in the ways in which they grapple with questions of social justice? How do literary forms reinforce or challenge dominant ideologies? In what ways does literature critique social injustice and imagine new models of more perfect human flourishing? How does literature generate varying emotions in its readers that might serve to promote (or prevent) social justice? While we recognize that much literature ut particular reading strategiesstrategies we will unearth, debate, and try on during the course of the semester. The majority of the reading will be works of theory and criticism, but we will read two primary works so that we will have some common ground on which we can test our theories.

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