Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG383H1F L5101

ENG383H1F     L5101     R6-9
Critical Methods (Literature and Political Philosophy)
Instructor: Aaron Donachuk
Office Phone:
Office Location: TBD

Brief Description of Course: How has narrative been theorized in the past? How is it being theorized now? And how might we draw on these theories to better appreciate the nature and function of narrative in literature, mass media, and popular culture? This course will address these questions through an exploration of some of the most influential works in the field of narrative theory and analysis. Readings in the areas of classical and postclassical narrative theory will be illustrated using short stories, graphic narratives, and films; and students will learn to interpret these fictional texts using the theoretical frameworks discussed in the course. Students will also be invited to use these frameworks to investigate how narratives function in non-fictional texts and popular media such as news, movies, and television.

The content of the course will be divided across two parts. In the first part, we will discuss targeted excerpts from works by early- and mid-twentieth-century theorists like Vladimir Propp, Roman Jakobson, Wayne Booth, and Gérard Genette. The purpose of this first part will be to expose students to some of the key assumptions and concepts informing these influential classical theories (concepts such as focalization, the implied author, and fabula and sjuzhet). We will then shift our focus in the second part of the course toward those postclassical approaches that revise, reframe, and sometimes reject the assumptions and premises informing earlier classical models. These will include poststructuralist, cognitivist, and queer and feminist narratologies. We will also discuss media-specific models of narrative – those particular to film and the graphic novel – and broach the subject of narrative theory’s importance for the medical humanities.

The course’s bipartite structure is meant to serve a conceptual and mnemonic function. That is, it is meant to get students thinking about narrative theory not simply as discrete sets of principles and methods, but rather as an ongoing (but not necessarily linear and continuous) narrative in itself. In the process of developing such a conceptual framework, we will engage such questions as: In what sense is structuralist narratology androcentric and how does feminist narratology address this deficiency? How does Genette’s concept of focalization have to be altered before we can apply it to a medium such as film? And how might we use the concept of the implied author to analyze a work of print or online journalism?
Required Reading:

First Three Authors/Texts: TBA.
Method of Evaluation: Participation (10%); online writing assignments (15%); mid-term test (35%); final essay (40%).

Link to ARTSCI Calendar Course Descriptions.

Link to ARTSCI 2016-17 Timetable with Room Allocations.

Return to 300 Level Courses.

Return to 2016-17 Fall-Winter Courses.

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