University of California, Riverside

Comparative Literature and Languages



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2017-2018 Seminars

Winter 2018

CPLT 210: Literary Theory in the Non-Western World

Literary theory answers questions such as “What is a text?” and “What does it do?” It concerns relations between universe and author, author and text, text and reader, and others. In recent decades, “theory” has originated almost exclusively in Europe and North America and has spread around the world in two ways: first, as borrowed terminology, translated or imitated elsewhere; and second, as the language in which literary works from any culture, all across the globe, are discussed. It is rare in the comparative literature field to consider that cultures that originated outside of Europe and North America might also have had answers to the questions “What is a text?” and “What does it do?” In this seminar we will study these neglected theories. Each student will choose a non-Western theory of literature, analyze and clarify it, and then apply it to chosen literary works that need not be from the same culture as the theory. Thus we might have, for example, how the 5th-century Chinese theorist Liu Xie would analyze Jane Austen’s novels, or how the principles of Nigerian story-telling might illuminate Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

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