Symbiosis International University Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts

Critical Ideas of the 20th Century

 Overview 

In the field of Literary and Cultural Studies, critical ideas occupy a central place. If “practice” is what defines a human activity, we often need a set of ideas that help us understand such practices. Such a set of ideas can be understood (of course only in a generalized manner) as Theory. The last century saw a phenomenal rise of academic institutions that were defined in terms of their theoretical outlooks. Theory pervaded every imaginable discipline and helped define their contours. This course is a journey through such myriad ways, which shape the ways we understand the world.

In this course, the students will be exposed to a variety of theoretical approaches that arose in the latter half of the 20th century. Students will gain a conceptual grasp over extremely critical debates that have informed our understanding of the world. In that we will take an informed look at Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Psychoanalysis (Lacan), Postmodernism and its aftermath, Postcolonial criticism and the late 20th century ideas in Marxism and Feminism. 

 Course Objectives 

  • To introduce students to basic concepts in theory across disciplines.
  • To help students recognize the importance of dealing with abstract concepts and prepare them with critical skills to engage with difficult texts in academics.
  • To form a knowledge base which can be useful across disciplines.
  • To help them produce theoretical arguments at an abstract level to explain the concrete/empirical reality.
  • To introduce students to a multi-disciplinary approach as in order to synthesize various strands of contemporary theoretical approaches.  

 Teaching Methodology 

  • The students will be expected to read the material distributed in the class and critically contribute to the ideas discussed in the class.
  • Emphasis will be on a close reading of certain texts in the classroom.
  • Classes will be held in the “Discussion mode” and students will be encouraged to bring in their experiences with aesthetic, cultural, social and political outlooks.

 Pre-Requisites 

NA

 Course Outline 

Sr. No Topics Hours
1 Unit 1: Structuralism
1.     What is structuralism?
2.     Saussure, Levi Strauss, Barthes, Althusser
10
2 Unit 2: Psychoanalysis
1.     What is Psychoanalysis?
2.     The Freudian Momentand the Lacanian Response
3.     The Mirror Stage
4.     Slavoj Zizek
10
3. Unit 3: Post Structuralism
1.     The rise of Post Structuralism
2.     Derrida, Barthes, Foucault
3.     The Death of the Author
4.     Judith Butler and Feminism
20
4. Unit 4: Post Modernism
1. Lyotard's Death of the Grand Narrative
2. Jameson and Consumer Culture
10
5. Unit 5: Post Colonial Theory
1. Colonialism and History
2. Indian Debates: Subaltern History
10