Symbiosis International University Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts

Introduction to the 20th Century

 Brief Overview 

In the field of Literary and Cultural Studies, Theory occupies 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 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 Theories of Modernism/ Formalism, Psychoanalysis (Freud), Critical Theory (Frankfurt School), early 20th century Marxism and Feminism, and Existentialism etc.

This is the first part of this course, to be offered in the monsoon semester (July-December). The second part of the course will be offered as a continuation in the Winter semester (January – May).  

 Course Objectives 

  • To introduce students to basic concepts in theory across disciplines.
  • To help students grapple 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 understand the importance of theory as a critical evaluation of practice and as its beacon.
  • To introduce students to a multi-disciplinary approach as borders between various disciplines start becoming thin day by day.

 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. 

 Course Outline 

Sr. No Topics Hours
1 Unit 1: Modernity
1. What is Modernity?
2. Modernism as an aesthetic response
3. Various Modernisms
4. Formalism and Art
2 Unit 2: Psychoanalysis
1. What is Psychoanalysis?
2. The Freudian Moment
3. Carl Jung and the Theory of the Archetypes
3. Unit 3: The Frankfurt School
1. The rise of Critical Theory
2. Adorno, Horkheimer and the Culture Industry
3. Walter Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
4. Unit 4: Marxism, Feminism and Cultural Politics
1. Antonio Gramsci and Culture
2. Gerog Lukacs and the Novel
3. What is Patriarchy?
4. The early 20th century Feminism: First wave Feminism
5. Existentialism
5. Unit 5: Introduction to Structuralism and its Aftermath
1. Saussure and Language
2. Althusser and Ideology
3. Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard and Deleuze
4. Postmodernity and Politics