Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
What makes “Great Criticism?” Analytic clarity? A surfeit of objectivity? Dedication to art and artists? Or is great criticism more like great art, relying on a strong point of view and deep personal investment? This course tests the latter view, by treating works of criticism as dramatic monologues to be analyzed, invested with desire, and performed. We will use techniques of script analysis to pay closer attention to how arguments are constructed, and acting techniques to listen closely for the ways that criticism is always, to quote Nietzsche, “the confession of its originator, and a species of involuntary and unconscious autobiography.” This course will range through the history of English criticism from Philip Sidney to Zadie Smith. Students will also learn basic techniques of script analysis, acting, and public speech, and apply these techniques to works of criticism, culminating in a final recorded performance of an essay-as-monologue.