Prof. Barry Laga (Colorado Mesa University): "Rethinking How We Teach Literary Theory"

Wednesday, 03.07.2019, 6:15-7:45 p.m., KR14/00.06

Instructors most often teach literary and cultural theory to undergraduates by using the "schools of criticism." That is, nearly every textbook marches students through formalism, structuralism, post-structuralism, Marxism, gender criticism, ethnic criticism, and so on. However, teachers struggle when it comes to depth and scope. Some are loath to simplify, and as a result, they break, say, Marxism into a wide range of socio-economic approaches and touch upon Marx, Soviet communists, Georg Lukàcs, the Frankfurt School, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, and a host of contemporary Marxists. This approach overwhelms students who gain a cursory understanding of this enormous body of work, but they cannot apply what they learn to a text. Other authors simplify to the point that Marxism, feminism, structuralism, etc. are monolithic and crude. "Marxists ask this. Feminists ask that." Neither approach satisfies. To respond to this dilemma, I introduce an alternative that helps students understand and apply common literary and cultural theories in a way that actually mimics what professional scholars do. My simple and lean approach allows students to concentrate on what matters. I want students to do more with less. Join us for a discussion and workshop on how to teach cultural and literary theory.

Barry Laga (Ph.D. Purdue University) lives in Grand Junction, Colorado, where he teaches American literature, literary theory, and film studies at Colorado Mesa University. A recipient of two Fulbright Lectureships (Antwerp and Leipzig), Barry has published an eclectic assortment of articles and books that range from Native American fiction and contemporary film, to avant-garde comix, religious monuments, experimental literature, and literary theory.