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ENGLISH 5J: WISE: The Sociology of Literature, Literature as Sociology

In the eyes of Marcel Proust, the modern artist was confronted by two key questions: What is art? And how should an artist be? Historically, for artist and critic both, these questions had been the subject of philosophical debates about Beauty, Truth, and Genius. But in Proust's time, following the rupture introduced by Flaubert half a century earlier, they also became questions about society: Who gets to say what is art and what is not? Whose art is political and whose is 'for its own sake'? Does any art transcend context, or is 'art' always socially constructed? And what kinds of social connections does one need to have to be recognized as an artist? This course explores the growing field of sociological literary criticism, which sees the world of literature not as an abstract space of universal values, but as a kind of social game. Focusing on the novel, and how it operates as a sociological study in miniature, we'll also consider how novels themselves exist as objects or commoditie more »
In the eyes of Marcel Proust, the modern artist was confronted by two key questions: What is art? And how should an artist be? Historically, for artist and critic both, these questions had been the subject of philosophical debates about Beauty, Truth, and Genius. But in Proust's time, following the rupture introduced by Flaubert half a century earlier, they also became questions about society: Who gets to say what is art and what is not? Whose art is political and whose is 'for its own sake'? Does any art transcend context, or is 'art' always socially constructed? And what kinds of social connections does one need to have to be recognized as an artist? This course explores the growing field of sociological literary criticism, which sees the world of literature not as an abstract space of universal values, but as a kind of social game. Focusing on the novel, and how it operates as a sociological study in miniature, we'll also consider how novels themselves exist as objects or commodities that circulate (that gain or lose value) in social space. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu, Gisèle Sapiro, and other pioneers in sociological methods, we will focus on two primary case studies that illuminate the intersection of literature and sociology from reciprocal angles, diving into the world and work of Marcel Proust (whose legendary novel, In Search of Lost Time, can be read as an intensively attentive social study) and engaging with Percival Everett, whose novel Erasure self-consciously thematizes the sociological game of the literary field. (Note: This Writing-Intensive Seminar in English (WISE) course fulfills WIM for English majors. Non-majors are welcome, space permitting. For enrollment permission contact vbeebe@stanford.edu.)
Terms: Aut | Units: 5 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II | Repeatable 2 times (up to 10 units total)
Instructors: Libman, B. (PI)
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