Graduate Summer Seminar

July 21-25, 2014
Berkeley , CA 
Prof. Steven Justice and Prof. David Marno

Literary criticism is still the name we give to the ordinary business done by English and modern language departments, but the substance of that ordinary business has long since been established as being in fact interpretation; similarly, the chief activity of literary theory is the exploration of interpretative premises. But criticism, both etymologically and in its founding uses, involved judgment, the discrimination of literary excellence, the understanding of its grounds and significance, and the conditions of its achievement. The interpretative model is a decisive and (at the moment, at least) irresistible fact about literary study in the university: it is the vehicle of training and professionalism, and interpretative virtuosity is the chief virtue rewarded by hiring, publication, and advancement.

This model has also been the basis of its chief accomplishments since the 1950s, the source of real gain. But it has been the source of real loss, too. By it, the field has effectively severed itself from the main history of literary thought in the west until the mid-twentieth century; under its régime, the ends traditionally ascribed to literature (beauty, instruction, the organization of sensation) have been lost to view, subjected to suspicion, or reduced to mere celebration; arguments for the good of literature have been evacuated and replaced, if at all, only by arguments for the good of criticism.

Over its five intense days, this seminar will pursue three parallel programs of reading and discussion. One will carry out a close study of Aristotle’s Poetics, perhaps along with parts of the Rhetoric and Nicomachean Ethics. A second will consider how the ideas of criticism and of the literary have developed in modernity, from the seventeenth century to the present, using (among other readings) Arnold’s “Function of Criticism at the Present Time” and Rancière’s Mute Speech. A third will consider the challenge to interpretation that is posed by poetic address (“O Wild West Wind,” “You, who listen to my scattered rhymes”) to interpretative models of criticism, using instances of fictive address in poetry and prose as well as literary critical and phenomenological texts by John Stuart Mill, T. S. Eliot, Martin Heidegger, William Waters, and Jean-Luc Marion.


Prof. Steven Justice, University of California at Berkeley

Prof. David Marno, University of California at Berkeley


This seminar is open to graduate students with interests in literary criticism.

Application Requirements and Instructions

Please submit the following forms and documents via email to Nuri Kim ( by May 5, 2014.

  1. Curriculum Vitae or résumé with all previous academic and professional experience.
    2. Cover Letter expressing the reasons for your interest in the seminar and discussing any relevant experience or familiarity with the topic.
    3. One Letter of Recommendation from a professor with whom you have recently studied.
    4. Writing Sample of no more than 15 pages.

Decisions will be emailed to applicants on May 15. Please note that space is limited.

Cost and Accomodations

Students will be provided with five nights of lodging and meals.

Students will be required to pay for their own travel.