The Critical Essay

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In the work of the best critics, criticism is not secondary to creative writing, but becomes an original form of self-expression and engagement with the world. In this class, students will explore the arguments, strategies, and language of the critical essay, seeing how critics engage with both individual works of art and larger artistic, social and political questions. We will also look at the state of the critical essay today, and explore some of the functions of criticism in the arts. Among the writers we will read are T.S. Eliot, Susan Sontag, Cynthia Ozick, Ralph Ellison, and Lionel Trilling. Students will be asked to apply what they have learned to writing their own critical essays, which will be workshopped and discussed in class.