ENGL301: Introduction to Literary Theory

Course Syllabus for "ENGL301: Introduction to Literary Theory"

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This course will introduce you to the field of literary theory, a central component of contemporary studies in English and world literature. As you progress through this course, you will gain knowledge of the various premises and methods available to you as a critical reader of literature. You will identify and engage with key questions that have animated - and continue to animate - theoretical discussions among literary scholars and critics, including issues pertaining to ideology, cultural value, the patriarchal and colonial biases of Western culture and literature, and more. The structure of this course is historically based, arranged as a genealogy of theoretical paradigms, beginning in the early 20th century - when literary theory first developed as a formal discipline - and following the evolution of literary theory into the present day. From text-centric Russian formalism to contemporary gynocriticism and trauma theory, you will explore the basic principles and preeminent texts that have defined many of the major critical debates surrounding literature over the past hundred years.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • define both literary theory and literary criticism, and explain the emergence of these two fields as a discipline of study;
  • identify and discuss classical Greek explanations of the purpose of literature;
  • explain and account for the rise of literary theory in the 20th century, and describe the place of theory in contemporary English and cultural studies;
  • provide a brief overview of the major tenets, practitioners, and ideas stemming from the following critical and theoretical movements and/or schools: Russian formalism, New Criticism, structuralism, poststructuralism, semiotics, deconstruction, psychoanalysis,feminism, gender theory, Marxism, reader-response paradigms, New Historicism, postcolonialism, ethnic studies, ecocriticism, chaos theory, and trauma theory;
  • identify and discuss some of the viewpoints opposed to the practice of literary criticism;
  • discuss contemporary cultural forces influencing some of the newly emerging trends in literary theory, such as ecocriticism, trauma theory, and chaos theory; and
  • identify, discuss, and define some of the key theories of major literary and cultural critics and theorists, such as (in alphabetical order) Theodor W. Adorno, Aristotle, J.L. Austin, Mikhail Bakhtin, Roland Barthes, Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Hélène Cixous, Jacques Derrida, Terry Eagleton, T.S. Eliot, Stanely Fish, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Stephen Greenblatt, Edmund Husserl, Wolfgang Iser, Fredric Jameson, Carl Jung, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Lacan, Karl Marx, Plato, Ferdinand de Saussure, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Victor Shklovsky.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:
√    have access to a computer;
√    have continuous broadband internet access;
√    have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash);
√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;
√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);
√    have competency in the English language;

√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook; and

√    have completed the following courses from “The Core Program” of the English discipline: ENGL101, ENGL201, ENGL202, ENGL203, and ENGL204.

Course Information

Welcome to ENGL301: Introduction to Literary Theory. General information on this course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designer: James R. Fleming

Primary Resources: This course uses a range of different free, online resource materials, with primary use of the following materials:

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.