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ENGL301: Introduction to Literary Theory

Unit 1: What is Literary Theory?   The first unit of this course will introduce you to some wide-ranging questions about literary theory while situating the field within the broader scope of literary studies. This unit also will serve to introduce you to the early developments and stages of literary criticism and theory.

Unit 1 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take you approximately 5.5 hours.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 4.5 hours
☐    Subunit 1.1.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 1.1.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 1 hour

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- define literary theory; - define literary criticism; - literature as a discipline of study; - identify and discuss ancient Greek explanations of the purpose of literature, particularly those of Plato and Aristotle; and - discuss the rise of literary theory in the 20th century.

1.1 The Emergence of Literature as a Discipline of Study   1.1.1 What Is Literary Criticism?   - Reading: The University of Tennessee’s Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Vince Brewton’s “What Is Literary Theory?” and The Saylor Foundation’s An Introduction to Literary Theory Coursepack: “An Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism” Link: The University of Tennessee’s Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Vince Brewton’s “What Is Literary Theory?” (HTML) and The Saylor Foundation’s An Introduction to Literary Theory Coursepack: “An Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism” (PDF)

 Instructions: Read the section titled “What Is Literary Theory?”
from the *Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s “*Literary Theory”
webpage, followed by the section of The Saylor Foundation’s *An
Introduction to Literary Theory* Coursepack titled “An Introduction
to Literary Theory and Criticism.” The Saylor Foundation's *An
Introduction to Literary Theory* Coursepack may be downloaded at the
top of this course, or the section of the coursepack titled “An
Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism” may be downloaded
from the link above. Be sure to answer the study questions provided
at the end of this section of the coursepack.  

 These resources provide you with a broad introduction to the
purpose of literary criticism. Following your reading, consider
answering the following questions: What is traditional literary
criticism? How does literary theory help us to understand
literature?  

 Reading these sections should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.
  • Lecture: Yale University’s Open Yale Courses: Introduction to Theory of Literature: Dr. Paul H. Fry’s “Lecture 1: Introduction” Link: Yale University’s Open Yale Courses: Introduction to Theory of Literature: Dr. Paul H. Fry’s “Lecture 1: Introduction” (YouTube)

    Also available in:
    HTML, MP3, Adobe Flash, and Quicktime

    Instructions: Watch Dr. Fry’s 40-minute introductory lecture. Note that a transcript of the lecture, an audio MP3 file, and Flash and QuickTime versions of the video are available through Yale’s Open Yale Courses website, also linked above.

    After watching the lecture, consider answering the following questions: What, according to Dr. Fry, is literary theory? How is literary theory useful to the study of literature?

    Watching this lecture should take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

1.1.2 Classical Greek Conversations on the Purpose of Literature   - Reading: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s versions of Plato’s The Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics; The Saylor Foundation’s An Introduction to Literary Theory Coursepack: “The Early Origins of Literary Theory: Plato and Aristotle”

Link: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s versions of
Plato’s [*The
Republic* ](http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html)(HTML) and
Aristotle’s
[*Poetics* ](http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.html)(HTML); The
Saylor Foundation’s *An Introduction to Literary Theory* Coursepack:
[“The Early Origins of Literary Theory: Plato and
Aristotle”](https://resources.saylor.org/wwwresources/archived/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/ENGL301-The-Early-Origins-of-Literary-Theory.pdf) (PDF)  
    
 *The Poetics* is also available in:  
 [Google
Books](http://books.google.com/books?id=-K7U239OtKMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=poetics&hl=en&ei=ZItZTLqyAcXDnAfn5MSyCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=book-thumbnail&resnum=3&ved=0CDAQ6wEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false)  
 [PDF](http://sparks.eserver.org/books/aristotle_poetics.pdf)  

[Kindle](http://www.amazon.com/Poetics-English-ebook/dp/B0082UQ964/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1351523662&sr=1-1&keywords=the+poetics "Kindle")  
    
Instructions: From *The Republic*, read Book III-Book V for a
discussion of the purpose of art. Then, from *Poetics,* read Book
I-Book III for a similar conversation about the role of literature
in society. The Saylor Foundation’s *An Introduction to Literary
Theory* Coursepack may be downloaded at the top of this course, or
the section titled [“The Early Origins of Literary Theory: Plato and
Aristotle”](https://resources.saylor.org/wwwresources/archived/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/ENGL301-The-Early-Origins-of-Literary-Theory.pdf) may
be downloaded from the link above. Read that section and answer the
study questions provided at the end of the section.  

 The earliest known works of literary criticism in the Western world
were written by Plato and his student Aristotle in Greece in the
fourth century BCE. At that time, the Greeks had a wealth of
literature to discuss and compare thanks to their already
centuries-old traditions of drama and epic poetry (most notably,
*The Iliad* and *The Odyssey*, both attributed to the poet Homer).  

 Following your reading, consider answering the following questions:
What do Plato and Aristotle argue are the main purposes of
literature? How does Aristotle distinguish between the genres of
poetry? What are the six elements of tragedy, according to
Aristotle? What does Plato believe the social purpose of art to be?
How do the aesthetic theories of Plato and Aristotle differ from
each other?  

 Reading these sections and considering the above study questions
should take approximately 2.5 hours.


 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

1.2 The Rise of Critical Theory in the 20th Century   - Reading: Purdue University Online Writing Lab’s “Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism” Timeline Link: Purdue University Online Writing Lab’s “Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism” Timeline (HTML)
 
Instructions: Access the timeline, which offers an outline of the development of literary theory in the 20th century. Following your reading, consider answering the following questions, based on your work in this course thus far: What might some of the weaknesses of literary theory be? What are the major schools of criticism and how are they related to each other? Which schools of criticism are connected to each other in terms of their respective perspectives and theories? Which schools of criticism and theories are, or seem to be, opposed to each other’s perspectives?

Reading this timeline and considering the above study questions
should take approximately 1 hour.   

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.