English 161

Introduction to Literary Theory

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2019 Hale, Dorothy J.
TTh 12:30-2 note new location: 219 Dwinelle

Book List

The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, Third Edition

Other Readings and Media

A Course Reader produced by Copy Central is also required.


In this course we will study how literary theory developed as a field in the twentieth century, even as it regularly drew its principles, methods, and inspiration from other academic disciplines and social discourses.  Our focus will be on the major theoretical schools: formalism, structuralism and post-structuralism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, New Historicism, identity politics, and post-colonialism.  We will examine the differences in value and method that define these approaches and also consider the ways critical traditions retool themselves in response to internal or external debate and critique.  Our abiding concern will be to ask what counts as “the literary” for each theorist and what is the role and function of literature in each argument.  Sometimes the literary will be defined explicitly; other times it will be represented by the exemplary literary texts each school enlists in its theoretical enterprise. 

To develop skills as close readers of theory, students will write two short papers (7-8 pages each).  Students will also complete a take-home final, which will give the opportunity for synthetic thinking.

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