Theories and Methods of Literary Studies

This course is an introduction to graduate-level methods and theories of literary studies, designed with two goals. First, students will learn to use library resources efficiently through a series of exercises which will include profiles of journals and an annotated bibliography. Second, students will become familiar with a variety of critical approaches to literature by reading both traditional and more recent authors on the subject. In addition to essays that come out of a particular critical perspective, a short overview of literary criticism organized around perennial topics (e.g. representation) will also be required reading.

Students will write abstracts of the critical essays so that they may polish their summarizing skills and synthesize their evaluation of the critic”s argument. Inclass discussion should elaborate the strengths and weaknesses of those arguments so that students can become confident of their ability to read and understand complex and varied approaches to texts. Finally, the students will be responsible for producing a researched essay at semester”s end. This production will ideally involve the annotated bibliography, but must entail at a minimum a prospectus, a conference about the prospectus, the rough draft, and a conference about the rough draft. Students will have the option of using our primary reading for the topic of the researched essay, but in any case, the topic
will be their choice.

Required Texts:

(N.B. primary texts to be announced)

  • Richter, David. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, 3rd ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2006
  • Culler, Jonathan. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000
  • Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. 3rd ed.. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008
  • MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008