Intro to English Studies

This course is an introduction into methods of critical theory and literary criticism. We will study different approaches to making meaning out of texts—broadly defined. We will get a taste of a number of different critical methods including poststructuralism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, queer & trans theory, postcolonial theory, critical race theory, Black studies, and Indigenous studies, and practice applying these different critical methods to works of literature. These critical methods will help us to understand how literary works are shaped by their political, social, and historical contexts. The class will focus especially on how the histories of power, race, gender, and sexuality influence both the texts we read and the ways that we come to understand them.


Readings may include selections of critical writing from Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Eve Sedgwick, Hortense Spillers, Frantz Fanon, Leanne Simpson, Toni Morrison, Haunani-Kay Trask, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui.


“Primary text” readings may include Britt Bennett’s The Vanishing Half (2020), Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones (2011), Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993), as well as short stories and poems by Ursula LeGuin, Natalie Diaz, and others.


Course Format: Face to face, depending covid situation, otherwise online

Required Texts: Most readings will be available for free online. You may need to purchase one or two inexpensive novels.

Assignments: weekly short writing assignments, keywords essay, textual analysis essay, annotated bibliography, final portfolio