Theories and Methods of Literary Study

The goal of this course is to introduce graduate students to the foundation of literary studies. To that end, we will chart a number of theoretical methods that can be mobilized to interpret literature. The class will be divided according to different theoretical movements. Because this course will focus primarily on the application of theory, we will read a number of short stories and excerpts from novels throughout the semester so as to practice applying theory to literature. Students in 625B, along with other students from the various 625s, will present at an end of the semester colloquium. Below you will find a list of intellectual movements and corresponding authors.


Structuralism and Post-structuralism

Ferdinand Saussure, Jonathan Culler, and Jacques Derrida, Paul Ricoeur, Michel Foucault



Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Cathy Caruth,


Feminist Theory

Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, Chandra Mohanty, Audre Lourde, Hortense Spillers



Terry Eagleton, Antonio Gramsci, Marx and Engels, Frederick Jameson, Raymond Williams, Althusser


Postcolonial Theory

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Gayatri Spivak, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha




-Develop an understanding of the history of literary theory

-Develop a capacity to apply literary theory to texts

-Develop the skills necessary to present at an academic conference

-Develop an understanding of how academic articles are constructed and how to integrate them into a scholarly article

-Develop the skills necessary to enter into a scholarly debate




-All students will be required to deliver one in class conference presentation (7 to 8 pages in length)

-All students will be required to complete a final essay (15-20 pages)

-All students are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the material

-Colloquium paper and presentation

-Students will also have to complete “applied theory” assignments (1single spaced page)