Theories & Methods of Literary Studies/ Theories in Cultural Studies

ENG 625 B/E: Theories and Methods of Literary and Cultural Studies

Fall 2023 – Dr. Ruth Y. Hsu

(Contact for additional information)

TXT0 Seminar Course


Think of this seminar as a unique opportunity to dive into essential and foundational concepts and epistemological questions of English Studies.

Due to the complexity of any sort of mapping of literary and cultural studies, readings chosen for this course focus on key terms that have deeply engaged scholars around the world through the centuries, namely, author, reader, the hero, literature as art and art as experienced in normative culture; other key questions include the relation of literature and politics, the role of literature in national identity formation, and as a marker of social status.

During the first part of this course – approximately a month – the analytical approach is diachronic, as we map changes in the ways that philosophers define various facets of storytelling. Readings are very brief excerpts from the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Pope, Baumgarten, Kant, and Hegel. The next set of readings in the following month expresses how scholars re-stationed the theoretical point-of-view beyond dominant articulations of literary aesthetics based on the European tradition: We will be reading theories on language and power and its relation to storytelling from thinkers such as Lukacs, Bakhtin, de Saussure, and Barthes. Their ideas radically restructured the study of literature and contributed to the development of cultural studies, such as the work of Hall on representation, Adorno on the culture industry, Foucault on biopolitics. Questions regarding textual forms of literature have expanded to include the structuring power of texts and culture in general. Marxist theories, feminisms, post-structuralism have become central to analyses of storytelling, the author, the reader, the human. The next set of readings from Oceania and Hawai’i challenge us to think otherwise, that is, beyond western humanisms and worldviews, terra-humanisms, and western dominated versions of the anthropocene via the writings of Hau’ofa, Carter, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, and Vaka’uta.

Procedure and Goals:

The procedure involves helping each other with the readings: formulating questions about the texts, by engaging each other in constructive class discussions; and by writing about what you read.

TXT0 seminar: Readings can be accessed free from UHM Library and in the form of PDF that I will upload to Laulima.

Required Readings:

  1. Malpas, Simon., and Paul. Wake. The Routledge Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory. 2nd ed., (selection; available in UH Library, online)
  2. Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today . A User Friendly Guide, 4th edition. Routledge, 2023. (Selection; available through UH Library, online).
  3. Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby (the book; available from UH Library)
  4. Literary texts in PDF in Laulima include Calvino, The Nonexistent Knight & the Cloven Viscount (selection); Dung, Kai-cheung, Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City (selection); Kahakauwila, This Is Paradise: Stories.
  5. Film: Frears, Stephen., et al. Dirty Pretty Things; or, Run, Lola, Run
  6. Short ssays in PDF in Laulima by Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Lukacs, Bakhtin, de Saussure, Barthes, Adorno, Bourdieu, Foucault, Hau’ofa, Carter, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, and Vaka’uta.


  1. Complete assigned reading before class;
  2. Keep a Reading Journal (min. 300 words per week; weeks 2 to 10);
  3. A scholarly and argument-based book/film review (1000 words);
  4. A research- and argument-based conference-length paper 8 to 10 double-spaced pages);
  5. Leading a seminar discussion on an assigned reading of the week (15 minutes)
  6. The ENG 625 COLLOQUIUM is an annual event in the department of English where grad students enrolled in the ENG 625 concentrations give their interpretations on a keyword that the Grad Committee decides in advance for them. The event happens as part of the department Thursday colloquium in the Fall semester. You will each have no more than 3 minutes to present your piece.


Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. You will gain a better understanding of literary theory and cultural critique and areas of intersection;
  2. You will be able to identify and describe key concepts in critical theory;
  3. You will develop the ability to place your own scholarly work within broader critical conversations and to contribute to these conversations by conducting independent research;
  4. You will gain experience delivering concise, informed, focused, and thought-provoking oral presentations to peers in the field;
  5. You will gain experience formulating historically- and theoretically-informed argument-based essays; you will also gain experience documenting sources accurately and responsibly, using a standard academic style.