Literary Criticism - ENG 492.01/592

Dr. Kristi Siegel
Spring 2006

Tuesdays, 6:00 – 8:50 pm - NDH 255, plus one hour/week online
Office: NDH 239
Office hours: 4:00 – 5:30 pm Tuesdays, after class, and by appointment
Phone: (w) 414-248-4810, ext. 395
E-mail: please send to both and

Introduction to Modern Literary


"The time for sterility is past, grateful as we must remain to the masters of demystification. Derrida's carte postale does have both destiny and destination; it is the universe, a universe movingly informed by human will, mind, belief, whatever else may have formed it. Without some radiancy, wonder, wisdom, we all risk, in this postmodern clime, to become barren." --Ihab Hassan, The Postmodern Turn

Site Links:


Esthetics Objectives:

The esthetics realm emphasizes the human relationship to beauty. Students study literature, music, art, drama and dance to understand and appreciate this relationship. By means of the core courses in this realm, the student is to:

  • develop an esthetic awareness of the human person and her environment
  • use her creative expression for her own pleasure or for sharing
  • confront the expression of the human person's creative nature and to develop a respect for it
  • improve critical judgment and artistic taste

Objectives for the English Department:

The English Department offers three majors—English, English Middle/Secondary Education, and English Professional Writing—and a number of minors relating to these fields. Accordingly, the departmental objectives are broad in scope and courses may focus on some of the objectives more than others:

  • to investigate the human condition
  • to think critically and with understanding about written and filmed media
  • to broaden and deepen the ability to write effectively in academic and professional settings and for personal growth
  • to practice the forms professional writers use and learn the technology needed to make writing a profession
  • to reflect on ethical and philosophical issues raised whenever one reads a creative, explanatory, or persuasive text
  • to engage in creative thought, in collaboration with other students, thus generating new possibilities for thinking, dreaming, and challenging structures in society

Course Description:

The course focuses on critical theory as it applies to literature and culture. Review of classical Greek origins of issues concerning the nature of literature and criticism. Study of major twentieth-century theories and applications: historical, formalist, archetypal, psychoanalytic, Marxist, reader-response, New Historicist, feminist, postcolonial, American multicultural, structuralist and various post-structuralist perspectives.

Course Objectives*:

  1. Students will be able to articulate the broader ways in which literary theory applies to their own culture, global culture, and their own lives;
  2. Students will demonstrate through written work and in-class comments their ability to apply various theories to works of literature and aspects of contemporary culture;
  3. Students will write a substantive paper (10+ pages) that demonstrates their ability to compare and synthesize the theories presented;
  4. Students will demonstrate their ability to articulate theoretical concepts orally by their class participation and formal presentation of their final paper; and
  5. Students will locate, cite, and intelligently incorporate several sources (including print materials) into their final paper and shorter essays.

*See “Assignments and Grading” below for correlation between objectives and assignments.

Assignments and Grading:

  • 2 shorter papers (4-5 pages) - 20%
    Demonstrates course objectives 1, 2, and 5 listed above
  • 1 final paper/project (10-12 pages) - 25%
    Demonstrates objectives 1, 3, and 5 listed above
  • Presentation of final paper - 10%
    Demonstrates objectives 1, 4, and 5 listed above
  • Discussion Question responses - 5%
    Demonstrates objectives 1 and 2 listed above
  • 2 Short-Answer Exams - 30%
    Demonstrates objectives 1 and 2 listed above
  • Participation - 10%
    Demonstrates objectives 1, 2, and 4 listed above

Required Texts:

  • Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. New York: Garland Publishing, 1999.
  • Italo Calvino. Cosmicomics. Harvest/HBJ, 1976.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby. Notes & Preface by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Simon & Schuster, 1995.
  • CD-ROM containing lectures, discussion questions, and other materials for online component
  • Literature packet
  • Readings by theorists (handouts)

Highly Recommended:

  • A handbook of critical terminology (e.g., M. H. Abrams’ Glossary of Literary Terms).

Late Papers:

Late papers will not be accepted without serious cause and may be subject to a lower grade.


You are expected to attend class every week and also listen and participate in the weekly online component. Please contact me if you need to miss class. It is your responsibility to find out what work you have missed. More than two absences may result in a lower or failing grade.

Special Accommodations:

Mount Mary College complies with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which stipulates that the College will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. If you have a disability that may have some impact on your work in this class and for which you may require accommodation, please see Toni Wulff, Associate Dean for Student and Academic Affairs, or Marci Ocker, Coordinator of Disability Services (NDH 152) so that such accommodations may be arranged.

Academic Honesty:

In keeping with the values of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Mount Mary mission, the College is an academic community dedicated to the intellectual, social and ethical development of each of its members. In keeping with these goals, all students are expected to strive for integrity in both academic and non-academic pursuits. Acts that involve any attempt to deceive, to present another’s ideas as one’s own, or to enhance one’s grade through dishonest means violate the integrity of both the student and the College. A faculty member has the right and authority to deal with such violations the first time they may occur with a given student; however, a student who commits multiple violations against academic integrity shall be subject to administrative disciplinary action, which may include suspension or dismissal from the College.

Course Calendar

Foundations & Traditional Approaches

Before Week One

If possible, read The Great Gatsby and Cosmicomics.

Literature & the Text

Week One

Tuesday, January 24
Discussion questions:

  • Why study literary theory?

Basic Questions/Basic Terms
Traditional Approaches –

  • Biographical/Historical
  • Genre Criticism

Basic literary terms and overview
Literary Excursion: “To His Coy Mistress” – Andrew Marvell (poetry packet)
Introduction to Aristotle and Plato

  • Online Lecture

Online Hour
Lecture on the readings listed below:

Send answers to discussion questions by 6:00 pm on Sunday, January 29th:

  1. Briefly, outline specifically Plato’s beliefs regarding poets. Why did Plato believe poets
    needed to be banished?
  2. “Aristotle Award” – In one concise paragraph of no more than 260 words, explain the
    most important aspects of The Poetics. First and second place awards will be determined.

Week Two

Tuesday, January 31
Discussion on Plato and Aristotle
Literature & the Text – New Criticism and Formalism - website link

  • Tyson, “New Criticism,” 117-152

Literary Excursion: “I Felt a Funeral in My Brain” – Emily Dickenson or
"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" - Robert Frost (literature packet)

  • Online Hour

Online Hour
Discussion question:

  • Re-read Tyson's interpretation of The Great Gatsby. Identify and explain the devices
    of New Criticism Tyson uses as she analyzes The Great Gatsby. Send your response
    by e-mail by 6:00 pm, Sunday, February 5th.

Literature & Psychology

Week Three

Tuesday, February 7
Literature & Psychology - Psychoanalytic Criticism - website link – Freud
Tyson, “Psychoanalytic Criticism,” 13-45
Literary Excursion: “Once Upon a Time” – Nadine Gordimer (literature packet)
• Jacques Lacan (brief overview)

  • Online Lecture

Online Hour

  • Lecture on archetypal criticism
  • Archetypal Criticism - website link
  • Literary Excursion: “The Distance of the Moon” – Cosmicomics
  • Send response to discussion question by 6:00 pm, Sunday, February 11th:
    • Identify and discuss some of the many archetypes evident in Calvino's "The Distance
      of the Moon"

Literature & Audience

Week Four

Tuesday, February 14
Literature & Audience - Reader-Response Criticism- website link
Tyson, “Reader-Response Criticism” 153-191
Literary Excursion: "The Story of an Hour" - Kate Chopin

5 Stories of an Hour (video)
  • Online Hour

Online Hour
Using the brief handout on Reception Theory handed out in class, consider one text
(a poem, story, film, drama, etc.) that you read a long time ago and then re-read. Using
the concept Hans Robert Jauss refers to as "horizons of expectation" (which is generally
used in reference to different historical periods rather than to stages in the life of an individual
reader), as well as its reformulation by Wolfgang Iser, write a short report on how and why
you originally interpreted the text, and how--at a later date--your interpretation changed.
How did your changed "horizons of expectation" affect your interpretation?

Send your response by e-mail by 6:00 pm, Sunday, February 19th.

Literature & Socioeconomics

Week Five

Tuesday, February 21
Literature & Socioeconomics – Marxism- website link
Tyson, “Marxist Criticism,” 49-78
Film Excursion: Excerpt from The Women - 1939 film directed by George Cukor
Topic building for essay due February 28
  • Online Hour

Online Hour
Work on your essay (due February 28)

Literature & Culture

Week Six

Tuesday, February 28
Essay no. 1 due.
Literature & Culture - New Historicism - website link
Tyson, 277-311
Film Excursion: Excerpt from Where the Boys Are, 1960
  • Online Hour

Online Hour

Literature & Culture - New Historicism
“The Structures of Punishment” – Michel Foucault

Discussion question: What panoptic structures can you identify in today's society? Send your
response by e-mail by 6:00 pm, Sunday, March 12.

Week Seven – Spring Break

Week Eight

Tuesday, March 14
Continued discussion on Michel Foucault
Literature & Culture - Feminism - website link
Tyson, “Feminist Criticism,” 81-113
Brief discussion of "Little Red Riding Hood"
Literary Excursion: “Without Colors” - Cosmicomics

  • Online Hour

Online Hour
Literature & Culture – Feminism
Read the material below:

  • "Sorties: Out and Out: Attacks/Ways Out/Forays" - Helene Cixous
  • "The Company of Wolves" - Angela Carter

Discussion questions: 1) We discussed the traditional version of the fairytale "Little Red Riding
Hood" in class; identify the ways in which Carter's version "re-writes" gender roles, 2) Cixous
begins her essay by citing a number of binaries - what is her point?, and 3) In the section
where Cixous quotes Joyce ("Bridebed, childbed, bed of death") what is the traditional
trajectory (life) she sees for women vs. men?

Send your responses by e-mail by 6:00 pm, Sunday March 19.

Week Nine

Tuesday, March 21
Recap on Feminism
In-class short-answer test
Literature & Culture – Postcolonialism- website link
Tyson, 363-417
Movie Clip: The King and I

  • Online Lecture

Online Hour
Lecture on the readings listed below; discussion questions TBA.
Literature & Culture – Postcolonialism
"Orientalizing the Oriental" - Edward Said

Week Ten

Tuesday, March 28
Continued Discussion on Postcolonialism
Literature & Culture - American Multiculturalism
Tyson, 380-400 & 417
Literary Excursion: “The Dinosaurs” – Cosmicomics

Movie clip: White Man's Burden, 1995.

  • Online Lecture

Online Hour
Lecture on the readings listed below; discussion questions TBA.
Toni Morrison, “Black Matters”

Literature, Language & Its Structures of Meaning

Week Eleven

Tuesday, April 4
Essay no. 2 due
Literature, Language & Its Structures of Meaning - Structuralism and Semiotics - website link
Tyson, 197-237
Literary Excursion: “The Light-Years” – Cosmicomics
  • Online Lecture

Online Hour
Lecture on the readings listed below; discussion questions TBA.
Literature, Language & Structures of Meaning - Structuralism and Semiotics
"The World of Wrestling" - Roland Barthes

Week Twelve

Tuesday, April 11
Structuralism (cont.)
Literature, Language & Its Structures of Meaning – Modernism & Postmodernism - website link
"Postmodernism" (handout) - small group discussions

Thursday, April – Easter (no online class)

Week Thirteen

Tuesday, April 18
Literature, Language & Its Structures of Meaning – Post-Structuralism & Deconstruction
- website link
Tyson, 241-274
Excerpt from film: Derrida - produced in 2002

  • Online Lecture

Online Hour
Lecture on the readings listed below; discussion questions TBA

Week Fourteen

Tuesday, April 25
Literature, Language & Its Structures of Meaning – Poststructuralism & Deconstruction
Derrida (cont.)
Readings TBA
Literary Excursion: “A Sign in Space” - Cosmicomics

  • Online Lecture

Online Hour
Lecture on th
e readings listed below; discussion questions TBA.

Extensions of postmodernism – Visual Culture (short readings by Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord)

Week Fifteen

Tuesday, April 25
Discussion of Visual Culture theorists
Rebuttals of Poststructuralism – Neo-Pragmatism in brief
Project Day – in-class work on papers (projects) and mini-conferences

  • Online Lecture

Online Hour
Overview/Intersections/Review of Course

Week Sixteen

Tuesday, May 2
Papers due/ Presentations on papers


Tuesday, May 7
Presentations on papers (continued)



  • Bertens, Hans. Literary Theory: The Basics. London and New York: Routledge, 2001
  • Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. 3rd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.
  • Bertens, Hans. Literary Theory: The Basics. London and New York: Routledge, 2001
  • Culler, Jonathan. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, OUP, 2000.
  • Davis, Robert Con, and Ronald Schleifer. Contemporary Literary Criticism: Literary and Cultural Studies (4th Edition). Longman, 1988.
  • Dobie, Ann B. Theory into Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism. Thomson, 2002
  • Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983.
  • Green, Keith and Jill LeBihan. Critical Theory & Practice: A Coursebook. London and New York: Routledge, 2004.
  • Groden, Michael, and Martin Kreiswirth. The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1994
  • Guerin, Wilfred L. et al. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. 4th Ed. New York: OUP, 1999.
  • Hall, Donald E. Literary and Cultural Theory: From Basic Principles to Advanced Application. Boston: Houghton, 2001.
  • Jefferson, Anne. and D. Robey, eds. Modern Literary Theory: A Comparative Introduction. London: Batsford, 1986.
  • Keesey, Donald. Contexts for Criticism. 4th Ed. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2003.
  • Latimer, Dan. Contemporary Critical Theory. San Diego: Harcourt, 1989.
  • Lentriccia, Frank. After the New Criticism. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1980.
  • Lodge, David, with Nigel Wood. Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. 2nd Ed. London: Longman, 1988.
  • Magill, Frank N, ed. Critical Survey of Literary Theory. Pasadena: Salem Press, 1987.
  • Makaryk, Irena R., ed. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1993.
  • Murfin, Ross and Ray, Supryia M. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin's, 2003.
  • Natoli, Joseph, ed. Tracing Literary Theory. Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1987.
  • Patai, Daphne and Will H. Corral. Theory's Empire: An Anthology of Dissent. New York: Columbia UP, 2005.
  • Sarup, Madan. An Introductory Guide to to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1989.
  • Selden, Raman and Peter Widdowson. A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory. 3rd Ed. Lexington: U of Kentucky P, 1993.
  • Staton, Shirley F., ed. Literary Theories in Praxis. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1987.
  • Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. New York & Long: Garland Publishing, 1999.
  • Walder, Dennis, ed. Literature in the Modern World: Critical Essays and Documents. 2nd Ed. OUP, 2004.
  • Wolfreys, Julian. ed . Introducing Literary Theories: A Guide and Glossary . Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003.

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