Literary Theory & Research - ENG 492/792

Dr. Kristi Siegel, Professor of English
Mount Mary College
Spring 2010

Tuesdays, 6:00 - 8:50 pm - NDH 255, plus one hour per week online
Office: Fidelis 228
Office hours: 4:00 - 5:50 PM on Tuesdays, after class, and by appointment
Phone: (w) 414-258-4810, ext. 287
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

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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. We will also be exploring strategies for publishing and/or presenting academic material. 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 be able to articulate and reflect on the ethical and philosophical issues critical theory elicits;
  4. Students will write a substantive paper (10+ pages) that demonstrates their ability to compare and synthesize the theories studied;
  5. Students will demonstrate their ability to articulate theoretical concepts orally by their class participation and formal presentation of their final paper;
  6. Students will locate, cite, and intelligently incorporate several sources (including print materials) into their final paper and shorter essays;
  7. Graduate students will be expected to produce papers of greater depth and will be required to cite material from primary works by the key theorists cited for each critical theory; and
  8. Students will learn strategies for publishing and presenting academic work.

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

Assignments and Grading:

  • Shorter paper no. 1 - (5-7 pages) - Applying Literary Theory - 15%
    Demonstrates course objectives 1, 2, 3, and 6 listed above
  • Shorter paper no. 2 (5-7 pages) - Publishing & Academia - 15%
    Demonstrates course objectives 1, 2, 3, 6, and 8
  • 1 final paper/project (10-15 pages) - 25%
    Demonstrates objectives 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 listed above
  • Presentation of final paper - 10%
    Demonstrates objectives 1, 3, and 5 listed above
  • Discussion Question responses - 10%
    Demonstrates objectives 1, 2, and 3 listed above
  • 1 Short-Answer Exam - 15%
    Demonstrates objectives 1, 2, and 3 listed above
  • Participation - 10%
    Demonstrates objectives 1, 2, 3, and 5 listed above

Required Texts:

  • Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. New York: Garland Publishing, 2nd Ed. 2006.
  • Excerpt from Plato's Republic (available online)
  • Excerpt from Aristotle's Poetics (available online)
  • Shakespeare's Macbeth (available online)
  • Collection of readings by primary theorists (handouts) - will be distributed in class
  • Literature packet (handout) - will be distributed
  • CD-ROM containing lectures, discussion questions, and other materials for online component

Highly Recommended:

  • A handbook of critical terminology (e.g., M. H. Abrams’ Glossary of Literary Terms).
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby. Notes & Preface by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Late Papers:

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


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 accommodations, please see me or Marci Ocker, Coordinator of Disability Services (NDH 152), 414-443-3645, ext. 645, so that such accommodations may be arranged.

Academic Honesty:

See hardcopy of your syllabus for information.

Course Calendar

Foundations & Traditional Approaches

Literature & the Text

Week One

Tuesday, January 26
Discussion questions:

  • Why study literary/cultural theory? What does it have to do with literature or our world in general?
  • How does this study relate to the mission of Mount Mary College?
  • What is literature? How do you recognize it?
  • Do you currently use a literary theory to evaluate literature?

Basic Questions/Basic Terms
Traditional Approaches –

  • Biographical/Historical
  • Genre Criticism

Basic literary terms and overview
Introduction to Aristotle and Plato

  • Online Lecture

Online Hour
Lecture on the readings listed below (on your CD-ROM - allow time for the PowerPoint lecture to load; it's 90 MBs).:

Send answers to discussion questions by 6:00 pm on Saturday, January 30:

  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, February 2
Discussion on Plato and Aristotle
Literature & the Text – New Criticism and Formalism - website link

  • Tyson, “New Criticism,” 135-165

Macbeth and Formalism (group work and discussion)

  • Online Hour

Online Hour
Discussion question:

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

Literature & Psychology

Week Three

Tuesday, February 9
Literature & Psychology - Psychoanalytic Criticism - website link – Freud
Tyson, “Psychoanalytic Criticism,” 1-16 and 34-50

Macbeth and Psychoanalytic Criticism (group work and discussion)

  • Online Lecture

Online Hour

  • Lecture on archetypal criticism (on CD-ROM)
  • Archetypal Criticism - website link
  • Send response to discussion question by 6:00 pm, Saturday, February 13:
    • Identify one or two of the many archetypes evident in Shakepeare's Macbeth.

Literature & Audience

Week Four

Tuesday, February 16
Literature & Audience - Reader-Response Criticism- website link
Tyson, “Reader-Response Criticism” 169-204
Macbeth and Reader-Response criticism (group work and discussion)

  • Online Hour

Online Hour
Using the description of Reception Theory in your CD-ROM, 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, Saturday, February 20.

Literature & Socioeconomics

Week Five

Tuesday, February 23
Literature & Socioeconomics – Marxism- website link
Tyson, “Marxist Criticism,” 53-80
Video (TBA) and discussion

Topic building for essay due March 2

  • Online Hour

Online Hour
Work on your essay (due March 2), and e-mail your thesis statement and "game plans" by 6:00 pm, Saturday, February 27.

Literature & Culture

Week Six

Tuesday, March 2
Essay no. 1 due.
Literature & Culture - New Historicism - website link
Tyson, 281-313
Example from "It's Suicide to be Abroad" chapter

Film Excursion: Excerpt from Where the Boys Are, 1960 (group work and discussion)

  • Online Hour

Online Hour

Literature & Culture - New Historicism
Read “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, Saturday, March 6.

Week Seven

Tuesday, March 9
Essays returned - discussion on essays
Essay no. 2 assigned (handout provided)
Continued discussion on Michel Foucault
Literature & Culture - Feminism - website link
Tyson, “Feminist Criticism,” 83-131
Review of "Little Red Riding Hood"
Film excursion: The Women (1939) - group work

  • Online Hour

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

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

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 James 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, Saturday, March 13.

Week Eight

Spring Break - March 14-20

Week Nine

Tuesday, March 23
In-class short answer test
Recap on Feminism
Literature & Culture – Postcolonialism- website link
Tyson, 417-447
Movie Clip: The King and I
Group work and discussion on video clip & short story (TBA)

  • Online Lecture

Online Hour

Literature & Culture – Postcolonialism
Read: "Orientalizing the Oriental" - Edward Said (handout)

  1. What does Said cite as the problems of studying "Orientalism" as an academic discipline?
  2. What do you think Said means when he writes, "The Orient at large, therefore, vacillates between the West's contempt for what is familiar and its shivers of delight in--or fear of--novelty" (263).

Send your response by 6:00 pm, Saturday, March 27.

Week Ten

Tuesday, March 30
Continued Discussion on Postcolonialism
Literature & Culture - American Multiculturalism
Tyson, 359-411

Presentation by Tammy Tramel
Film excursion - White Man's Burden - (group work and discussion)
Topic building on Essay no. 2 (due April 6)


  • Online Lecture

Online Hour

Read: Toni Morrison, “Black Matters” and work on Essay no. 2

  1. Write and send me your thesis statement/game plan for Essay no. 2.
  2. Develop two discussion questions on Morrison's essay, and be prepared to answer your own questions.

Send your thesis statement/game plan and the two discussion questions by 6:00 pm, Wednesday, March 31 or Thursday, April 1.

Literature, Language & Its Structures of Meaning

Week Eleven

Tuesday, April 6
Essay no. 2 due
In-class discussion of American Multiculturalism, Whiteness Studies, and Morrison's "Black Matters"

"Literature, Language & Its Structures of Meaning" - Structuralism and Semiotics - website link
Tyson, 209-246
In-class exercise on structuralism (work in pairs) - discussion

  • Online Lecture

Work on final paper.

Week Twelve

Tuesday, April 13
Structuralism (cont.)
Literature, Language & Its Structures of Meaning – Modernism & Postmodernism - website link
"Postmodernism and Modernism" (handout) - small group discussions

Handout on Baudrillard
Video on Derrida
Sign-up sheet for conferences on April 27
  • Online Lecture

Online Hour

Literature, Language & Structures of Meaning - Structuralism and Semiotics
Read: "The World of Wrestling" - Roland Barthes (on CD-ROM). What are the signs and structures Roland Barthes identifies? Send your response by 6:00 pm, Saturday, April 17.

Week Thirteen

Tuesday, April 20
Literature, Language & Its Structures of Meaning – Post-Structuralism & Deconstruction
- website link
Tyson, 249-280
Deconstruction & material from literature packet (TBA) - group work and discussion
  • Online Lecture

Online Hour

  • Read: Jacques Derrida, “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” (on CD-ROM) - Send a brief synopsis of Derrida's essay by 6:00 pm, Saturday, April 24.
  • Have thesis statement and a good start on your rough draft prepared for conference on April 27.

Week Fourteen

Tuesday, April 27
Individual Conferences
- Fidelis 228
  • Online Lecture

Online Hour

Complete final paper

Week Fifteen

Tuesday, May 4

Follow up on Derrida & Deconstruction
Course Evaluations
Papers due - presentations on papers

Exam Week

Tuesday, May 11
Papers due/ Presentations on papers



  • 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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