ENGL 13186-01: Theories of Literature

Instructor: David Thomas

Literature University Seminar

In studying literature--and the humanities in general--the term theory demarcates a way of looking at things. For example, a gender theorist focuses upon the importance of gender or sexual identities, a Marxist theorist emphasizes how economic conditions affect social and political realities, and a narrative theorist examines the operations of such matters as perspective and plotting in storytelling. This course does not promote any one theoretical perspective but instead surveys numerous styles of literary theory and criticism in order to develop students' intellectual fluency in seeing across different ways of thinking. While a great deal of sheer fun and surprise awaits in learning about different theory approaches, such knowledge is also empowering: it raises our consciousness concerning our commitments and interests as readers and citizens. We will read some primary literary texts, but the emphasis here is on critical approaches. Such a course serves all students contemplating work in the humanities, but it should also stimulate students interested in law, political topics, and cultural tensions in their varied historical unfoldings. Graded coursework involves a midterm and a final exam, and a paper documenting a point of theory controversy that interests you individually, taking up a literary or cultural context of your choosing. Regular journal writings and active participation are also graded factors.

Other Courses in University Seminar