ENGL301 - Critical Methods in the Study of Literature

What does language do? Is writing just a means to communicate, taking an idea, giving it material form, and thereby sharing it with other people? Or does it actually shape and enable thought? What about imaginative literature? Is it just “make believe,” with little or no bearing in the “real” world? Or is it a proving ground of creativity and innovation, where new ideas take shape and are brought into the world?

These questions are too big to answer any conclusive way, but they provide the backdrop for our investigations into how literature and our reading of it shape our understanding of the world. In this course, we will trace the relationship between literary texts and how they interact with the worlds in which they are written, set, and read. We will also discuss the work performed by critical reading in order to understand our position as readers, thinkers, writers, and citizens.

This course will cover the evolution of modern literature, from the Romantic period to the present day, examining not only the ways in which literary texts engage with their subject matter and general context, but also the way in which they participate in an ongoing conversation with the works that come before and after them. Along the way, we will read selections from various critical writings, as well as theoretical and historical material to help us think through the distinctive work of literature, in the dynamic interaction between the world, the text, and the critic.


For English or English Education Majors, or English Minors.