Description of 301

ENGLISH 301, Critical Methods in the Study of Literature, is the gateway course for the English major. English majors may not proceed to take upper level courses until they have first taken ENGL 301. The course is unlike other literature courses because it is process, not content, driven. Which is to say that it is not shaped by the traditional ways that literature courses are organized: time period, genre, author(s), nationality. In effect, English 301 has no “content,” only an array of skills and concepts that the English faculty agree are essential for our majors to master. We have identified the following areas of study as fundamental to ENGL 301:

  1. How to recognize and analyze various aspects of literary form, including genre, structure, and representation. This involves a set of reading practices that include, but are not limited to, close reading.
  2. How to explicate text. This includes the acquisition of a critical vocabulary that allows for such exposition: e.g. terms required for analysis of form and meter, syntax, style (imagery, trope, diction, etc.). This also includes the theoretical vocabularies that attend our discipline, which students will encounter both in the classroom and in the secondary sources that they will be asked to read at the upper levels of study.
  3. How to assess and apply secondary sources or make use of other primary materials. This research component involves putting texts in conversation and/or being able to respond analytically to other arguments.

Instruction on how to write literary essays in a lucid, compelling, and elegant manner has always been, and remains, central to ENGL 301. However, since this dimension merits ongoing emphasis and attention, the faculty has created an aligned course, ENGL 300, which focuses exclusively upon the written construction of arguments. Students who want or need to develop writing skills in the analysis of literary works are encouraged to use this resource for the purpose of improving their writing in humanities generally, and in English in particular.