ENGL301 - Critical Methods in the Study of Literature

Restriction: Must be in English Language and Literature program; or must be in Secondary Educ: English Language Arts program.

An introduction to the techniques of literary analysis and a brief survey of the most common approaches to literature.

For English majors, this course is the required pre- or co-requisite for all upper level English courses. What is literature?  Why study it?  Who decides what's great literature and what's not?  In this course you will ask these questions and others central to the study of literature, and you will be introduced to some ways of thinking about and discussing them.  You will find out what "practical criticism" or "close reading" is.  You may learn about psychological approaches to literature and ask questions about how feminism has changed our view of literature.  You may explore the importance of historical or cultural context to our understanding of a text.  You may discuss who determines the text--the reader or the writer?  Different sections of the course will read different texts, but all sections will raise questions about how we interpret poetry, fiction and drama. In addition, all sections will help you extend your reading and writing skills, will require you to use the terms of literary analysis with precision  ("caesura"--what's that?) and will introduce you to what lies ahead for you as an English major.  3-5 short papers will be required; there may also be exams. Additional information about each section is provided below:

David Wyatt - Section 0101

This is a class in learning how to read, write, listen, and talk. We will begin with poetry and figurative language, the basis of all imaginative literature. We will move on to drama, the novel, and the short story. Our focus will be on developing our own readings of these texts, and in locating the unique idiom of each student's critical voice. In order to succeed in the class, you will need to do the following things: do the assigned reading for the day, attend class, bring your books to class, and do the assignments on time. Success, that is, is about keeping up, and showing up.

Nathaniel Underland - Section 0401

This class will introduce you to some of the major questions, concepts, and approaches in literary study. We will begin by briefly considering recent debates about the usefulness of literature and literary study in contemporary culture: What does literature do, if anything? How does it work on us? Why study literature? What is its role in contemporary culture? Relatedly, we will also consider the politics and presumptions of deciding what “great literature” is, whether that decision is made by academics or made by everyday readers. We will then survey the major literary genres (poetry, fiction, and drama), familiarizing you with some of the principal forms within those genres (such as the lyric, realism, comedy), and with their concerns and techniques (such as alliteration, omniscience, farce). Thereafter, we will spend the bulk of the semester examining and practicing the major approaches for studying literature, and really cultural artifacts more generally, since the mid-twentieth century, spanning from New Criticism to New Historicism. We will discuss how these approaches imagine the function and effect of literary studies—and more broadly of culture and identity—as well as how these approaches have evolved in response to each other and to changing cultural values. We will conclude the course by focusing on literary research, which involves finding, evaluating, and referencing historical, biographical, critical, or theoretical material in order to enhance your own close analysis of a literary text. In other words, you will practice putting your own readings of a text into conversation with existing published readings, so that your ideas contribute to a critical dialogue. 

Sharada Balachandran Orihuela - Section 0801

A gateway course for the English major, Critical Methods intends to provide you with an array of skills and concepts essential for the study of literature. In this course, you will first learn how to recognize and analyze various aspects of poetry, drama, and fiction. You will learn how to explicate a text, including the critical vocabulary necessary for such an explication, namely the terms required for the analysis of form and meter, syntax, and style (imagery, trope, diction, etc.). Second, you will learn to assess and apply secondary sources and make use of other critical materials to deepen your understanding of the assigned materials. Finally, you will also learn to read and understand literary and critical theory. To this end, you will be assigned readings in various approaches to the study of literature, including new critical, formalist, reader-response, historicist, and cultural criticism (post-structuralism, Marxism, feminism, and critical race theory). The class involves intensive reading and discussion. The final grade is based on in-class participation, 3 essays, a midterm, and a final exam.