English 420

ENGL 420
Introduction to Literary Criticism

Catalog Entry

ENGL 420. Introduction to Literary Criticism (WI)
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisite: CORE 101 and CORE 102; ENGL 300 or permission of department chair.

Survey of major texts of literary criticism from classical period to present; includes analysis of major problems of literary criticism and introduces dominant modes of critical thought today.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

  • Exploration of the nature and aesthetic/didactic function of literature;
  • Reading of major documents of, and chapters about, predominant literary critical schools, with major concentration on those still in use today as teaching techniques and publishable writing styles;
  • Reading and discussion of selected works of literature in context of different critical schools.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

Students read theory on the definition, purpose and place of literature with an attempt, through class discussion and written reactions, to achieve a general grounding in such theory. Students also read primary critical documents in various schools of criticism.

Format--combination of the following:

  • Lecture and discussion led by instructor;
  • Exploration of selected texts, from a variety of critical perspectives;
  • Student led presentations;
  • In-class peer group and workshop sessions.

Writing Requirements

  • Informal & Exploratory Journals, reading logs, etc., in which students respond and raise questions about required readings.
  • Formal Essays
  • Students may be required to write one or more essays, in strict MLA style, that apply critical principles of different schools to literary works of the students' choice. Students are especially encouraged to focus on how the different schools of criticism create variant approaches to literary works.
  • Essay Examinations

Students may be required to write essay examinations to elicit original thought and application of the principles learned from the reading, lecture, and discussion.

Class Participation. Students are strongly encouraged to participate actively in discussing the readings, expanding upon their informal writing.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

The goal of this course is to make students knowledgeable about the most representative texts of literary criticism from Plato and Aristotle to the critics of the 20th Century and to help students understand how they can use this knowledge to facilitate their comprehension of a variety of literary genres: poetry, prose fiction, essay, drama, etc. The texts and commentaries for this course are chosen on the basis of how well they contribute to an overall understanding of the principles that govern literary criticism. Students should acquire a deep appreciation for the variety of approaches to literary texts, and prospective teachers will be able to facilitate students' comprehension of the form and structure of literary works. Some of the expected outcomes include:

  • Familiarity with crucial names, texts and ideas that underlie Western critical literary thought and aesthetic principles;
  • Familiarity with main-stream schools of modern critical thought;
  • Familiarity with critical and theoretical vocabulary;
  • Ability to apply various critical approaches to literary analyses of texts;
  • Familiarity with research tools and processes (including technology-based applications such as Internet research) demonstrated through presentation and term paper);


Assessment Measures

Student knowledge of literary criticism and understanding of the ways in which a diversity of critical approaches can illuminate literary texts as well as deepen one's appreciation of such texts may be assessed by a variety of means. Among these are informal writing assignments, tests and quizzes, formal papers, and oral presentations.

  • Informal writing expresses both students' evolving knowledge and their attitudes to and opinions about literary criticism.
  • Test items may include specific critical vocabulary necessary to the analysis and discussion of principles that govern criticism.
  • Formal papers may require students to apply the knowledge of these principles to the analysis of a given literary text.
  • Individual or group presentations permit students to share their views and develop their own critical stances.


Other Course Information


Review and Approval

October, 2009