English 621

ENGL 621
Principles of Literary Criticism

Catalog Entry

ENGL 621. Principles of Literary Criticism
Three hours lecture (3).

Examination of literary theories stated in major critical texts; emphasis on principles underlying contemporary schools of criticism.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

The course focuses on the texts representative of critical and theoretical trends that have emerged in the history of literature. Close reading of selected texts from various historical periods:

  • classical (Plato, Aristotle, Horace, Longinus);
  • Neo-Classical (Sidney, Dryden, Johnson, etc);
  • Romantic (Goethe, Wordsworth, Coleridge). Close reading of selected texts representative of modern theoretical schools (Formalism, Marxism, New Criticism, Structuralism) and poststructuralist schools (deconstruction, feminist criticism, Lacanian and Foucaultian approaches to cultural analysis, etc.) Other possible approaches to the analysis of the principles of criticism may include linguistic approaches (de Saussure, Barthes), existentialism (Sartre, Kierkegaard),
  • phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Ingarden),
  • mythopoeic criticism (Frye, Eliade) etc.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The nature of the reading materials in this course lends itself well both to lecture and group discussion sessions. Hence, the format is essentially a combination of lecture and seminar, conducted by a member of the English Department's graduate faculty with credentials in literary criticism. Student-led discussions focusing on assigned readings as well as on independent research activities are a regular feature of the course, as are student presentations of work in progress for peer review and response. Students may also make formal presentations of finished papers.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

A major goal of this course is to provide graduate students with an overview of the principles of literary criticism and their historical development. A second goal is for graduate students to develop an understanding of how critical readings can contribute to one's understanding of literature and culture. A third goal is for graduate students to become familiar with the appropriate language and technical terminology for talking and writing about literature. A final goal is to enable graduate students, and especially future teachers, to choose a set of principles that will enhance both their own and their students' appreciation of literature.


Assessment Measures

Assessment may be based on a variety of measures including, but not necessarily limited to the following: preparation for and participation during class meetings, oral presentation, informal and/or creative writing exercises, quizzes and examinations. Of special import is a formal research paper that addresses a particular issue of literary criticism (possibly applied to a literary text of the student's choosing) or an assessment of a given critical/theoretical methodology.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

March 1999