Faculty of Arts


Literary Theory and Critical Practice

Please note: this is archived course information from 2012 for ENGLISH 230.


We explore the ideas and concepts that have shaped literary studies over the last century, tracing the legacy of such thinkers as Marx, Freud and Saussure, as well as introducing the thinking behind more recent developments in critical theory, such as deconstruction, new historicism, cultural studies, queer studies, post-colonialism and environmental studies. Each lecture examines a critical keyword (such as text, desire, narrative, unconscious, ideology, nature). We explore the issues and problems the keyword raises and put theory into practice by modelling the various strategies for reading that the keyword opens out.

Students who are already competent "practical" close-readers will become more aware of the range of questions they can bring to a text and more sophisticated about the ways those questions have been and might be answered. While the content of the course is necessarily concerned with theory, the teaching aims of the course are practical. The chief aim of the course is to promote students’ capacity to generate interesting ideas and arguments in their own critical writing. Students are taught transferable interpretive skills that will enhance their ability to perform well in advanced courses and will develop an up-to-date sense of the relation of English to transdisciplinary intellectual knowledge.

The course operates with a very broad understanding of what "counts" as a text.

Availability 2012

Semester 2




Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory, 4th ed. Longman, 2009.

Recommended Reading

Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, OUP 2000.

Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin eds., Critical Terms for Literary Study, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, Literary Theory: An Anthology, Blackwell, 1998.


Coursework + exam


ENGLISH 230: 15.0 points


30 points at Stage I in English, or FTVMS 100 and 101, or ENGLISH 121 or ENGWRIT 101 and 15 points at Stage II in Writing Studies

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