COURSE INFORMATION. English 256. Tu/Th 10:00 – 11:15 a.m. Location: Wilkinson Hall (WH) 221. Instructor: Alfred J. Drake, Ph.D. Office hours: Tu/Th 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. in Jazzman Café (Beckman Hall, 1st. floor). Email: Catalog information for Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism: “Prerequisite, written inquiry. This course examines the major trends, theories, interpretative methodologies, and techniques of literary criticism and cultural studies. ENG 256 is the gateway course for the literature emphasis in the English major. It must be taken prior to or concurrent with all 300- or 400-level literature courses. (Concurrent enrollment requires permission of advisor.) (Offered every semester.) 3 credits.” The English Dept. is located in Wilkinson 217.


Leitch, Vincent B. and William E. Cain, eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2010. ISBN 978-0-393-93292-8.


THEORYOCRACY.COM. My thoughts on the assigned readings.


FOCUS AND OBJECTIVES. This course will cover a broad selection of critical and philosophical texts that should provide you with a firm foundation for engaging with literature, criticism, and contemporary theory. It isn’t a course that attempts to apply theory directly to specific literary works. You may find the texts and perspectives useful for your present studies, but the goal for this course is to help you arrive at a sound initial understanding of selected critical/theoretical orientations and to appreciate their strengths and limitations. We will first study significant predecessor texts from the Western philosophical and critical tradition from Plato through the nineteenth century and thereby gain historical perspective on key insights that run through contemporary theory. Among the frameworks we will move on to study are American New Criticism, structuralism, post-structuralism, post-colonial theory, cultural studies, and feminism. Finally, I would like to stress that you can master difficult material by successive approximations. You may not fully grasp the readings the first time you study them, but soon, you will start to make their insights your own and adapt them to your purposes as a student of literature.

ACTIVITIES. In class, there will be a mix of lectures, student presentations, whole-class and smaller-group discussion, occasional quizzes, an essay, and a final exam. I encourage questions and comments—class sessions improve when students take an active part. Outside class, do the assigned readings before the relevant discussion dates, complete your journal sets as outlined below, start planning and drafting your essay early, and work on your presentation drafts. In literary studies, the aim is to read and discuss actively and thereby to develop your own voice in response to the texts you read. Insightful interpretation and the ability to make compelling connections are central goals. The essay, discussions, presentations, and journal-keeping should combine to help you work towards these goals.


COURSE POLICIES. Please review the Course Policies page early in the semester. Key points easily stated here: missing more than 20% of sessions may affect course grade; academic dishonesty may result in course failure. The four evaluative requirements outlined below must be substantially completed to pass the course. Since most assignments will be due by email, it is students’ responsibility to contact me promptly if they do not get an email verifying receipt of materials.

PRESENTATIONS REQUIREMENT. At the beginning of the course, students will sign up for one or two 5-7 minute in-class presentations – depending on class size — on authors/works of their choosing (if possible). I will provide presenters with a specific question to address from among those on the questions page, and a few days after sign-up I will post a schedule on the Presentations page. Each session will feature one or more presentations. Required: One week in advance of your presentation, email me as full a draft as possible of what you intend to say in class. I will email you back with advice. If I suggest developing the remarks further, email me a revised version at least one day before your in-class presentation. I won’t judge students on their rhetorical skills during the presentation, but rather on evidence of prior preparation and consultation as well as on the written draft. How to do well on this assignment: meet with me or email me as required, and send a final written version; good critics challenge and pose questions, so craft your responses to invite discussion; aim for spontaneity and a personal touch: use the question as a springboard rather than a prescription; speak up, but don’t rush things. Don’t bother with biography, and don’t base what you say mainly on Internet note sites or similar material; if you use any sources, give due credit. (20% of course grade.)

JOURNALS REQUIREMENT. Responses to a choice of questions from the study questions page for each author. Four separate journal sets due by email as specified below in the session schedule. Electronic format required. I will not mark journal sets down unless they are late (maximum grade = B), incomplete, or so brief and derivative as to suggest evasion of intellectual labor: they should consist of honest responses to the assigned readings, not “yes-or-no” style answers, quotation of the assigned texts without further comment, or pasted secondary material from Internet sources. How to do well on this assignment: read instructions; complete entries as you go through each text; send sets on time, making sure I verify receipt; respond with a thoughtful paragraph on each chosen question–use your own words and refer to the texts’ specific language. (30% of course grade.)

PAPER REQUIREMENT. By the end of Week 13 (Monday, 11/26) a one-paragraph description addressing the general topic and specific argument of the projected paper will be due by email. (Full rough drafts are also encouraged.) Not providing this description on time may affect the final draft grade. Please read the term paper instructions carefully since they contain the general prompt, suggested topics, and advance draft comments. I reserve the right to require proof of the final paper’s authenticity, such as notes or an early draft. Final draft (5-7 pages) due as specified towards the bottom of the syllabus page. There is no need to consider this a research paper, though you are free to make it one. How to do well on this assignment: send required advance paragraph on time and incorporate advice I send; allow time for revision; proofread and follow MLA formatting and style guidelines; avoid exhaustive coverage and stale generalities: instead, develop a specific, arguable set of claims, demonstrating their strength by showing how they enhance our understanding of specific language, structures, and themes; document your online/print sources; read instructions. (30% of course grade.)

FINAL EXAM REQUIREMENT. The exam will consist of substantive id passages (33% of exam), mix-and-match questions (match phrase or concept x to author/text y; 33% of exam), and key lecture points paired with substantive quotations from the assigned texts (33% of exam). There will be more choices than required responses. Books and notes allowed for all sections, but no laptops. Students may not share books or notes during the exam. Exam date: see below. How to do well on this assignment: read the online prep. sheet; take good notes and ask questions/make comments; above all, enjoy the works rather than thinking of them only as “test material.” If you take pleasure in the assigned texts’ language, attend to the sophistication with which they have been structured, and reflect on the intellectual value you derive from them, you are likely to earn a good exam grade. (20% of course grade.)

EMAILING ASSIGNMENTS. Email journals, presentations, and term paper as attachments. Don’t send more than one document in the same email. Label subject lines appropriately: “E256 Journal 1, Jane Rodriguez” etc. You can paste journal sets into a regular email or send them as an attachment. (Journal “sets” include responses to questions about several authors; do not send entries on each author in a given set separately – responses on the relevant authors should be combined into one document.) Contact me if you don’t receive an email confirmation within approximately three days.


Plato | Aristotle | Horace | Augustine | Aquinas | Dante | Sidney | Pope | Johnson | Kant | Hegel | Marx & Engels | Wordsworth | Coleridge | Baudelaire | Arnold | Pater | Wilde | Nietzsche | Freud | De Saussure | Brooks | Levi-Strauss | Barthes | Foucault | Austin | Fanon | Ngugi | Said | De Beauvoir | Butler



Tu. 08/28. Course introduction: Wiki site, procedures and evaluation requirements.

Th. 08/30. Plato. The Republic, Book 7 (Norton 60-64).


Tu. 09/04. Plato, Aristotle. Plato’s The Republic, Book 10 (64-77). Aristotle’s Poetics (88-115, read approx. first half).

Th. 09/06. Aristotle. Poetics (88-115).


Tu. 09/11. Horace. “Ars Poetica”; (122-33). Time permitting, I’ll offer a brief contrast with Longinus’ On Sublimity; (136-54), but that work isn’t assigned.

Th. 09/13. Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Dante Alighieri, Sir Philip Sidney. Augustine’s On Christian Teaching (156-62); Aquinas’ Summa Theologica (181-84); Dante’s Il Convivio (186-88) and “The Letter to Can Grande” (188-90); Sidney’s “The Defence of Poesy” (read only 257-58, “There is no art delivered … (through) the poets only deliver a golden” and 262-63, “The philosopher, therefore … (through) “if they be not illuminated or figured forth by the speaking picture of poesy.”)


Tu. 09/18. Alexander Pope. “An Essay on Criticism” (349-62).

Th. 09/20. Samuel Johnson. The Rambler, #4 (367-71). Rasselas (371-72). “Preface to Shakespeare“ (Okay to read only 379-86, starting with “Shakespeare with his excellencies has likewise faults…”). Read 386-88 if time permits — it’s optional, but an excellent statement about “wit” and Metaphysical poets such as John Donne.

JOURNAL SET 1 DUE BY EMAIL SUNDAY 09/23. (Reminder: this set includes Plato through Samuel Johnson. Please expect an email from me verifying receipt of this and subsequent journal sets.)


Tu. 09/25. Immanuel Kant. Critique of the Power of Judgment (414-30, “Analytic of the Beautiful”).

Th. 09/27. Immanuel Kant. Critique of the Power of Judgment (430-50 “Analytic of the Sublime”).


Tu. 10/02. Georg W.F. Hegel. Phenomenology of Spirit (541-47, “The Master-Slave Dialectic”). Read Lectures on Fine Art (547-55) if time permits — it’s optional.

Th. 10/04. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (651-55); The German Ideology (655-56); The Communist Manifesto (657-60); Grundrisse (661-62); “Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (662-63).


Tu. 10/09. William Wordsworth. “Preface to Lyrical Ballads, with Pastoral and Other Poems“ (559-79).

Th. 10/11. Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Biographia Literaria (584-91).


Tu. 10/16. Charles Baudelaire. The Painter of Modern Life (680-90).

Th. 10/18. Matthew Arnold and Walter Pater. Arnold’s “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time” (695-714). Pater’s “Conclusion to Studies in the History of the Renaissance“ (728-30).

JOURNAL SET 2 DUE BY EMAIL SUNDAY 10/21. (Reminder: this set includes Kant through Pater).


Tu. 10/23. Oscar Wilde. “The Decay of Lying” (790-94); “The Critic as Artist” (794-807).

Th. 10/25. Friedrich Nietzsche. “On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense” (764-74).


Tu. 10/30. Sigmund Freud. The Interpretation of Dreams (814-24).

Th. 11/01. Ferdinand de Saussure. Course in General Linguistics (850-66).


Tu. 11/06. Cleanth Brooks. The Well Wrought Urn (1217-29, “The Heresy of Paraphrase”).

Th. 11/08. Claude Levi-Strauss. Triste Tropiques (1277-86, Ch. 28. “A Writing Lesson”).


Tu. 11/13. Roland Barthes. Mythologies (1320-21 “Photography and Electoral Appeal”); “The Death of the Author” (1322-26); “From Work to Text” (1326-31).

Th. 11/15. Michel Foucault. “What Is an Author?” (1475-90); optional: Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1490-1502).

JOURNAL SET 3 DUE BY EMAIL SUNDAY 11/18. (Reminder: this set includes Wilde through Foucault).


Tu. 11/20. J. L. Austin. “Performative Utterances” (1289-1301).

Th. 11/22. No Class, Thanksgiving Holiday.



Tu. 11/27. Frantz Fanon and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1440-46). Thiong’o’s “On the Abolition of the English Department” (1995-2000).

Th. 11/29. Edward W. Said. Orientalism (1866-88, “Introduction”).


Tu. 12/04. Simone de Beauvoir. The Second Sex (1265-73, Ch. XI. “Myth and Reality”).

Th. 12/06. Judith Butler. Gender Trouble (2540-53, from Ch. 3. “Subversive Bodily Acts”).

JOURNAL SET 4 DUE BY EMAIL EXAM DAY. (Reminder: this set includes Austin through Butler.


Final Exam Date: Wednesday Dec 12, 10:45 – 1:15 p.m. Paper due by Email Sunday, Dec. 17. I must turn in grades by Tuesday, January 1, 2013.