ENGL 603 Literary Theory and Practice

A study of the relationship between contemporary literary theory and critical practice, with emphasis on using a variety of critical approaches to analyze literary texts.

For information regarding prerequisites for this course, please refer to the Academic Course Catalog.

Course Guide

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This course seeks to demystify literary theory and study it as a practical tool for interpreting literary texts. As such, ENGL 603 will introduce a range of critical theories, along with suggestions for and examples of their use in interpretation and will offer the student ample opportunity to try out a variety of critical approaches in a number of analytical essays. Such practice will help the student become more informed about and comfortable with the field of literary criticism, will strengthen his/her critical thinking and writing abilities, and will prepare him/her to share these approaches with others.

Textbook readings and lecture presentations

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Course Requirements Checklist

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the student will complete the related checklist found in the Course Overview.

Discussions (2)

Discussions are collaborative learning experiences. Therefore, the student is required to provide a thread in response to the provided prompt for each discussion. Each thread must be 500–550 words, include at least 2 citations from the assigned readings, and demonstrate course-related knowledge. In addition to the thread, the student is required to reply to 2 other classmates’ threads. Each reply must be at least 250–300 words, and must include at least 1 citation from the assigned readings.

Critical Theory Application Critique Assignments (3)

The Critical Theory Application Critique Assignments are purposed to introduce students to how critical theories are applied to various poems and then to give the students the opportunity to critique the weaknesses and strengths of the method as it has been applied to the poem. The key here is that this assignment is not a critique of a poem, but it is a critique of how others have critiqued a poem. Each critique must include 2 reviews of the poem selected; the 2 reviews must be related to recent theories covered in the course, but they may use the same or different critical theory. In 500–600 words, the student must summarize how the authors have used the critical theory in their review/critique of the poem. Then in 400–500 words, the student must critique the critique using a biblical worldview. The formatting style guide required throughout the student’s degree program must be used.

Research Paper: Topic Assignment

At the end of Module 3, the student will submit his/her topic for the research paper. This will consist of the title of the novel being looked at, an explanation in 50–100 words for why that novel was selected, and a brief explanation in 200 words of the number and types of journal articles uncovered in English Research databases where you will find databases such as MLA Bibliography, Project Muse, and JSTOR.

Research Paper: Annotated Bibliography Assignment

At the end of the Module 5, the student will submit an Annotated Bibliography of 6 journal articles, in current MLA format, on the novel chosen for the student’s final research paper. This bibliography will include a 75–100 word summary of each article’s main argument and a 75–100 word evaluation/assessment of the argument.

Research Paper Assignment

This Research Paper builds on the student’s research into the critical history of a literary work of his or her choosing. This paper must be 3000-4000 words (about 12-14 pages). The student will use at least 8 journal articles and the primary source (novel) for developing this paper. The first 6–8 pages should overview the 8 journal articles the student found on his or her chosen novel. The student will provide a literature review of these articles, explaining what the different interpretations conclude about the chosen book and what the central interpretive challenges are. The next 2–3 pages will offer an assessment of these various interpretations, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, which clash with each other, and which might complement another’s analysis. The final pages provide the student an opportunity to offer his or her own interpretation of the novel and even conclusions about the different literary theories on offer based on this critical background. All sources must be cited using current MLA format.

These article reviews require students to choose an article from the provided choices, to summarize it, and to evaluate the author’s argument in light of the Bertens and Tyson material. The student must first summarize the article’s central argument in 300–350 words. The student must then assess the argument in 700–750 words, while including citation from the Bertens or Tyson material. All material must be cited correctly.

The options for Module 3’s article review are Timothy Aubrey’s “Should Studying Literature Be Fun? ‘No’ Is Too Often the Answer” and Mitchell Harris’s “Behind the Barricades with Lenin? Making Sense of the Marxist Turn to Christianity in the Literature Classroom.”

The options for Module 5’s article review are Catherine Belsey’s “Reading and Critical Practice” and Beth Wilson’s “Teach the How: Critical Lenses and Critical Literacy.”

The options for Module 8’s article review are Christine Schott’s “How to Save Literary Studies” and Joyce Erickson’s “What Difference: The Theory and Practice of Feminist Criticism.”

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