Literary Theory and Practice – ENGL 603

CG • Section 8WK • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020 • Modified 07/28/2020

Course Description

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.




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.

Measurable Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Explain the commitments of the major schools of contemporary literary criticism.
  2. Define and use terminology from each of the major schools.
  3. Evaluate the usefulness of a variety of critical approaches.
  4. Employ a variety of critical approaches in analyzing literary texts.
  5. Test contemporary critical approaches against a Christian worldview.

Course Assignment

Textbook readings and lecture presentations

Course Requirements Checklist

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the student will complete the related checklist found in Module/Week 1.

Discussion Board Forums (2)

Discussion boards are collaborative learning experiences. Therefore, the student is required to provide a thread in response to the provided prompt for each forum. 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.

Application Essays (3)

These application essays provide an opportunity for the student to test out a theory in its practical effects by using it to interpret a poem. For each of the three essays, the student will select an approach covered since the previous application essay was due (so for example, the student may choose New Criticism or Structuralism for Module/Week 2, Political Criticism, Deconstruction, or Psychoanalytical Criticism for Module/Week 4, and New Historicism, Cultural Studies, Reader Response, or Postcolonialism for Module/Week 6) and will put into practice the interpretive principles that undergird that theory as laid out in the assigned reading. Select a poem to analyze from the list provided on Blackboard. These papers should be 750–1,000 words and should use no outside sources.

Research Topic

At the end of Module/Week 3, the student will submit their topics for their research paper. This will consist of the title of the novel being looked at, an explanation for why that novel was selected, and a brief explanation of the number and types of journal articles uncovered in a database search (looking at the MLA Bibliography, Project Muse, and JSTOR).

Annotated Bibliography

At the end of the Module/Week 5, the student will submit an Annotated Bibliography of 6 journal articles on the novel chosen for the student’s final research paper. In addition you 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

This Research Paper builds on the student’s research into the critical history of a literary work of his/her choosing. The first half of the 12–14-page paper involves an overview of the 6 journal articles used for the Annotated Bibliography. 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 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 3 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.

Quizzes (4)

These quizzes cover the presentations and reading assigned since the previous quiz (for example, Quiz 2 covers assignments from module/weeks 2 & 3). These quizzes will each consist of 25 objective questions (a combination of multiple choice, true/false, matching, and short answer). Each quiz will be open-book and open-notes and have a 1-hour time limit with a penalty of 1 point per minute over the allotted hour.

Tests (2)

These tests will cover the reading and presentations assigned since the previous test (Test 1 covers module/weeks 1–4; test 2 covers module/weeks 5-8). They consist of 35 objective questions (a mixture of multiple choice, matching, true/false that are 2 points each) and 1 short essay question (30 points). They are open-book and open-notes and allow the student 2 hours to complete. For each minute a student takes over that limit, 1 point will be deducted.