small logo ENG028: Introduction to Literary Theory, Criticism, and Research, Part I

I. Introduction:

II. The Awakening

III. Modes of Contemporary Criticism

A. Narratology: Required reading

B. Feminist Criticism: Required reading

September 29: Chopin (3-18); 158-65; Abrams, "Feminist Criticism" (233-39); Characteristics of a Feminist Approach

October 1: Elaine Showalter, "Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book," in Chopin (169-88)

Informal Written Assignment, due on October 1

The assignment may be typed or handwritten; in either case, please leave substantial margins for comments. The assignment may also be submitted by e-mail (bmcmanus@cnr.edu), but it must be sent before class on October 1 in order for it to count as "on time." If you quote or refer to specific points in the article, include page numbers, but you need not use footnotes or bibliographical references.

Thesis: Briefly (1-3 sentences) state in your own words Showalter's main point in this article.
Main Arguments: Briefly list the main arguments Showalter advances in support of her thesis (it is not necessary for you to explain, interpret, or critique these arguments).
Personal Response: Describe your response to reading this article. Did you find Showalter's presentation clear and convincing? Note arguments that you found especially persuasive, points that seemed incomplete, poorly supported, or unconvincing, and any questions that remain in your mind after reading the article.

C. New Historicism Required reading

Informal Written Assignment, due on October 8

The assignment may be typed or handwritten; in either case, please leave substantial margins for comments. The assignment may also be submitted by e-mail (bmcmanus@cnr.edu), but it must be sent before class on October 8 in order for it to count as "on time." If you quote or refer to specific points in the article, include page numbers, but you need not use footnotes or bibliographical references.

Explain how Margit Stange's essay exemplifies the main theoretical principles of New Historicism (as presented on the handout and discussed in class). Explain how she uses the technique of "thick description," and point out one good example of this technique in the article. What "discourse" does she focus on in the essay? Do you agree with Stange that The Awakening participates in this discourse? Why or why not? Does understanding this discourse help us to understand the novel better? Finally, describe your response to reading this article.

Introduction to Library Research on Literature:

The library instruction class will be scheduled for the class period on Tuesday, October 13. We will meet in the library instruction room (Library 105, in the ground floor corridor that connects the Dining Hall to the Library) promptly at 11:00 am.

Library Research Assignment, due on October 20
Make a working bibliography of contemporary literary criticism of your chosen novel or novella. Begin with current articles and work backwards; do not go back more than fifteen years (criticism written between 1983-1998). List the works you find using the proper format for bibliographic citations (the MLA form for "Works Cited" as described in MLA Handbook). Place an asterisk next to each work that is available in Gill library. Also include a description of the research process you used. What sources did you consult (e.g. online catalogue, Wilsondisc, bibliographies, WWW, etc.)? What did you find most helpful? least helpful? Describe any problems you encountered in your search.

D. Psychoanalytic Criticism: Required reading

E. Reader-Response Criticism: Required reading

Informal Written Assignment, due on October 27

The assignment may be typed or handwritten; in either case, please leave substantial margins for comments. The assignment may also be submitted by e-mail (bmcmanus@cnr.edu), but it must be sent before class on October 27 in order for it to count as "on time." If you quote or refer to specific points in the article, include page numbers, but you need not use footnotes or bibliographical references.

Discuss Pat Shaw's essay as an example of Reader-Response criticism as presented on the handout and discussed in class. Does the essay employ both theoretical assumptions of this critical approach? Use examples from the piece to explain why or why not. Does Shaw emphasize how readers interpret the text or how the text governs the readers? Give an example to support your conclusion. What additional critical approach does Shaw employ? Explain how the article exemplifies this approach. Finally, describe your response to reading this article.

F. Poststructuralist Modes of Criticism: Required reading

Written Assignment:
due November 3 (2 articles) and November 5 (1 article)

Choose three of the critical analyses of your chosen novel that you located during your library research (articles or book chapters); select pieces that you feel will represent different critical approaches to your novel (particularly the contemporary approaches that we have been studying). After reading them carefully, write out the following information for each article:

  • complete bibliographical information, in correct MLA format
  • a brief statement, in your own words, of the thesis and main arguments of the article
  • an analysis of which critical approach (or combination of approaches) you feel this article represents, using evidence from the article to show how it manifests the characteristics of that approach discussed in class
  • a description of your personal response to this article, explaining whether you thought the article presented a convincing analysis of the novel, including the reasons for your response

Writing a Literary Critical Paper

FIRST FORMAL PAPER: final version due November 24

Choose a work of prose fiction (novel, novella, or short story) that you wish to use for your first major paper. You may wish to select a work that you already like and know well, but it is important that contemporary criticism of this work be available and accessible to you through our library. Propose a working thesis which will guide your analysis of one crucial aspect of your novel. You may revise your thesis as you work out your interpretation, but make sure that you have a clearly expressed and well-supported thesis in the paper. Write your interpretation of this aspect of the novel, using detailed evidence from the text to support your analysis and integrating the insights from the critical articles you have read, using proper MLA in-text citations and "Works Cited" format. You are not required to employ any of the contemporary critical approaches we have been studying, but you should make use of any of the tools for analyzing prose fiction that are appropriate for your novel and thesis. All drafts and the final version of the paper must be wordprocessed.

Preliminary due dates:

October 20: working bibliography
November 3: written summary of two articles
November 5: written summary of one additional article
November 8: e-mailed thesis statement
noon Sunday, November 15: e-mailed first draft of paper

Continue with Readings and Assignments: Poetry


Barbara F. McManus
ENG028 Syllabus
October 1998