Literary Criticism I






Horace and Longinus



Literary Criticism I: Course Outline

This 3-credit course is designed for undergraduate literature majors. The course seeks to reconcile the theoretical, objective analysis of literature and the subjective response to literature by providing you with the necessary instruments of reference–namely, the constituent elements of poetry, prose, and drama–and model texts and essays illustrating recent trends in literary theory and analysis.

As we examine these different ways of reading, and thinking about reading, we will be asking ourselves: What is “literature”? Why do we study it? In what ways, if any, are literary texts different from other types of cultural productions? What is “theory?” Can literary theories be applied to non-literary texts? How do literature and criticism relate to other aspects of culture such as gender, race, class, and nation? What is at stake in choosing one critical/theoretical methodology over another? 

The course aims to study and determine the quality of literature and literary theory in their ability to convey the traditional literary values of form, meaning, and symbolism, and the applicable value of literary theory as an interpretive mode of criticism that probes how we read, make sense of experience, and produce meaning.

In the process, the course seeks the heightened appreciation of literary texts and theories, their intellectual, moral, and aesthetic features, the relationships amongst stylistic devices, central motifs, organic structure, and effectiveness in revealing and communicating the authors and readers purpose and motivation and imagination and psychology.


Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. 3rd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Other articles to be distributed in or before the class


Selected Optional Bibliography:

  • Literary Theory: An Anthology, Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan (eds).

  • John Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism

  • Abrams, M. H. The Mirror and The Lamp. Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition. Oxford University Press, 1953.

  • Adams, H. and L. Searle, eds. Critical Theory Since 1965. UPresses of Florida, 1986.

  • Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. St. Martins, 1995.

  • Berman, Art. From the New Criticism to Deconstruction: the Reception of Structuralism and Post-structuralism. UIllinois Press, 1988.

  • Birenbaum, Harvey. The Happy Critic. A Serious but Not Solemn Guide to Thinking and Writing About Literature. Mayfield Publishing, 1997.

  • Marhsall, Donald G. Contemporary Critical Theory: A Selective bibliography. MLAA, 1993.

  • Moran, Charles. Conversations: Contemporary Critical Theory and the Teaching of Literature. NCTE, 1990.

  • Selden, Raman. A Readers Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory. 1997.


  • Reading of certain literary texts that will be used as examples to apply the theory.

  • A presentation on any aspect of interest in literary theory.

  • A research paper (1500-word maximum) focusing on some applied aspect of literary criticism or theory as covered in this course.


  • Grades: based on my evaluation of your written work, with particular attention to the evaluative criteria of intent, content, reasoning, language, neatness, effort, and accuracy as well as the collaborative contributions that you make in evaluating and discussing your course mates work.

-         10 marks for participation and attendance

-         5 marks for a presentation

-         15 marks for the paper

-         20 marks for midterm exam

-         50 marks for the final exam

-         5 bonus seminar/or any activity done by the students  



  • Week 1 & 2 &3 : The nature of literature, literary texts, reading literature, meanings(s) and interpretations (Shelleys Ozymadius and Blakes Sick Rose)

  • Week 4,5 & 6: Plato & Aristotle: imitation and Tragedy and Rhetorics & Poetics (Oedipus Rex &  Macbeth and Julius Caesar)

  • Week 7: Horace, Sidney, Dryden and Pope.

  • Week 8: Romanticism: Wordsworth: poetry, imagination, and subjectivity.

  • Week 8: review and Midterm Exam

  • Week 9: Matthew Arnold, Narrative, figurative language, author. (Dover Beach and Sterns Tristram Shamdy)

  • Week 10: Culture, canon, literary history, gender

  • Week 11: Narrative, figurative language, author, interpretation.

  • Weeks 12& 13:  

  • Week 14: Introduction to modern Criticism

  • Week 15: Paper submissions, presentations and Review

  • Week 15: Final exam