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COURSE NAME: "Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theories"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Alessandra Grego
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 4:30 PM 5:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: EN 110 with a grade of C or above

Designed as an introduction to the theoretical approaches to literature, the course will stimulate students to think and write critically through the study of the principal topics of literary theory. The course will adopt both a historical approach, covering each theory in the chronological order of its appearance on the scene, and a critical approach - putting the theories to the test by applying them to a literary text. The course will also help students to move on to an advanced study of literature by introducing them to the research methods and tools for the identification, retrieval, and documentation of secondary sources.This is a reading and writing intensive course. Students in 200-level literature classes are required to produce 4-5,000 words of critical writing.
Students will learn to identify and employ the principal literary and cultural theories and develop their own critical skills, approaching texts in an theoretically informed way,  using research methods and writing critical papers of academic quality. Students will also learn to take into due consideration the interactions between literature, history, politics, cultures and theory. Students will test their understanding of the various theories by performing critical readings of a single text from different perspectives.
This class will demonstrate how a single text can appear radically different depending on the theoretical approach employed. Studying the key concepts and basic terminology of each literary and cultural theory, students will exercise their critical skills as they experiment how to effectively use theory to analyze cultural texts.
On completing this course students will be able
 - to approach a text from a theoretical perspective
 - to focus on form rather than content
 - to reflect deeply, research effectively, and write critically
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
Literary Theory : An Anthology.Third editionRivkin, Julie, and Michael Ryan, editors. Wiley Blackwell, 2017. 9781118718384  Ebook  
The Bloomsbury Handbook of Literary and Cultural Theory.Di Leo, Jeffrey R, editor. Bloomsbury Academic, 20199781350012806  Ebook  

2 research papers2000 word reseach papers in which you demonstrate your ability to analyze a text from a given theoretical perspective50%
Final Exam 20%
Participation gradeForum posts on the topic of the week and quizzes on each theory, informed class participation.10%
PresentationsGroup Presentations: organized teamwork to present a critical overview and practical application of each theory20%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.



Class attendance is mandatory.  If you miss more than 4 classes - whether they are formally excused or not -  it will impact your grade (1/4 of a grade per successive absence, e.g. from A to A-)  and if you miss 8 classes or more you may fail the class.
Students are required to follow some basic class rules: to arrive punctually, to stay in class for the whole period of the lesson, to refrain from using their mobile phones and laptops without authorization.

Permission to attend remotely must be granted by the Dean. Exceptional permission to attend remotely may be granted by the instructor upon request and at their discretion.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.



Session Focus

Reading Assignment

Other Assignment

Meeting Place/Exam Dates

Week 1

Introduction to the course: what is Theory? Structuralist Theory

Routledge Companion, Chap. 1 and Definition of "sign" p. 296.

Propp, V. "Morphology of the Folktale." In Routledge Theory Reader.


Week 2

Structuralism and Semiotics

Routledge Companion, chap. 2 "Structuralism and Semiotics." Saussure "Linguistic Value" in Routledge Theory Reader.

Forum on Structuralism / Quix on Structuralism


Week 3

Marxist Theory

Routledge Companion, chap. 4 "Marxism." Marx, "Preface to Critique of Political Economy" in Routledge Theory Reader.

Forum: Comment on Marx's Preface.


Week 4

Later Marxism: Frankfurt School/Gramsci/Althusser

Gramsci, "Observations on Folklore"; Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus" in Routledge Theory Reader

Quiz on Marxism. Watch "A Pervert's Guide to Ideology," dir. Sophie Fiennes, 2013


Week 5

Psychoanalytic Theory. Presentations Group A.

Routledge Companion, chap. 7, "Psychoanalytic Criticism." Freud, "Group Psychology" in Routledge Theory Reader

Forum on Bettelheim's interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood.


Week 6

Psychoanalytic Theory continued: Jung & Lacan


First Home Paper due


Week 7

Feminist Theory: Feminist Waves

Routledge Companion, chap. 9, "Feminism." Wollstonecraft, "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman." Woolf, "A Room of One's Own."



Week 8

Feminist Theory Continued. Presentation Group B

Carter, "The Company of Wolves." Duffy, "Little Red Cap." Dahl, "Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf." Garner, "Red Riding Hood."

Forum on "The Company of Wolves."


Week 9

Gender Theory: Foucault / Butler/ Haraway

Butler, "Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire" in Routledge Theory Reader Lorde, "Age, Race, Class, and Sex."

Watch Adichie's Ted Talk "We Should All be Feminists," and Beyoncè's video "Flawless." Forum: discuss Adichie's Ted Talk.


Week 10

Race and Postcoloniality

Routedge Companion, chap. 11, "Race and Postcoloniality." Said, "Orientalism."

Quiz on postcolonial Theory.


Week 11

Postcolonial Theory continued: Presentations Group C

Said, "Orientalism." Perrault, "Bluebeard."

Forum on Orientalism.


Week 12


Routledge Companion, chap. 5, "Postructuralism." Barthes, "The Death of the Author."

Second Home Paper Due


Week 13


Routledge Companion, chap. 11, "Postmodernism." Foucault, "Panopticism."

Quiz on Postructuralism & Postmodernism Forum on Foucault's "Panopticism."


Week 14

Presentations Group D Revision & Exam preparation