English 4110/5110 Literary Criticism

TR 12:30-1:45PM, Arts & Sciences 353, Fall 2015



Dr. Alex E. Blazer


Office Hours: TR 11:30-12:15PM and 5:00-5:30PM Arts & Sciences 330


Course Description


The undergraduate catalog describes English 4110 as "A study of literary criticism from Aristotle to the present, with particular emphasis on recent applications of contemporary theories;" however, that characterization more aptly describes English 3900. While English 3900 is a survey of critical approaches to literature such as New Criticism and formalism, structuralism and semiotics, poststructuralism and postmodernism, reader-response criticism, deconstruction, New Historism, post colonialism, psychoanalytic criticism, Marxist criticism, feminist criticism, African-American criticism, and lesbian/gay/queer criticism, English 4110/5110 is a focused study of two or three interpretive methodologies (approved by the College of Arts & Sciences Curriculum & Instruction Committee, 10 March 2010). This course's Academic Assessment page describes our topics:

as well as course outcomes:

This semester, we will concentrate on Marxist criticism. After exploring key Marx texts and tenets, we will read theoretical overviews of Marxist philosophy and literary theory. Then, we will read significant theoretical articles and apply their principles to critical readings of poetry, fiction, drama, film, and television. Undergraduate assignments include an article summary, a close reading, a theoretical paper, a research paper, and an exam. Graduate students will teach a class, review a book, and write a research paper. Note that this undergraduate course's prerequisite is ENGL 2110 or IDST 2305.


Course Materials


required textbooks (Amazon or GCSU Bookstore)

Eagleton, Marxism and Literary Criticism

Eagleton, Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader

required films and television episodes (availability)

The Accountant

Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Friends, "The One with Five Steaks and an Eggplant" (Season 2, Episode 5)

Mad Men, "The Hobo Code" (Season 1, Episode 8)

The Pervert's Guide to Ideology

recommended textbooks (Amazon or GCSU Bookstore)

Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed.

Singer, Marx: A Very Short Introduction

recommended websites

Alex Blazer's Literary Criticism Flipboard Magazine


Assignments and Grade Distribution


4110 Undergraduate Students


article summary, 5%

You will summarize a theoretical article in a 2-3 page informal paper and presentation.

close reading, 15%

You will pair up to write a 5-6 page close reading paper and to give a 5-7 minute presentation analyzing a work of literature from a Marxist perspective.

theoretical paper, 20%

You will compare and contrast two theoretical articles covered in class in a 6-8 page paper.

research paper, 30%

You will write an 8-10 page research paper that either interprets a work of literature using Marxist literary theory or investigates an issue in Marxist literature theory.

exam, 30%

The 10-12 page essay exam will test your understanding of Marxist literary theory. Here's how to calculate your final grade.


5110 Graduate Students


annotated bibliography and presentation, 15%

You will compile an annotated bibliography on an assigned theorical article and teach the class the article.

theoretical paper, 25%

In an 8-10 page paper, you will compare and contrast two theoretical articles covered in class.

book review, 25%

In an 8-10 page paper, you will summarize and evaluate, appreciate and interrogate, a book by a theorist covered in class.

research paper, 35%

You will write a 12-15 page research paper that either interprets a work of literature using Marxist literary theory or investigates an issue in Marxist literature theory. Here's how to calculate your final grade.


Course Policies



We will use the course site for the syllabus schedule and assignment prompts; supporting documents include an attendance record, a course grade calculation spreadsheet, FAQ, a GeorgiaVIEW walkthrough, a guide to literary analysis, a research methods guide, and paper templates. We will use GeorgiaVIEW for assignment submission and electronic course reserves. Check your university email for course-related messages. Use an online backup or cloud storage service such as Dropbox or Spideroak to not only save but also archive versions of your work in case of personal computer calamities.


Because this liberal arts course values contemporaneous discussion over fixed lecture, regular attendance is required. Any student who misses seven or more classes for any reason (excused or unexcused) will fail the course. There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every unexcused absence beyond three. I suggest you use your three days both cautiously and wisely; and make sure you sign the attendance sheets. Habitual tardies, consistently leaving class early, texting, and surfing the internet will be treated as absences. Unexcused absences include work, family obligations, and scheduled doctor's appointments. Excused absences include family emergency, medical emergency, religious observance, and participation in a college-sponsored activity. If you have a medical condition or an extracurricular activity that you anticipate will cause you to miss more than four days of class, I suggest you drop this section or risk failure. The university class attendance policy can be found here. You can check your attendance here.

MLA Style and Length Requirements

Part of writing in a discipline is adhering to the field's style guide. While other disciplines use APA or Chicago style, literature and composition follows MLA style. In-class exams, discussion board responses, informal/journal writing, and peer review may be informally formatted; however, formal assignments and take-home exams must employ MLA style. One-third of a letter grade will be deducted from a formal paper or take-home exam for problems in each of the following three categories, for a possible one letter grade deduction total: 1) margins, header, and heading, 2) font, font size, and line-spacing, and 3) quotation and citation format. A formal paper or take-home exam will be penalized one-third of a letter grade if it does not end at least halfway down on the minimum page length (not including Works Cited page) while implementing 12 pt Times New Roman font, double-spacing, and 1" margins. Each additional page short of the minimum requirement will result in an a additional one-third letter grade penalty. It is your responsibility to learn how to control your word-processing program. Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by referring to the FAQ handout and using the MLA style checklist. Feel free to use these templates that are preformatted to MLA style.

Late Assignments

We're all busy with multiple classes and commitments, and adhering to deadlines is critical for the smooth running of the course. There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day (not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late. I give short extensions if you request one for a valid need at least one day before the assignment is due. I will inform you via email if I cannot open an electronically submitted assignment; however, your assignment will be considered late until you submit it in a file I can open. Because your completion of this course's major learning outcomes depends on the completion of pertinent assignments, failing to submit an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade within a five days of its due date will result in failure of the course. Failing to submit a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in failure of the course.

Academic Honesty

The integrity of students and their written and oral work is a critical component of the academic process. The Honor Code defines plagiarism as "presenting as one's own work the words or ideas of an author or fellow student. Students should document quotes through quotation marks and footnotes or other accepted citation methods. Ignorance of these rules concerning plagiarism is not an excuse. When in doubt, students should seek clarification from the professor who made the assignment." The submission of another's work as one's own is plagiarism and will be dealt with using the procedures outlined in the Undergraduate Catalog. Allowing another student to copy one’s own work is considered cheating; and submitting the same paper in two classes (recycling or double-dipping) is dishonest. As plagiarism is not tolerated at GCSU, any student found guilty of substantial, willful plagiarism or dishonesty will fail the assignment and the course. Here is how I have dealt with plagiarists in the past. This course uses plagiarism prevention technology from TurnItIn. The papers may be retained by the service for the sole purpose of checking for plagiarized content in future student submissions.

Passing or Failing of the Course

There are three ways to fail the course: failing to regularly attend class, plagiarizing, failing an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade, be it from poor quality, lateness of submission, or a combination of poor quality and lateness. By contrast, students who regularly attend class, complete their work with academic integrity, and submit assignments on time will pass the course.

The Writing Center

The Writing Center is a free service available to all members of the university community. Consultants assist writers in the writing process, from conception and organization of compositions to revision to documentation of research. Located in Library 228, the Center is open Monday through Friday. Call 445-3370 or email for more information.

Additional Policies

Additional statements regarding the Religious Observance Policy, Assistance for Student Needs Related to Disability, Student Rating of Instruction Survey, Academic Honesty, and Fire Drills can be found here.


Course Schedule

Week 1
T, 8-18


Marxist Criticism Lecture

R, 8-20

Singer, "Alienation as a Theory of History," "The Goal of History," "Economics," "Communism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Singer, Marx: A Very Short Introduction

Week 2
T, 8-25

Marx, "Estranged Labour" and "Private Property and Communism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Marx, "Manifesto of the Communist Party" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 8-27

Eagleton, Introduction Part I (Eagleton MLT 1-15)

Milne, Introduction Part II: Reading Marxist Literary Theory (Eagleton MLT 16-29)

Marx/Engels, "Social Being and Social Consciousness," "Uneven Character of Historical Development and Questions of Art," "Poetry of the Future," "Against Vulgar Marxism," and "On Realism" (Eagleton MLT 30-41)

In Class Activity: Marx and Engels on Literature and Art

Week 3
T, 9-1

Tyson, "Marxist Criticism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Eagleton, "Literature and History" (Eagleton MaLC 1-19)

Fitzgerald, "Babylon Revisited" (GeorgiaVIEW)

In Class Activity: A Marxist Approach to Interpreting Literature

R, 9-3

Eagleton, "Form and Content," "The Writer and Commitment," and "The Writer as Producer" (Eagleton MaLC 20-76)

Updike, "A&P" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Week 4
T, 9-8

Ai, "Riot Act" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Ferlinghetti, "Director of Alienation" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Ginsberg, "A Supermarket in California" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Lowell, "Skunk Hour" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Plath, "Sow" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 9-10

Lenin, "Leo Tolstoy and His Epoch" (Eagleton MLT 42-45)

Trotsky, "The Formalist School of Poetry and Marxism" (Eagleton MLT 46-60)

Vološinov, "Concerning the Relationship of the Basis and Superstructures" (Eagleton MLT 60-8)

Week 5
T, 9-15

Benjamin, "Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia" and "Addendum to 'The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire'" (Eagleton MLT 69-83)

Bloch, "Marxism and Poetry" (Eagleton MLT 84-90)

Caudwell, "English Poets: The Period of Primitive Accumulation" (Eagleton MLT 91-102)

In Class Activity: Reading Literary Theory

R, 9-17

Gramsci, "Hegemony, Relations of Force, Historical Bloc" and "Art and the Struggle for a New Civilization" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Andrews, "America Shops," "Bomb Then, Bomb Now," "Capital Is Not a Quantity of Money," and "Communism Is a Morale Problem" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Quart, "Promissory," "TMZ," "Self Sell," "Downloaded," and "Out of Pocket" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Week 6

T, 9-22

West, "The Relativity of Literary Value" (Eagleton MLT 103-6)

Brecht, "A Short Organum for the Theatre" (Eagleton MLT 107-35)

Barthes, "The Tasks of Brechtian Criticism" (Eagleton MLT 136-40)

R, 9-24

Brecht, The Good Person of Szechwan (GeorgiaVIEW)

In Class Activity: Brechtian Criticism and Exam Review

Week 7
T, 9-29

Writing Day: Bring Your Laptops

Undergraduate Exam Due

R, 10-1

Lukács, "The Ideologyy of Modernism" (Eagleton MLT 141-62)

Volpe, "The Semantic Dialectic" (Eagleton MLT 163-86)

In Class Activity: Brechtian Criticism Redux

Week 8
T, 10-6

Adorno, "Commitment" (Eagleton MLT 187-203)

Adorno, "The Schema of Mass Culture" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 10-8

Goldmann, "Introduction to the Problems of a Sociology of the Novel" (Eagleton MLT 204-220)

Sartre, "The Objective Spirit" (Eagleton MLT 221-41)

Week 9
T, 10-13

No Class: Fall Break

R, 10-15

Cheever, "The Swimmer" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Morrison, "Recitatif" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Week 10
T, 10-20

Althusser, "A Letter on Art in Reply to André Daspre" (Eagleton MLT 269-74)

Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 10-22

Ravenhill, Shopping and Fucking (GeorgiaVIEW)

Parks, In the Blood (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Shopping and Fucking Scenes 1-13

Week 11
T, 10-27

Williams, "Tragedy and Revolution" and "Literature" (Eagleton MLT 242-68)

Balibar and Macherey, "On Literature as an Ideological Form" (Eagleton MLT 275-95)

***The Accountant and Logorama Screening: 5:00-6:00PM Arts & Sciences 353

R, 10-29

Writing Day: Bring Your Laptops

Undergraduate Theoretical Paper Due

***The Accountant and Logorama Screening: 5:00-6:00PM Arts & Sciences 353

Week 12
T, 11-3

The Accountant (McKinnon, 2001) (availability)

Logorama (Alaux, Crécy, and Houplain, 2009)

R, 11-5

No Class: Professor at Conference

Week 13
T, 11-10

Friends, "The One with Five Steaks and an Eggplant" (Season 2, Episode 5) (availability)

Mad Men, "The Hobo Code" (Season 1, Episode 8)

R, 11-12

Eagleton, "Categories for a Materialist Criticism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Eagleton, "Towards a Science of the Text" (Eagleton MLT 296-327)

Week 14
T, 11-17

Tong, "Marxist Feminism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

The Marxist-Feminist Literature Collective, "Women's Writing: Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette, Aurora Leigh" (Eagleton MLT 328-50)

Jameson, "On Interpretation" (Eagleton MLT 351-74)

R, 11-19

Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Iñárritu, 2014) (availability)

Week 15
T, 11-24

Ahmad, "Jameson's Rhetoric of Otherness and the 'National Allegory'" (Eagleton MLT 375-98)

Amuta, "The Materialism of Cutlural Nationalism: Achebe's Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God" (Eagleton MLT 399-407)

Callinicos, "The Jargon of Postmodernity" (Eagleton MLT 408-28)

R, 11-26

No Class: Thanksgiving Holiday

Week 16
T, 12-1

Žižek, "How Did Marx Invent the Symptom?" (GeorgiaVIEW)

The Pervert's Guide to Ideology (Fiennes, 2012) (availability)

R, 12-3

Undergraduate Abstracts Due

R, 12-10

Research Paper Due