English 4110/5110 Literary Criticism, Spring 2018

TR 11:00-12:15 p.m., Arts & Sciences 345

In Class Activities

1. Summarizing a Theoretical Article

Theoretical articles are often complex, so, today, let's work in small groups to practice reading and summarizing an article. Divide into four groups and answer some fundamental questions about your group's assigned article.


Here are the groups:

  1. Freud, "Creative Writers and Daydreaming"
  2. Green, I. A text in representation, from "Prologue: The Psycho-Analytic Reading of Tragedy"
  3. Green, II. Towards a psycho-analytic reading, from "Prologue: The Psycho-Analytic Reading of Tragedy"
  4. Green, The trans-narcisstic object, from "Prologue: The Psycho-Analytic Reading of Tragedy"

Here are the questions:

2. Psychoanalyzing The Sound and the Fury

Although William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury is a difficult text to understand due to the stream of consciousness narration of the first two narrators, Benjy and Quentin Compos, it is easy to apply psychoanalytic theory to characters' issues and the novel's form. Therefore, let's determine what happens with the characters first and then interpret the book. Break into four groups and discuss the following issues assigned to your groups:

  1. Benjy Compson
    1. Discuss some key events in Benjy's life.
    2. Do a psychoanalytic character sketch of Benjy, commenting on his desires, his traumas, his relationship with his sister, his relatationship with pleasure, his relationship with reality, and any other psychoanalytic concepts that your group thinks are applicable to understanding his psyche.
  2. Quentin Compson
    1. Discuss some key events in Quentin's life.
    2. Do a psychoanalytic character sketch of Benjy, commenting on his desires, his traumas, his relationship with his sister, his relationship with his father, his id and superego, his conflicted instincts of Eros and Thanatos, his Oedipal complex, his neurosis, and any other psychoanalytic concepts that your group thinks are applicable to understanding his psyche.
  3. Caddy Compson, Caroline Compson (the mother), Jason Compson III (the father)
    1. Discuss some key events in these characters' lives.
    2. Do psychoanalytic character sketches of these characters, commenting on Caddy's desires, her traumas, her relationship with her brothers, her sexuality; on the mother's desires, traumas, neurosis, her relationship with her various children; on the father's world view, Oedipal relationship with Quentin, his attitude toward female sexuality, and any other psychoanalytic concepts that your group thinks are applicable to understanding their psyches.
  4. Benjy's and Quentin's Narrations
    1. Describe Benjy's and Quentin's narration.
    2. What does the narrative style suggest about the conflicts regarding desire and trauma, consciousness and unconsciousness, id, ego, and superego, pleasure and reality, Eros and Thanatos in the form of the book? What does the narrative style suggest about the book's relationship with its readers' "reading" pleasures and desires?

    Article Summary

Written Summary

You will write an article summary and post it to GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Assignments > Article Summary on the day before we are scheduled to discuss the article so I have time to read your response before class. The article summary should

Informal Presentation

You will also be responsible for a brief, informal presentation. The presentation should introduce the essay by defining key points and terms (without simply reading your written summary) and broaching issues for class discussion.

Due Dates

  1. Your written assignment will be due in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Assignments > Article Summary two days before we are scheduled to discuss an article. Summaries will be penalized one letter grade for each day, not class period, that they are turned in late. It is your responsibility to check the sign up schedule and complete the assignment on time.
  2. Your brief, informal presentation will be due on the day we discuss the essay in class. This date is approximate for we will sometimes fall a day behind. Failing to present the article to the class without providing a valid absence excuse will result in a two letter grade penalty.
  3. I will return your graded assignment to you in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Assignments > Article Summary approximately one week after we discuss the article in class. Due to GeorgiaVIEW limitations, I am unable to return graded assignments to you unless and until you submit them to the Assignment dropbox.
  4. For example, we are scheduled to discuss Green's "The Psycho-Analytic Reading of Tragedy" on Tuesday, 1-23. Therefore, someone's summary will be due in GeorgiaVIEW on Sunday, 1-21. In class on Tuesday, 1-23, that student will informally present the main ideas of Green's essay. I will return the graded article summary to her the following week in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Assignments > Article Summary. Here's how to calculate your course grade.

Sign Up

Written Due


Oral Due Date



S, 1-21

T, 1-23





S, 1-28

T, 1-30


1 Caroline Oleson

De Laretis

2 Madelyn Rueter

T, 1-30

R, 2-1


3 Bailey Freeman

S, 2-4

T, 2-6

Kristeva ("...Abjection")

4 Thomas Lanthripp


5 Rebekah Garner

T, 2-20

R, 2-22



S, 2-25

T, 2-27


6 Ross Cudmore


7 Kathryn Johnston

T, 2-27

R, 3-1

Sartre, "Why Write?"

Graduate Annotated Bibliography and Presentation

G Nicholas Cowles

S, 3-4

T, 3-6

de Beauvoir

8 Emily Newberry

Kristeva ("...Freedom")

9 Ryan Price

T, 3-6

R, 3-8


10 Megan Ray

S, 4-1

T, 4-3


11 Caroline Karnatz

S, 4-8

T, 4-10


12 Abbi Schelkopf


13 Seth Watson

T, 4-10

R, 4-12

Fish, "Affective Stylistics"

14 Lauren Seymour


15 Erica Garner

S, 4-15

T, 4-17


16 Ashley McGlathery

Fish, "Interpreting/Variorium"

17 Alexis Smith

T, 4-17

R, 4-19


18 Megan Raymond

Applied Interpretation and Presentation

The applied interpretation and presentation assignment has four goals:

  1. the rigorous interpretation of a work of literature applying one of our class's theories,
  2. the focused discussion of psychoanalytic, existential, and/or reader-response theory and interpretation outside of class,
  3. the collaborative process of writing, as opposed to the solitary writing practice we English majors are all so well-used to, and
  4. the formal presentation of the main ideas of the collaborative paper, without simply reading the essay.

Sign up in pairs to analyze a work of literature in a formal 6-8 page paper and formal 8-10 minute presentation. Your essay and presentation should interpret the novel according to the general theoretical focus for which you signed up, and it should apply the particular concepts from one or two particular theorists of the critical approach. Your single, collaboratively written essay should be driven by a thesis that argues the work's key theme and issue from the theoretical perspective being applied. It should be logically organized and use textual evidence to unpark the tension and conflict, significance and theme. Your well-organized presentation should clearly convey your ideas to the class, and each member should speak during the presentation.


Sign Up

Due Date



T, 2-13

Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

(psychoanalytic focus)



T, 3-13

Chopin, The Awakening

(existential focus)

3 Caroline Karnatz

4 Caroline Olesen

Chopin, The Awakening

(existential and/or psychoanalytic focus)

5 Erica Garner

6 Rebekah Garner

7 Megan Raymond

R, 3-15

Chopin, The Awakening

(psychoanalytic focus)



T, 4-24

Woolf, The Waves

(reader-response focus)

10 Alexis Smith

11 Emily Newberry

Woolf, The Waves

(existential focus)

12 Ross Cudmore

13 Ashley McGlathery

R, 4-26

Woolf, The Waves

(psychoanalytic focus)

14 Madelyn Rueter

15 Lauren Seymour

T, 5-1

Bergman, Persona

(reader-response focus)

16 Bailey Freeman

17 Abbi Schelkopf

Bergman, Persona

(existential focus)

18 Megan Ray

19 Seth Watson

R, 5-3

Bergman, Persona

(psychoanalytic focus)

20 Kathryn Johnston

21 Ryan Price


The essay exam tests your understanding of psychoanalysis as well as your ability to employ it in the interpretation of literature. It will be taken in class on Thursday, February 15. There will be two essay questions. In the first essay, you will be asked to explain psychoanalytic theory and literary criticism in general and to compare and contrast the ideas of two psychoanalytic literary theorists. The second essay question will ask you to demonstrate and practice the psychoanalytic approach to literature on your choice of one of the following:

Your interpretation should apply both general ideas from psychoanalysis and specific methods from one or two particular theorists (though not the same theorists from the first essay). You may bring printouts of the literary works to the exam; but you may not use your textbooks.


Your theory essay will be graded on 1) your ability to balance a broad understanding of the general theory with a healthy amount of specific ideas from particular theorists as well as on 2) your ability to assess similarities and differences between the two specific psychoanalytic theorists.


Your application essay grade will be based on how you interpret the text; in other words, illustrate your understanding of the critical methodologies by making apparent the questions a New Critic and structuralist ask of a text.


If I were to study for this exam, I would 1) create an outline of key terms from psychoanalytic criticism in general and compose their definitions, 2) summarize the method and main ideas of each particular psychoanalytic theorist we've read, and 3) write practice essays using the theorists and terms.

Theoretical Paper

So far in the course, we have studied psychoanalytic criticism and existentialist philosophy. The exam required you to compare two psychoanalytic articles in a timed, closed book essay, and the applied interpretation required you to practice psychoanalytic or existentialist criticism. The theoretical paper calls for you to compare and contrast how two specific theorists and their particular theoretical articles conceptualize an issue or idea in psychoanalysis and/or existentialism, and concretize the abstract correlation by discussing what the theorists would say about one of our class's novels. Where and why do the two theorists converge; where and why do they diverge? How would the two theorists respond to either The Sound and the Fury or The Awakening?


For instance, you could compare and contrast how Freud ("Creative Writers and Daydreaming") and Sartre ("Why Write?") conceive of writing and hypothesize what they might say about The Sound and the Fury, how de Laretis ("Desire in Narrative") and de Beauvoir (The Second Sex) regard the status of women and speculate what how they might criticize female agency in The Awakening, how Lacan ("Desire and the Interpretation of Desire in Hamlet") and Kierkegaard ("Truth Is Subjectivity") conceptualize subjectivity and apply their ideas to a comparative interpretation of the three brothers' interiorities in The Sound and the Fury, or how Kristeva ("Psychoanalysis and Freedom") and Barnes ("Possibilities") think about freedom and examine Edna's possible choices in The Awakening through their critical lenses.


Undergraduates: You may use any particular psychoanalytic theorist (Freud, Bloom, Brooks, de Laretis, Lacan, Kristeva, Doane) or existential philosopher (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Camus, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Kristeva, Barnes, Magliola) that you did not previously write about in the theory section of the in-class exam. You may use the overviews by Tyson, Solomon, and Dufrenne to provide general definitions and set up general frameworks, but those articles do not count in the comparison/contrast.


Research Paper

While the applied interpretation asks undergraduates to interpret an in class novel from an assigned methodology, the annotated bibliography and presentation compels graduate students to research and teach a theorist, and the theoretical paper requires all to compare and contrast how two theorists conceive of and apply an a psychoanalytical or existential idea, the research paper requires all to analyze either a work of literature (poetry, fiction, drama, film, television, graphic literature) or a theoretical issue using psychoanalysis, existentialism, reader-response criticism, or a combination of those approaches and to use scholarly sources to support your interpretation or ground your theoretical discussion.


Your research paper should

  1. For the interpretation option, make a psychoanalytical, existential, reader-response, or combined methodological interpretation of a work of literature or theoretical issue (do not use a literary author written about previously in an applied interpretation). For the theoretical issue option, exemplify the methodology by integrating at least three theoretical articles from in class reading (do not use theorists and theoretical articles already written about in the theoretical paper).
  2. Support the literary research paper's interpretive claim by incorporating at least three scholarly sources. Or, support the theoretical research paper's claim by incorporeting at least three additional theoretical articles from outside our class.

Fine print: you may also use theoretical paper articles written about in the theoretical paper, but they don't count toward the required three. As with the theoretical paper, overviews by Tyson and Allen don't count toward the three theoretical articles. If you are researching a work of literature, then you should have six sources comprised of three theoretical articles from our course reading and three critical articles interpreting the literary work from scholarly journals and books. If you are researching a theoretical issue in psychoanalytic, existential, and/or reader-response criticism, then you should have six sources comprised of three in-class theoretical articles and three outside-class theoretical articles. Here is how to conduct research at GCSU.

Research Proposal

Both undergraduates and graduate students must submit a 250-word paper proposal or informative abstract that outlines the main ideas of the research paper you will write. Here is information on abstracts; and here is information on proposals.

Graduate Students

In order to practice and prepare for giving conference presentations, graduate students will present a 15-minute version of their work-in-progress to the class and answer questions on Thursday, May 3, approximately one week before the final research paper due date of Wednesday, May 9. If warranted, graduate students should incorporate any pertinent ideas developed from the Q&A into their final essay.


Annotated Bibliography and Presentation

Graduates students will research a theorist on the syllabus (Lacan, Kieerkegaard, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Poulet, Iser), compose an annotated bibliography of 10 scholarly sources explaining the theorist's critical approach, and teach the theorist's work to the class, i.e., lecture and moderate class discussion, with some help from one of the articles on the theorist. One week before the presentation/teaching demonstration, graduate students must meet with the professor to go over their lesson plan. The citations in the annotated bibliography should be formatted to MLA style, and each annotation should be approximately 100 words long.


Sign Up

The graduate Annotated Bibliography and Presentation schedule is incorporated in the undergraduate Article Summary schedule.

Book Review

While the annotated bibliography and presentation require graduate students to research, evaluate, and teach a text, the book review compels you to read and evaluate a book of psychoanalytic, existentialist, or reader-response theory. After consulting with the professor on a suitable book (for instance a book from which our class is reading an excerpt, or another of your choosing, but not a book that your theoretical paper discussed or a theorist that your annotated bibliography researched), write a 8-10 page essay that summarizes the book's overall critical claim and then evaluates the thesis and methodology. Your essay should both appreciate and interrogate the book. The GeorgiaVIEW course packet contains book reviews by Ayers, Henderson, and Schultz; and you can find more examples using GALILEO.