English 4110/5110 Literary Criticism

TR 9:30-10:45 a.m., Kilpatrick Hall 136, Spring 2020




Dr. Alex E. Blazer


Office Hours: TR 12:30-3:15 p.m., Arts & Sciences 330


Course Description


The undergraduate catalog describes English 4110 as "A study of one or two methodologies of literary criticism." 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 one or two interrrelated interpretive methodologies. This course's Academic Assessment page describes our topics:

as well as course outcomes:

This semester, we will concentrate on Marxist literary and film criticism. After exploring key Marx texts and tenets, we will read theoretical overviews of Marxist philosophy and literary theory in Marxism and Literary Criticism. Then, we will read significant theoretical articles in Marxist Literary Theory, and apply their principles to critical readings of poetry (Ai, Andrews, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Lowell, Plath, Quart), fiction (Fitzgerald, Updike), drama (Brecht and Ravenhill), and television (Friends and Schitt's Creek). Additionally, we will apply Marxist film theory and Jamesonian theory to film (Fight Club and The Wolf of Wall Street). 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 sophomore status.


Course Materials


required textbooks (Amazon or GCSU Bookstore)

Burnham, Fredric Jameson and The Wolf of Wall Street

Eagleton, Marxism and Literary Criticism

Eagleton, Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader

Kornbluh, Marxist Film Criticism and Fight Club

required films and television episodes (availability)

Fight Club

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

Schitt's Creek, "Our Cup Runneth Over" (Season 1, Episode 1)

Schitt's Creek, "The Drip" (Season 1, Episode 2)

The Wolf of Wall Street

required articles and literature (GeorgiaVIEW)

course packet

recommended textbooks (Amazon or GCSU Bookstore)

Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 8th ed.

Singer, Marx: A Very Short Introduction


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 literary 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 sign up to compile an annotated bibliography of an assigned film and teach the class.

theoretical paper, 25%

In a 9-10 page paper, you will compare and contrast two theoretical articles covered in class.

book review, 25%

In a 9-10 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 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, 1-7


Marxist Criticism Lecture

R, 1-9

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

Recommended: Singer, Marx: A Very Short Introduction

In Class Activity: Marx's Philosophy

Week 2

T, 1-14

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

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

R, 1-16

Eagleton, Introduction Part I (MLT 1-15)

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

Marx and 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, 1-21

Tyson, "Marxist Criticism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

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

Fitzgerald, "Babylon Revisited" (GeorgiaVIEW)

In Class Activity: A Marxist Approach to Interpreting Literature

R, 1-23

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

Updike, "A&P" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Week 4

T, 1-28

Ai, "Riot Act" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Ferlinghetti, "Director of Alienation" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Ginsberg, "A Supermarket in California" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Lowell, "Skunk Hour" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Plath, "Sow" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 1-30

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

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

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

Week 5

T, 2-4

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

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

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

In Class Activity: Reading Literary Theory

R, 2-6

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, 2-11

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

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

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

R, 2-13

Brecht, The Good Person of Szechwan (GeorgiaVIEW)

Week 7
T, 2-18

Writing Day: Bring Your Laptops

Undergraduate Exam Due

R, 2-20

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

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

Week 8
T, 2-25

Adorno, "Commitment" (MLT 187-203)

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

Recommended: Horkheimer and Adorno, "The Culture Industry" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 2-27

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

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

Week 9

T, 3-3

Cheever, "The Swimmer" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Morrison, "Recitatif" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 3-5

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

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

In Class Activity: RSAs and ISAs

Week 10

T, 3-10

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

Ravenhill, Shopping and Fucking (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Shopping and Fucking Scenes 1-13

R, 3-12

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

Parks, In the Blood (GeorgiaVIEW)

Week 11

T, 3-17

No Class: Spring Break

R, 3-19

No Class: Spring Break

Week 12

T, 3-24

No Class: Prepare to Move Class Online Due to Coronavirus

R, 3-26

No Class: Prepare to Move Class Online Due to Coronavirus

Week 13

T, 3-31

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

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

R, 4-2

Schitt's Creek, "Our Cup Runneth Over" (Season 1, Episode 1) (availability)

Schitt's Creek, "The Drip" (Season 1, Episode 2) (availability)

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

Undergraduate Theoretical Paper Due

Week 14

T, 4-7

Kornbluh, "Introduction" and "Marxist Film Theory" (Kornbluh 1-104)

R, 4-9

Kornbluh, "Marxist Film Theory and Fight Club" (Kornbluh 105-78)

Fight Club

Week 15

T, 4-14

Tong, "Marxist Feminism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

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

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

Recommended: Jameson, "Towards Dialectical Criticism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Undergraduate Research Paper Abstracts Due

R, 4-16

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

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

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

Week 16

T, 4-21

Burnham, "Introduction" and "The Film Theory of Fredric Jameson" (Burnham 1-94)

R, 4-23

Burnham, "How to Watch The Wolf of Wall Street" (Burnham 95-164)

The Wolf of Wall Street

T, 4-28

Research Paper Due