English 3900: Critical Approaches to Literature, Spring 2010

Section 01 (CRN 20270): TR 2:00-3:15PM, Arts & Sciences 340B


Professor: Dr. Alex E. Blazer



Phone: 478.445.0964


Office: Arts & Sciences 330

Office Hours:

MW 5:00-5:30PM A&S 330,

T 12:30-1:45PM A&S 330,

R 12:15-1:30 Blackbird, by appt


Course Description


The undergraduate course catalog describes English 3900 as "A course studying a variety of critical approaches to selected literary texts. Required for graduation with literature concentration." In this course, we will survey most of the current theoretical approaches to literature: New Criticism, structuralism, poststructuralism and deconstruction, Marxism and cultural studies, feminism and gender studies, New Historicism, Post-Colonialism, Queer theory, and African-American criticism. (English 4110 Fall 2010 will involve a focused study of reader-response, psychoanalytical, and existentialist criticism.) For each theory, we will first gain a critical overview from Tyson's Critical Theory: A User-Friendly Guide and Rivkin and Ryan's Literary Theory: An Anthology. Next, we will read representative theoretical articles collected in Literary Theory. Finally, we will discuss representative works of criticism on Brontë's Wuthering Heights, Chopin's The Awakening, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and James' The Turn of the Screw. Students will post summary responses on two articles to the class discussion board and then informally present those articles to the class. The three exams will test students' understanding of the theory as well as their ability to apply the method in literary interpretation.


This course's Academic Assessment page describes our topics:

as well as course outcomes:

Note that this course's prerequisite is English 2200 or permission of the department chair.


Course Materials


required (GCSU Bookstore or

Brontë, Wuthering Heights, Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism

Chopin, The Awakening, Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

James, The Turn of the Screw Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism

Rivkin and Ryan, eds., Literary Theory, 2nd ed.

Tyson, Critical Theory Today, 2nd ed.


Gibaldi, MLA Handbook, 7th ed.

required (online)

supplemental articles


Assignments and Grade Distribution


two discussion board responses, 5% each, 10% total

You will summarize on GeorgiaVIEW and then informally present to the class two essays, one theoretical and one interpretive.

three exams, 30% each, 90% total

These three exams, the first in-class, second in-class and take-home, and third take-home, will test your knowledge of key terms as well as your ability to apply critical approaches in interpretations of works of literature.


Course Policies


Class Preparation and Participation

I expect you to come to class having read, annotated, and reviewed the assigned reading. Moreover, you should prepare at least two comments and two questions for each reading. We're going to be working with challenging texts; therefore, we'll all benefit from sharing our ideas and questions. If I feel that you're not participating because you're not keeping up with the reading, I will give a pop quiz.

Office Hours and Professor Email

I encourage you to stop by my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course, literature, or life. I'm happy to answer minor questions such as due dates over email, but I prefer face-to-face conversations for more substantive topics like papers and exams. Please use email etiquette.

GeorgiaVIEW and Student Email

We will be using GeorgiaVIEW for assignment upload and GCSU email for class communication (please do not send email inside GeorgiaVIEW). It is your responsibility to learn GeorgiaView as well as to check your university email for possible course related messages.

MLA Style

Formal assignments should adhere to the Modern Language Association (MLA) style. Formal papers and take-home exams require MLA style while in-class exams; discussion board responses, informal writing, and peer review may be informally formatted. 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) header, heading, and title, 2) margins, font, and line-spacing, and 3) quotation and citation format. Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by using the checklist on the MLA style handout. I encourage students to use my MS Word template.


There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every absence beyond three days. Therefore, missing four class periods will result in a one letter final grade deduction and missing seven classes will result in automatic failure of the course. 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. Excuses like work, family, and scheduled doctor's appointments will be declined. The only acceptable excuses are death in one's immediate family and one's own medical emergency. If you participate in an extracurricular activity that you anticipate will cause you to miss class, I suggest you switch sections now. You can check your attendance online by looking for your course number and the last four digits of your student identification number.

Late Assignments

There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day (not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late. I sparingly give short extensions if you request one for a valid need; however you must make the request 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. I neither read nor grade assignments that are turned in more than five days late for whatever reason, be it extension or computer error. Failing to submit (or resubmit) an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade within five days (not class periods) of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course. Failing to submit (or resubmit) a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.


Do not do it. 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." Section 3.01 of the Academic Affairs Handbook elaborates other examples of academic dishonesty and outlines disciplinary procedures and appeals for academic misconduct. As plagiarism is not tolerated at GCSU, any student found guilty of willful plagiarism will fail the assignment and the course. Students must submit all formal papers to

Failure of the Course

There are three ways to fail the course: 1) failing to regularly attend class, 2) plagiarizing, 3) 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 last day to add a course is Wednesday, January 13. The last day to drop a course without fee penalty is Friday, January 15. The last day to withdraw without academic penalty (unless previously assigned an F by professor for absences) is Monday, March 8.

Assistance for Student Needs Related to Disability

If you have a disability as described by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, you may be eligible to receive accommodations to assist in programmatic and physical accessibility.  Disability Services, a unit of the GCSU Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, can assist you in formulating a reasonable accommodation plan and in providing support in developing appropriate accommodations to ensure equal access to all GCSU programs and facilities. Course requirements will not be waived, but accommodations may assist you in meeting the requirements.  For documentation requirements and for additional information, we recommend that you contact Disability Services located in Maxwell Student Union at 478-445-5931 or 478-445-4233.

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 Lanier Hall 209, the Center is open Monday through Friday. Call 445-3370 or email for more information.

Fire Drills

Fire drills will be conducted during the semester.  In the event of a fire alarm signal, students will exit the building in a quick and orderly manner through the nearest hallway exit.  Learn the floor plan and exits of the A & S Building.  Do not use elevators.  Crawl on the floor if you encounter heavy smoke.  Assist disabled persons and others if possible without endangering your own life.  Assemble for a head count on front lawn main campus.


Course Schedule


This schedule is subject to change, so check back in class and online for possible revisions.


Week 1
T, 1-12


Critical and Literary Theory

R, 1-14

Theory 1: New Criticism

Overview: Tyson, Ch1 Everything You Wanted to Know about Critical Theory But Were Afraid to Ask (Tyson 1-10)

Overview: Tyson, Ch5 New Criticism (Tyson 135-150)

Overview: Rivkin and Ryan, "Formalisms" (Rivkin and Ryan 3-6)

Criticism: Tyson, "The 'deathless song' of Longing: A New Critical Reading of The Great Gatsby (Tyson 150-68)

Literature: Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Week 2
T, 1-19

Theory: Eichenbaum, "The Formal Method" (Rivkin and Ryan 7-14)

Theory: Shklovsky, "Art as Technique" (Rivkin and Ryan 15-21)

R, 1-21

Theory: Brooks, "The Formalist Critics" (Rivkin and Ryan 22-7)

Theory: Brooks, "The Language of Paradox" (Rivkin and Ryan 28-39)

Theory: Wimsatt, "The Structure of the Concrete Universal" (40-52)

Literature: Chopin, The Awakening

Week 3
T, 1-26

Theory 2: Structuralism

Overview: Tyson, Ch7 Structuralism (Tyson 209-233)

Overview: Rivkin and Ryan, "The Implied Order: Structuralism" (Rivkin and Ryan 53-5)

Criticism: Tyson, "'Seek and ye shall find' . . . and Then Lose: A Structuralist Reading of The Great Gatsby" (Tyson, 234-48)

R, 1-28

Theory: Saussure, from Course in General Linguistics (Rivkin and Ryan 59-71)

Theory: Propp, "Morphology of the Folk-tale" (Rivkin and Ryan 76-80)

Literature: James, The Turn of the Screw

Week 4
T, 2-2

Theory: Barthes, from Mythologies (Rivkin and Ryan 81-9)

Theory: Chatman, "The Structure of Narrative Transmission" (Rivkin and Ryan 97-126)

R, 2-4

Literature: Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Exam 1 Practice and Review

Kinnell, "The Bear"

Week 5
T, 2-9

Exam 1

R, 2-11

Theory 3: Poststructuralism

Overview: Tyson, Deconstructive Criticism (Tyson 249-66)

Overview: Rivkin and Ryan, "Introductory Deconstruction" (Rivkin and Ryan 257-61)

Overview: Murfin, "What Is Deconstruction?" (Chopin 291-310)

Week 6

T, 2-16

Theory: Nietzsche, "On Truth and Lying in an Extra-moral Sense" (Rivkin and Ryan 262-5)

Theory: Nietzsche, "The Will to Power" (Rivkin and Ryan 266-70)

Theory: Derrida, "Différance" (Rivkin and Ryan 278-99)

***Bring two quotations from Derrida: one you understand and one you don't

Criticism: Tyson, "'. . . the thrilling, returning trains of my you . . .': A Deconstructive Reading of The Great Gatsby (Tyson 267-80)

R, 2-18

No Class: Professor at Conference

Week 7
T, 2-23

Theory: Johnson, "Writing" (Rivkin and Ryan 340-7)

Theory: Cixous, "The Newly Born Woman" (Rivkin and Ryan 348-54)

Criticism: Yaeger, "'A Language Which Nobody Understood": Emancipatory Strategies in The Awakening" (Chopin 311-336)

R, 2-25

Theory: Lyotard, "The Postmodern Condition" (Rivkin and Ryan 355-64)

Theory: Baudrillard, "Simulacra and Simulations" (Rivkin and Ryan 365-77)

Postructuralism, Deconstruction, and Postmodernism Review

Week 8
T, 3-2

Theory 4: Marxism and Cultural Studies

Overview: Tyson, Ch 3 Marxist Criticism (Tyson 53-68)

Overview: Murfin, "What Is Marxist Criticism?" (James 360-75)

Overview: Murfin, "What Is Cultural Criticism?" (Brontë 411-29)

Overview: Rivkin and Ryan, "Starting with Zero" (Rivkin and Ryan 643-6)

R, 3-4

Theory: Hegel, "Dialectics" (Rivkin and Ryan 647-9)

Theory: Marx, "Wage Labor and Capital" (Rivkin and Ryan 659-64)

Theory: Marx, "Capital" (Rivkin and Ryan 665-72)

Theory: Gramsci, "Hegemony" (Rivkin and Ryan 673)

Criticism: Tyson, "You Are What You Own: A Marxist Reading of The Great Gatsby" (Tyson 69-82)

Week 9
T, 3-9

Theory: Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" (Rivkin and Ryan 693-702)

Theory: Macherey, "For a Theory of Literary Production" (Rivkin and Ryan 703-11)

Criticism: Eagleton, "Myths of Power: A Marxist Study on Wuthering Heights" (Brontë 379-410)

R, 3-11

Theory: Horkheimer and Adorno, "The Culture Industry as Mass Deception" (Rivkin and Ryan 1235-41)

Theory: Fiske, "Culture, Ideology, Interpellation" (Rivkin and Ryan 1268-73)

Criticism: Armstrong, "Imperialist Nostalgia and Wuthering Heights" (Brontë 411-50)

Week 10
T, 3-16

Theory: Hebdige, "Subculture: The Meaning of Style" (Rivkin and Ryan 1258-67)

Criticism: Robbins, "'They don't much count, do they?" The Unfinished History of The Turn of the Screw" (James 360-89)

Exam 2 Review

R, 3-18

Kafka, The Metamorphosis (online)

Poststructuralism and Marxism Review

Week 11
T, 3-23

No Class: Spring Break

R, 3-25

No Class: Spring Break

Week 12
T, 3-30

Theory 5: Feminism and Gender Studies

Overview: Tyson, Ch4 Feminist Criticism (Tyson 83-119)

Overview: Rivkin and Ryan, "Feminist Paradigms" (Rivkin and Ryan 765-9)

Overview: Rivkin and Ryan, "Contingencies of Gender" (Rivkin and Ryan 885-8)

Criticism: Tyson, "'. . . next they'll throw everything overboard . . .': A Feminist Reading of The Great Gatsby" 120-34)

R, 4-1

Theory: Irigaray, "The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of the Feminine" (Rivkin and Ryan 795-8)

Theory: Irigaray, "Women on the Market" (Rivkin and Ryan 799-811)

Theory: Gilbert and Gubar, "The Madwoman in the Attic" (Rivkin and Ryan 812-25)

Criticism: Pykett, "Changing the Names: The Two Catherines" (Brontë 451-77)

Take Home Exam 2 Due

Week 13
T, 4-6

Theory: Foucault, "The History of Sexuality" (Rivkin and Ryan 892-9)

Theory: Butler, "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution" (Rivkin and Ryan 900-11)

Criticism: Showalter, "Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book" (Chopin 186-222)

R, 4-8

Criticism: LeBlanc, "The Metaphorical Lesbian: Edna Pontellier in The Awakening" (Chopin 223-56)

Criticism: Walton, "'He took no notice of her; he looked at me': Subjectivies and Sexualities in The Turn of the Screw" (James 333-59)

Criticism: Moon, "A Small Boy and Others: Sexual Disorientation in Henry James, Kenneth Anger, and David Lynch" (Rivkin and Ryan 922-34)

Feminism and Gender Studies Review

Week 14
T, 4-13

Criticism: Meyer, from "'Your Father Was Emperor of China, and Your Mother an Indian Queen': Reverse Imperialism in Wuthering Heights" (Brontë 478-502)

Criticism: Wolff, "Un-utterable Longing: The Discourse of Feminine Sexuality in Kate Chopin's The Awakening" (Chopin 374-95)

Criticism: Teahan, "'I caught him, yes, I told him": The Ghostly Effects of Reading (in) The Turn of the Screw" (James 392-406)

In Class Activity: Combining Perspectives

R, 4-15

Theory 6: New Historicism

Overview: Tyson, "New Historical and Cultural Criticism" (Tyson 281-300)

Overview: Rivkin and Ryan, "Writing the Past" (Rivkin and Ryan 505-7)

Criticism: Tyson, "The Discourse of the Self-Made Man: A New Historical Reading of The Great Gatsby" (Tyson 301-16)

Week 15
T, 4-20

Theory: Williams, "The Country and the City" (Rivkin and Ryan 508-32)

Theory: Greenblatt, "Shakespeare and the Exorcists" (Rivkin and Ryan 592-620)

Criticism: Stange, "Personal Property: Exchange Value and the Female Self in The Awakening" (Chopin 257-90)

R, 4-22

Theory 7: Postcolonial Criticism

Overview: Tyson, Ch12 Postcolonial Criticism (Tyson 417-32)

Overview: Rivkin and Ryan, "English without Shadows: Literature on a World Scale" (Rivkin and Ryan 1071-4)

Theory: wa Thiong'o, "Decolonising the Mind" (Rivkin and Ryan 1126-50)

Criticism: Tyson, "The Colony Within: A Postcolonial Reading of The Great Gatsby" (Tyson 433-50)

Week 16
T, 4-27

Theory 8: Queer Theory

Overview: Tyson, Ch 10 Lesbian, Gay, and Queer Criticism (Tyson 317-41)

Theory: Sedgwick, "Epistemology of the Closet" (Rivkin and Ryan 912-21)

Criticism: Tyson, "Will the Real Nick Carraway Please Come Out?: A Queer Reading of The Great Gatsby" (Tyson 342-58)

***Bring your laptops to complete course evaluations

R, 4-29

Theory 9: African American Criticism

Overview: Tyson, Ch11 African American Criticism (Tyson 359-95)

Theory: Gates, "The Blackness of Blackness: A Critique on the Sign and the Signifying Monkey" (Rivkin and Ryan, 987-1004)

Criticism: Tyson, "But Where's Harlem?: An African American Reading of The Great Gatsby" (Tyson 396-416)

T, 5-4

Exam 3 Due by 2:00PM