English 3900 Critical Approaches to Literature, Spring 2011

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


Professor: Dr. Alex E. Blazer



Office Phone: 478.445.0964


Office: Arts & Sciences 330

Office Hours:

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

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

R 12:30-1:30 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, psychoanalysis, Marxism and cultural studies, queer theory, African American criticism, ecocriticism, and cognitive criticism. For each theory, we will first gain a critical overview from Tyson's Critical Theory: A User-Friendly Guide. Next, we will read representative theoretical articles collected in The Norton Anthology of Criticism and Theory. Finally, we will discuss representative works of criticism on Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and Shelley's Frankenstein. Students will post an article summary to the class discussion board and then informally present the response 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. Groups of 3-4 students will present a theory to the class.


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

Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism), 3rd ed.

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Shelley, Frankenstein (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism), 2nd ed.

Tyson, Critical Theory Today, 2nd ed.

Leitch, ed., et al: The Norton Anthology of Criticism and Theory, 2nd ed.


Gibaldi, MLA Handbook, 7th ed.

required (online)

supplemental articles


Assignments and Grade Distribution


1 article summary, 5%

You will summarize on GeorgiaVIEW and then informally present to the class one theoretical essay.

3 exams, 25%, 30% 30%

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.

group presentation, 10%

Groups of 3-4 will present a critical theory to the class.


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 Email

I encourage you to stop by my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course, of literature. 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 etiquette in both email and in person.


The syllabus is available at We will be using GeorgiaVIEW and TurnItIn for assignments. It is your responsibility to learn GeorgiaView and TurnItIn. Check your university email for course-related messages. I suggest using a a free cloud computing service such as Dropbox, Live Mesh, or Mozy to save your work-in-progress. Students who text or web surf in class will be marked absent.


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.

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.

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 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. Failing to submit 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 a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.

Length Requirements

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 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 one-third letter grade penalty.


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. Submitting the same paper in two different courses constitutes academic dishonesty. As plagiarism is not tolerated at GCSU, any student found guilty of willful plagiarism or dishonesty 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 Friday, January 14. The last day to drop a course without fee penalty is Wednesday, January 19. The last day to withdraw from all courses without academic penalty (unless previously assigned an F by professor for absences) is Monday, March 7.

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.

At some points in the semester, we may have to slow to focus on one theorist while not fully covering the other assigned theorist for the day.

For every theory article you read, select a passage that you can explain in your own words and a passage you have questions about.


Week 1
T, 1-11

No Class: Snow Day

R, 1-13

Critical and Literary Theory

New Criticism and Russian Formalism

Week 2
T, 1-18

Overview: Tyson, "Everything You Wanted to Know" (Tyson 1-10)

Tyson, "New Criticism" (Tyson 135-50)

Theory: Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent"

"The Metaphysical Poets" (Leitch 951-68)

Criticism: Tyson, "A New Critical Reading of The Great Gatsby" (Tyson 150-168)

Primary Text: Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Primary Text: Atwood, "You Fit into Me"

R, 1-20

Theory: Ransom, "Criticism, Inc." (Leitch 969-82)

Theory: Brooks, "The Heresy of Paraphrase" (Leitch 1213-29)

Primary Text: Joyce, "Araby"

Week 3
T, 1-25

Theory: Eichenbaum, from The Theory of the "Formal Method" (Leitch 921-51)

Theory: Wimsatt and Beardsley, "The Intentional Fallacy"

"The Affective Fallacy" (Leitch 1230-61)

Primary Text: Conrad, Heart of Darkness

In Class Activity: New Criticism and Russian Formalism

R, 1-27

Structuralism and Semiotics

Overview: Tyson, "Structuralist Criticism" (209-33)

Theory: Saussure, from Course in General Linguistics (Leitch 845-66)

Criticism: Tyson, "A Structuralist Reading of The Great Gatsby" (Tyson 234-48)

Week 4
T, 2-1

Theory: Jakobson, "Linguistics and Poetics"

from "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances" (Leitch 1141-56)

Theory: Frye, "The Archetypes of Literature" (Leitch 1301-15)

Primary Text: Shelley, Frankenstein

Exam Review

R, 2-3

Theory: Todorov, "Structural Analysis of Narrative" (Leitch 2021-30)

Theory: Barthes, from Mythologies

"The Death of the Author"

"From Work to Text" (Leitch 1316-31)

Week 5
T, 2-8

Exam 1

R, 2-10

Poststructuralism and Deconstruction

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

Overview: Murfin, "What Is Deconstruction?" (Conrad 205-20)

Criticism: Tyson, "A Deconstructive Reading of The Great Gatsby" (Tyson 267-80)

Week 6

T, 2-15

Theory: Foucault, "What Is an Author?"

from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

from The History of Sexuality (Leitch 1469-1521)

R, 2-17

Theory: Derrida, from Of Grammatology

from Dissemination

from Specters of Marx (Leitch 1680-44)

Criticism: Miller, "Heart of Darkness Revisited" (Conrad 231-44)

Week 7

T, 2-22

Theory: de Man, "Semiology and Rhetoric" (Leitch 1361-78)

Criticism: Botting, "Reflections of Excess" (Shelley 435-49)

R, 2-24

No Class: Professor at Conference

Make Up Day: Startling Figures, April 13-16

Week 8
T, 3-1

Theory: Austin, "Performative Utterances" (Leitch 1286-1301)

Theory: Butler, from Gender Trouble (Leitch 2536-53)

R, 3-3

Theory: Baudrillard, from "The Precession of Simulacra" (Leitch 1553-66)

Theory: Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa" (Leitch 1938-59)

Criticism: Johnson, from "Melville's Fist: The Execution of Billy Budd" (Leitch 2255-77)

Week 9
T, 3-8


Overview: Tyson, "Psychoanalytic Criticism" (Tyson 11-38)

Overview: Murfin, "What Is Psychoanalytic Criticism" (Shelley 262-79)

Theory: Freud, from The Interpretation of Dreams

from "The Uncanny"

"Fetishism" (Leitch 807-45)

Criticism: Tyson, "A Psychoanalytic Reading of The Great Gatsby" (Tyson 39-52)

R, 3-10

Theory: Bloom, from The Anxiety of Influence (Leitch 1648-59)

Theory: Lacan, "The Mirror Stage"

"The Signification of the Phallus" (Leitch 1159-69, 1181-9)

Criticism: Brown, "Cultural Psychosis on the Frontier" (Conrad 350-66)

Week 10
T, 3-15

Theory: Kristeva, from Revolution in Poetic Language (Leitch 2067-81)

Theory: Deleuze and Guattari, from A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Leitch 1454-62)

Criticism: Collings, "The Monster and the Maternal Thing (Shelley 280-95)

R, 3-17

Theory: Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (Leitch 2081-95)

Theory: Žižek, "Courtly Love, or, Woman as Thing" (Leitch 2402-27)

Week 11
T, 3-22

No Class: Spring Break

R, 3-24

No Class: Spring Break

Week 12
T, 3-29

Marxism and Cultural Studies

Overview: Tyson, "Marxist Criticism" (Tyson 53-68)

Overview: Murfin, "What Is Marxist Criticism?" (Shelley 368-83)

Overview: Murfin, "What Is Cultural Criticism?" (Shelley 396-415)

Theory: Marx and Engels, "The Communist Manifesto" (online)

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

Exam 2 Due

R, 3-31

Theory: Trotsky, from Literature and Revolution (Leitch 877-92)

Theory: Lukács, from The Historical Novel (Leitch 905-21)

Criticism: Montag, "The 'Workshop of Filthy Creation'" (Shelley 384-95)

Week 13
T, 4-5

Theory: Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility" (Leitch 1046-71)

Theory: Horkheimer and Adorno, from "The Culture Industry" (Leitch 1107-27)

R, 4-7

Theory: Althusser, from "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" (Leitch 1332-61)

Theory: Jameson, "Postmodernism and Consumer Society" (Leitch 1846-60)

Week 14
T, 4-12

Theory: Hall, "Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies" (Leitch 1779-95)

Theory: Hebdige, from Subculture (Leitch 2477-88)

Criticism: Zakharieva, "Frankenstein and the Nineties" (Shelley 416-31)

Make Up Day: Startling Figures, April 13-16

R, 4-14

Lesbian, Gay, and Queer Criticism Presentation

Overview: "Tyson, Lesbian Gay, and Queer Criticism" (Tyson 317-58)

Theory: Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" (Leitch 1588-1609)

Week 15
T, 4-19

African American Criticism Presentation

Overview: Tyson, "African American Criticism" (Tyson 359-416)

Theory: hooks, "Postmodern Blackness" (Leitch 2507-16)

Flannery O'Connor Conference Paper Due

R, 4-21

Postcolonial Criticism Presentation

Overview: Tyson, "Postcolonial Criticism" (Tyson 417-450)

Theory: Fanon, from The Wretched of the Earth (Leitch 1437-46)

Exam 3 Interpretation Topic Due

Week 16
T, 4-26

Ecocriticism Group Presentation

Overview: Bressler, "Ecocriticism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Theory: Love, "Toward an Ecological Criticism (GeorgaiVIEW)

Theory: Rueckert, "Literature and Ecology" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 4-28

Cognitive Criticism Group Presentation

Overview: Richardson, "Studies in Literature and Cognition" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Theory: McConachie, "Toward a Cognitive Cultural Hegemony" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Theory: Spolsky, "Darwin and Derrida" (GeorgiaVIEW)

T, 5-3

Exam 3 Due by 2:00PM