English 3900 Critical Approaches to Literature, Spring 2012

Section 01 (CRN 20220): TR 2:00-3:15PM, Arts & Sciences 243


Dr. Alex E. Blazer


Office Hours:

MW 4:55-5:25PM A&S 330

T 1:00-1:45PM A&S 330

R 1:00-1:45PM Blackbird


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, and Marxism and cultural studies. We may cover feminism and gender studies, queer theory, African American criticism, ecocriticism, cognitive criticism, reader-response criticism, and postcolonial criticism, depending on student selection. For each theory, we will first gain a critical overview from Robert Dale Parker's How to Interpret Literature. Next, we will read representative theoretical articles collected in Vincent Leitch's The Norton Anthology of Criticism and Theory. Finally, we will discuss representative works of criticism on Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and read Walt Whitman's "I Sing the Body Electric" through the lens of the theory. Students will keep a critical reading journal applying the theories to a work of literature; and they will post a theoretical 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

Brontë, Wuthering Heights (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism)

Mann, Death in Venice (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism)

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

Parker, How to Interpret Literature


Gibaldi, MLA Handbook, 7th ed.

Macey, The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory

required (online)

supplemental articles


Assignments and Grade Distribution


1 theoretical article summary, 5%

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

1 critical reading, 5%

You will read on GeorgiaVIEW and then informally present to the class your interpretation of a work of literature applying the ideas of one theoretical essay.

1 group presentation, 10%

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

3 exams, 25%, 25%, 30% respectively

These three exams, the first in-class, second in-class and take-home, and third take-home, will test your knowledge of key concepts 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 quizzes.

Office Hours and Email

I encourage you to stop by my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course. 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.


We will be using GeorgiaVIEW and TurnItIn for assignments. Check your university email for course-related messages. Use an online backup or cloud storage service such as Dropbox to save your work.


Any student who misses seven or more classes for any reason (excused or unexcused) will automatically failure of 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 a death in one's immediate family, one's own 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. You can check your attendance online. A note about religious observances: Students are permitted to miss class in observance of religious holidays and other activities observed by a religious group of which the student is a member without academic penalty. Exercising of one's rights under this policy is subject to the GC Honor Code. Students who miss class in observance of a religious holiday or event are required to make up the coursework missed as a result from the absence. The nature of the make-up assignments and the deadline for completion of such assignments are at the sole discretion of the instructor. Failure to follow the prescribed procedures voids all student rights under this policy. The full policy and prescribed procedures can be found here.

MLA Style and Length Requirements

While in-class exams, discussion board responses, informal/journal writing, and peer review may be informally formatted, formal assignments and take-home exams must adhere to the Modern Language Association (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) header, heading, and title, 2) margins, font, 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 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. 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 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 a five days 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.

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. As plagiarism is not tolerated at GCSU, any student found guilty of willful plagiarism or dishonesty will fail the assignment and the course. This course uses plagiarism prevention technology, 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: 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.

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 Lanier Hall 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 annually. In the event of a fire alarm, students will exit the building in a quick and orderly manner through the nearest hallway exit. Learn the floor plan and exits of the building. Do not use elevators. If you encounter heavy smoke, crawl on the floor so as to gain fresh air. Assist disabled persons and others if possible without endangering your own life. Assemble for a head count on the front lawn of main campus or other designated assembly area. For more information on other emergencies, click here.

Student Opinion Surveys

Given the technological sophistication of Georgia College students, the student opinion survey is being delivered through an online process. Your constructive feedback plays an indispensable role in shaping quality education at Georgia College. All responses are completely confidential and your name is not stored with your responses in any way. In addition, instructors will not see any results of the opinion survey until after final grades are submitted to the University. An invitation to complete the online opinion survey is distributed to students near the end of the semester. Your participation in this very important process is greatly appreciated.


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 theoretical article you read, select one passage that you can explain in your own words and one passage you have questions about.

Use The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory as a reference for key terms.


Week 1
T, 1-10

Interpretation Survey

Critical and Literary Theory

R, 1-12

New Criticism and Russian Formalism

Overview: Parker, "Introduction" (Parker 1-10)

Overview: Parker, "New Criticism" (Parker 11-43)

Theory: Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (online)

"The Metaphysical Poets" (Leitch 951-68) (online)

Primary Text: Hughes, "Christ in Alabama" (online)

Week 2
T, 1-17

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

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

Primary Text: Whitman, "I Sing the Body Electric" (online)

R, 1-19

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

Theory: Wimsatt and Beardsley, "The Intentional Fallacy" (online)

"The Affective Fallacy" (Leitch 1230-61) (online)

Criticism: In Class Activity: Whitman

Week 3
T, 1-24

Criticism: In Class Activity: Mann

Primary Text: Mann, Death in Venice

R, 1-26

Structuralism and Semiotics

Overview: Parker, "Structuralism" (Parker 44-85)

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

Week 4
T, 1-31

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)

Criticism: In Class Activity: Brontë

Primary Text: Brontë, Wuthering Heights

R, 2-2

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, 2-7

Exam 1

R, 2-9

Poststructuralism and Deconstruction

Overview: Parker, "Deconstruction" (Parker 86-111)

Week 6

T, 2-14

Theory: Foucault, "What Is an Author?"

from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

from The History of Sexuality (Leitch 1469-1521)

R, 2-16

Theory: Derrida, from Of Grammatology

from Dissemination

from Specters of Marx (Leitch 1680-44)

Week 7

T, 2-21

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

R, 2-23

No Class: Professor at Conference

Week 8
T, 2-28

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

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

R, 3-1

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

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

Week 9
T, 3-6


Overview: Parker, "Psychoanalysis" (Parker (112-47)

Overview: Murfin, "What Is Psychoanalytic Criticism?" (Brontë 348-59 or Mann 110-22)

Theory: Freud, from The Interpretation of Dreams

from "The Uncanny"

"Fetishism" (Leitch 807-45)

R, 3-8

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: Wion, "The Absent Mother in Wuthering Heights" (Brontë 364-78)

Week 10
T, 3-13

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: Symington, "The Eruption of the Other: Psychoanalytic Approaches to Death in Venice" (Mann 127-41)

R, 3-15

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

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

Week 11
T, 3-20

Marxism and Cultural Studies

Overview: Parker, "Marxism" (Parker 211-43)

Overview: Murfin, "What Is Marxist Criticism?" (Brontë 379-91)

Overview: Murfin, "What Is Cultural Criticism?" (Brontë 411-24 or Mann 171-85)

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

R, 3-22

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

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

Criticism: Eagleton, "Myths of Power: A Marxist Study on Wuthering Heights" (Brontë 394-410)

Exam 2 Due

Week 12
T, 3-27

No Class: Spring Break

R, 3-29

No Class: Spring Break

Week 13
T, 4-3

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, 4-5

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

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

Criticism: Armstrong, "Imperialist Nostalgia and Wuthering Heights" (Brontë 430-50)

Week 14
T, 4-10

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

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

Criticism: Foster, "Why is Tadzio Polish? Kulture and Cultural Multiplicity in Death in Venice" (Mann 192-210)

R, 4-12


Week 15
T, 4-17

Queer Studies Presentation

Overview: Parker, "Queer Studies" (Parker 179-210)

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

R, 4-19

Feminism and Gender Studies Presentation

Overview: Parker, "Feminism" (Parker 148-78)

Murfin, "What Is Feminist Criticism?" (Brontë 451-8)

Murfin, "What Is Gender Criticism?" (Mann 211-21)

Theory: Gilbert and Gubar, from The Madwoman in the Attic (Leitch 1923-38)

Theory: Beauvoir, from The Second Sex (Leitch 1261-73)

Exam 3 Interpretation Topic Due

Week 16
T, 4-24

Postcolonial and Race Studies Presentation

Overview: Parker, "Postcolonial and Race Studies" (Parker 270-313)

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

R, 4-26

Reader-Response Criticism Presentation

Overview: Tyson, "Reader-Response Criticism" (online)

Theory: Iser, "Interaction between Text and Reader" (Leitch 1521-32)

Theory: Fish, "Interpreting the Varorium" (Leitch 1970-92)

W, 5-2

Exam 3 Due by 2:00PM