English 3900 Critical Approaches to Literature, Spring 2013

TR 2:00-3:15PM, Arts & Sciences 353

Interpretation Survey

Spend a few moments writing all the questions you ask of every work of literature you read. We'll post your questions here, and throughout the semester we'll compare them to the questions the theorists we're reading would ask.

Here are the questions the theorists we're reading would ask any work of literature:

In Class Activities

1. The New Critical and Russian Formalist Approaches to T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Break into four groups and discuss the Interpretation Survey questions above for your group's assigned theorist.

  1. John Crowe Ransom
  2. Cleanth Brooks
  3. William K. Wimsatt, Jr. and Monroe C. Beardsley
  4. Boris Eichenbaum

2. The Semiological, Structuralist, and Archetypal Approaches to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

Break into three groups and discuss the Interpretation Survey questions above for your group's assigned theorist.

  1. Ferdinand de Saussure
  2. Roman Jakobson
  3. Northrop Frye

3. Reviewing the Theories with Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre

Today, we'll review for the exam by asking and answering the questions literary theorists would ask of Jane Eyre. Each of the fourteen students will be assigned one theorist's set of queries.

  1. Lois Tyson, New Criticism
  2. T. S. Eliot
  3. John Crowe Ransom
  4. Cleanth Brooks
  5. William K. Wimsatt, Jr. and Monroe C. Beardsley
  6. Boris Eichenbaum
  7. Lois Tyson, Structuralism: Narrative Operations
  8. Lois Tyson, Structuralism: Codes of Interpretion
  9. Lois Tyson, Structuralism: Cultural Semiotics
  10. Ferdinand de Saussure
  11. Roman Jakobson
  12. Northrop Frye
  13. Tzvetan Todorov
  14. Roland Barthes

Article Summary and Critical Reading

GeorgiaVIEW Post

During the semester you will write two informal papers, an article summary and a critical reading, and post them to our course discussion board at GeorgiaVIEW > Discussions > Article Summaries and Critical Readings.


The article summary, which will summarize a particular theorist's essay, should

The critical reading, which will interpret a work of literature, should

Informal Presentation

You will also be responsible for a brief, informal presentation. The article summary presentation should introduce the essay by defining key points and terms (without simply reading your written summary) and broaching issues for class discussion. The critical reading presentation should poses the theorist's questions and interpret the work in response to those questions (without simply reading your written response).

Due Dates

  1. Your written assignment will be due in both 1) GeorgiaVIEW > Discussions > Article Summaries and Critical Readings and 2) GeorgiaVIEW > Dropbox > Article Summary or Critical Reading three days before we are scheduled to discuss an article. If you do not submit your written summary to GeorgiaVIEW before the article is discussed in class, you will fail the assignment.
  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.
  3. I will return your graded assignment to you in GeorgiaVIEW > Dropbox > Article Summary or Critical Reading approximately one week after we discuss the article in class.
  4. For example, we are scheduled to discuss Frye on Thursday, 1-24. Therefore, someone's summary will be due in GeorgiaVIEW by Monday, 1-21. In class on Thursday, 1-24, that student will informally present the main ideas of Frye's essay. I will return the graded article summary to her the following week in GeorgiaVIEW > Dropbox > Article Summary.

Note: As I wrote on the syllabus course schedule, we may have to slow down for certain theorists and theories. We will not be able to discuss each and every article in class. Thus, some articles may only be summarized on GeorgiaVIEW's Article Summaries discussion board and presented to the class by the person assigned to the article. Therefore, it is extremely important for each person to turn in the summaries on time and attend class for the presentation component. Summaries will be penalized one letter grade for each day, not class period, that they are turned in late. Failing to present the article to the class without providing a valid absence excuse will result in a one letter grade penalty.


AS stands for Article Summary and CR stands for Critical Reading


GAV Due Date Presentation Due Date Reading Student
M, 1-21
R, 1-24

Jakobson, "Linguistics and Poetics" and/or from "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances"



Frye, "The Archetypes of Literature"

2/AS Jaimee Yearwood


S, 1-26
T, 1-29

Todorov, "Structural Analysis of Narrative"

3/AS Megan Dent

3/CR Hillary Chance

Barthes, "The Death of the Author"

4/AS Erica Jones

4/CR Daniel Von Waldner

S, 2-9
T, 2-12

Foucault, "What Is an Author?"

5/AS David Porter

5/CR Kristin Karschner

M, 2-11
R, 2-14

Derrida, from Of Grammatology or from Dissemination

6/AS Taylor Green

6/CR Emily Frazier

S, 2-16
T, 2-19

de Man, "Semiology and Rhetoric"

7/AS Hillary Chance

7/CR Colin Pennington

M, 2-18
R, 2-21

Butler, from Gender Trouble

8/AS Kristin Karschner

8/CR Erica Jones

S, 2-23
T, 2-26

Baudrillard, from "The Precession of Simulacra"

9/AS Jessica Jackson

9/CR Danielle Bechtold

S, 3-2
T, 3-5

Lacan, "The Mirror Stage" or "The Signification of the Phallus"

10/AS Daniel Von Waldner

10/CR Taylor Green

M, 3-4
R, 3-7

Kristeva, from Revolution in Poetic Language


11/CR Jaimee Yearwood

Deleuze and Guattari, from A Thousand Plateaus

12/AS Tess Lyle

12/CR Jessica Jackson

S, 3-9
T, 3-12

Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema"

13/AS Danielle Bechtold

13/CR Catherine Ziemann

S, 3-16
T, 3-19

Trotsky, from Literature and Revolution


14/CR Megan Dent

Lukács, from The Historical Novel

15/AS Catherine Ziemann

15/CR Tess Lyle

M, 3-18
R, 3-21

Horkheimer and Adorno, from "The Culture Industry"

16/AS Emily Frazier

16/CR David Porter

Reading Journal or Blog

You will keep a reading journal or blog that interprets an outside work of literature from the range of positions held by the various theorists studied in class.


By Tuesday, January 15, select a work of literature (a long poem, a dense short story, a novel, a play, a film, or a television show).


Each week (except for weeks when exams are due), you will use your journal or blog to reflect upon the ideas of the week's theorists (focusing on one is preferred, but no more than two theorists) and explore how those critical methodologies would interpret your selected text.


Each entry should be approximately a couple of pages or 500 words. Journals will be collected randomly a few times during the semester. If you wish to keep a private paper reading journal, you should bring it to each class. Or, preferrably, keep a public blog at a site like WordPress or Blogger (part of your GMail account).


Because there have been significant problems with entries being written and submitted in a timely fashion, from February 12 on, there will be a late penalty for entries submitted 1-6 days after the due date (checks will become check-minuses, check-minuses will become zeros); entries one week late will receive no credit.


Here are the entry weeks and potential theorists' works to respond to:


Entry/Week Works

1 January 15

Ransom, Brooks, Wimsatt, and/or Eichenbaum

2 January 22

Tyson, Saussure, Jakobson, and/or Frye

Entries 1-2 Due on January 24

3 January 29

Todorov and/or Barthes

4 February 12

Foucault and/or Derrida

Entries 3-4 Due on February 14

5 February 19

de Man, Austin, and/or Butler

6 February 26

Baudrillard, Cixous, Tyson, and/or Freud

7 March 5

Bloom, Lacan, Kristeva, and/or Deleuze

Entries 5-7 Due on March 7

8 March 12

Mulvey, Žižek, Tyson, and/or Marx

9 April 2

Althusser and/or Jameson

10 April 9

Tyson, Gilbert and Gubar, Rich, Woolf, Smith, and/or Bordo

11 April 16

Solomon, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Heidegger, Dufrenne, and/or Kahn

Entries 8-11 Due on April 18


Here are the student selections:


Student Work

Danielle Bechtold

Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Hillary Chance

Plath, "Lady Lazarus"

Megan Dent

Orwell, Animal Farm

Emily Frazier

Once upon a Time (ABC, 2011-present)

Taylor Green

Girls (HBO, 2012-present)

Jessica Jackson

The Green Mile (Darabont, 1999)

Erica Jones

Django Unchained (Tarantino, 2012)

Kristin Karschner

Williams, The Glass Menagerie

Tess Lyle

The O.C. (Fox, 2003-2007)

Colin Pennington

Huxley, Brave New World

David Porter

Wallace, Infinite Jest

Daniel Von Waldner

The Wire (HBO, 2002-2008)

Jaimee Yearwood

Davidson, The Gargoyle

Catherine Ziemann

Revenge (ABC, 2011-present)

Group Presentation

In the formal presentation, three groups of four to five students will collaborate to teach three of the following eight critical approaches to the class:


cognitive criticism

existentialism and phenomenology

reader-response criticism

feminism and gender studies

queer theory

African-American criticism

postcolonial criticism



One week before the presentation, the group should inform the class of what 1 overview article (if not in Lois Tyson's Critical Theory Today) and 2-3 theoretical articles it will teach as well as provide the professor with clean copies of the articles (if not in Leitch's Norton Anthology).


During the 30-40 minute presentation followed by 10 minute question and answer session, the group should

I expect each group member to respect the group, communicate with the group, attend group meetings, and do her fair share of the work. If there is a major problem that the group cannot manage, let me know (anonymously if warranted) and I will decide if the project should be graded individually.


Sign Up


Date Theory Students
T, 4-9

Group 1


1 Hillary Chance

2 Emily Frazier

3 Taylor Green

4 Kristin Karschner

5 Jaimee Yearwood

T, 4-16

Group 2


6 Jessica Jackson

7 Erica Jones

8 David Porter

9 Daniel Von Waldner

T, 4-23

Group 3

Reader-Response Criticism

10 Danielle Bechtold

11 Megan Dent

12 Tess Lyle

13 Catherine Ziemann


Theory Selection


By Tuesday, March 19, groups will report their first and second choices of critical approach from the list above.

Exam 1

Exam 1 will cover formalism (New Criticism and Russian Formalism) and structuralism (structuralist linguistics, semiotics, archetypal criticism, narrative theory) and will be taken in class on Tuesday, February 5. There will be two essay questions. In the first essay, you will be asked to compare and contrast the formalist and structuralist methodologies. The second essay question will ask you to demonstrate and practice the formalist and structuralist critical approaches to literature on your choice of one text from the following, available in GeorgiaVIEW > Content > Electronic Course Reserves or online: A. E. Stallings' "Fairy-tale Logic," Monica Ferrell's "Myths of the Disappearance," Monica Ferrell's "Harmless, Recalled as a Fairy Tale," or Margarett Atwood's "Fiction: Happy Endings." 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 terms from particular theorists as well as on 2) your ability to assess similarities and differences between the two general theories.


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 and compose their definitions, 2) write practice essays comparing and contrasting New Criticism and structuralism using those keys terms, and 3) write practice essays interpreting the one literary work from formalist and structuralist perspectives using those key terms.


Note: It is impossible to illustrate your knowledge of all of these terms in a 75 minute exam. Prioritize the ones that are fundamental for an understanding of the general theory and distinguish particular theorists within that theory.

Exam 2

Exam 3

Student Work of Literature Theorists

Danielle Bechtold

Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz



Hillary Chance

El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero



Megan Dent

Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone



Emily Frazier

Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Horkheimer and Adorno


Taylor Green

Chopin, The Awakening


Jessica Jackson

Mishima, Confessions of a Mask



Erica Jones

Lee, Crooklyn


Kristin Karschner

Chopin, The Awakening or

Gilbert and Gubar


Tess Lyle

Addonizio, poem


de Beauvoir

David Porter

Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle



Jaimee Yearwood

Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds



Catherine Ziemann

Du Maurier, Rebecca


Gilbert and Gubar