Literary Theory - EN889

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 3)
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7 30 (15) PROF D Ayers







On this module we conduct a broad survey of modern literary and critical theory, but in a revisionist spirit, asking what were the moments that generated certain critical turns, and examining the broad historical impetus of change, such as the Russian Revolution, the Cold War, and the revolts of 1968. In the first part of the module we look at developments in the early twentieth century which gave shape to modern literary studies; in the second part of the module we look at developments from the second half of the century to the present day. As well as reading the texts of theory, we aim to understand its historical and institutional contexts, and our overall objective is to understand and analyse some of the recent turns in critical discourse, such as transnationalism, and the turn away from theory to the archive.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 280
Total Study Hours: 300


Spring in 2019/20

Method of assessment

Assignment (5,000 words) – 100%

Indicative reading

All readings will be taken from The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, edited by Vincent Leitch et al. (Norton, 2010)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of some of some recent strands of literary theory and their associated reading practices;

2. Demonstrate a knowledge of the ways in which such theories compete with and complement each other;

3. Explore such key concepts as deconstruction, critique, rhetoric, language, discourse, ideology, the subject, gender, and identity;

4. Consider the complex processes by which concepts, terms, topics, themes and procedures from French and German philosophy have been adapted to the subject area of English Literature;

5. Demonstrate an understanding of, and competence in handling, the analytic tools and vocabularies which are the substance of modern literary-theoretical thought.

6. Demonstrate the ability read a range of literary-theoretical material genres and assess the relationship among a variety of intellectual frameworks;

7. Demonstrate the skills necessary for participating in group discussions and giving oral presentations;

8. Demonstrate the capacity for self-directed research and the ability to critically evaluate and creatively deploy recent theoretical perspectives;

9. Demonstrate an ability to construct original, innovative and complex arguments.

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