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Introduction to Literary Studies

Purpose of Course  showclose

This course will introduce you to the history and practice of English as a scholarly discipline with the goal of preparing you for your future endeavors as an English major. It has been designed to familiarize you with the various tools that scholars have devised in order to facilitate the study of literary expression in English, from critical frameworks to close reading techniques. After an introductory unit outlining basic approaches to literary analysis, we will embark upon a genre study, devoting each of the four remaining units to a different genre of writing: poetry, the novel, drama, the rhetorical essay, and the critical essay. In each of these units, we will review a general history of the genre, read a representative sample or set of samples, learn genre-specific critical terms and theories, and apply what you have learned to essays of your own. By the end of this course, you will have developed strategies that will enable you to understand, analyze, and critically respond to works in any genre at an advanced level.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to ENGL101!  General information on the course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designers: James R. Fleming and Mary Morley Cohen

Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:
Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials. Pay special attention to Units 1 and 2, as these lay the groundwork for understanding the more advanced, exploratory material presented in the latter units. You will also need to complete:
  • The Final Exam
Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the materials in each unit. Responding to the questions that follow each of the assigned readings as you take notes will help you prepare for the Final Exam.

In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 130 hours to complete. Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit and then set goals for yourself. For example, subunit 1.2 should take you 12.5 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunit 1.2.1 (a total of 1 hour) on Monday, subunit 1.2.2 (a total of 1 hour) on Tuesday, subunit 1.2.3 (a total of 2 hours) on Wednesday, and so forth.

Tips/Suggestions: It may help to take notes as you work through this course. These notes will be useful as you study for your Final Exam.  In your notes, try to respond to all of the study questions raised throughout the “instructions” section for each resource in this course.

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
  • demonstrate mastery and/or awareness of the major skills, techniques, and approaches necessary for college-level literary studies;
  • explain and employ in close readings of texts (i.e., poems, novels, plays, etc.) a variety of approaches to textual and discourse analysis;
  • define and identify a number of theoretical approaches to literary analysis;
  • employ poetic scansion and analysis techniques in the analysis of poetry;
  • explain basic narrative techniques and be able to identify various forms of the novel;
  • define a number of dramatic techniques and forms of theater and drama; and
  • recognize, compare, and contrast a variety of rhetorical forms and terms as well as concepts involving the essay form.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Be competent in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Unit Outline show close


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  • Unit 1: Text and Discourse  

    If you read regularly, you probably have a good sense of what kind of literature you like and what you don’t like. However, if you are like most readers, you may not know why you react in the ways you do or how, exactly, writing works to elicit these reactions from you. Many forms of literature, from novels to poems to plays, create a world and draw readers into this world. When we like what we are reading, we can get lost in this world. We may lose track of time, lose track of where we are, and lose control of our emotions. When this happens, our critical faculties are turned off.  By contrast, when we analyze literature and try to understand our reactions to it, we must turn our critical faculties on. In order to do this, we have to take a step back from the story we are reading to look at how it is constructed and for what purpose. In the following unit, you will learn about several styles of literary criticism that are all designed to give readers a critical perspective on what they read. Each critical style is designed to help readers adopt a new critical perspective, so that they can gain a deeper understanding of how the piece is created, what it means, and why readers react to it in the ways they do.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 Introduction to Literary Theory  
  • 1.2 Critical Approaches to Literature  
  • 1.2.1 Text-Oriented Approaches: Formalism and New Criticism  
  • 1.2.2 Text-Oriented Approaches: Deconstruction  
    • Reading: Bedford/St. Martin’s “Definition of Deconstruction”

      Link: Bedford/St. Martin’s “Definition of Deconstruction” (HTML)

      Instructions: Read this brief overview of Deconstruction published online by Bedford/St. Martin’s Press. At the end of the passage, you will find a model essay by Theodore Roethke entitled “My Papa’s Waltz: A Deconstructionist Reading.” Download this document and read it carefully.

      Consider the following study question: How does the practice of Deconstruction differ from New Criticism and other formalist approaches to literary analysis?

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

  • 1.2.3 Author-Oriented Approaches: Psychoanalytic  
    • Reading: Bedford/St. Martin’s “Definition of Psychoanalytic Criticism” and San Diego State University: Professor Laurel Amtower’s version of Sigmund Freud’s Essay on “The Uncanny”

      Link: Bedford/St. Martin’s “Definition of Psychoanalytic Criticism” (HTML) and San Diego State University: Professor Laurel Amtower’s version of Sigmund Freud’s Essay on “The Uncanny” (HTML)

      Also available in:
      PDF
      Kindle (Available for $9.99)

      Instructions: Read this brief overview of psychoanalytic criticism published online by Bedford/St. Martin’s Press and Freud’s essay to get a sense of his vision of psychoanalysis and a classic example of his psychoanalytic critique of a literary text. Freud’s work was seminal to the foundation of psychoanalytic criticism.

      Consider the following study questions: What is the purpose of psychoanalytical criticism? What does Freud mean when he refers to the “uncanny?” How is the “uncanny” manifested in literature?

      Bedford/St. Martin’s is an academic press that has made available on its website brief definitions and overviews of various critical and theoretical approaches to literature. Dr. Laurel Amtower has made available online Freud’s essay via her faculty website at San Diego State University.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the web pages above. “The Uncanny” is in the public domain.

  • 1.2.4 Reader-Oriented Approaches: Reader Response  
  • 1.2.5 Context-Oriented Approaches: Feminism, Gender Studies, and Queer Theory  
    • Lecture: Open Yale Courses: Paul H. Fry’s “Queer Theory and Gender Performativity”

      Link: Open Yale Courses: Paul H. Fry’s “Queer Theory and Gender Performativity” (Video)

      Instructions: Watch the following sections of the lecture, which you can select from the right side of the screen:

      • Chapter 2: In this part of this lecture, Fry is describing the ideas of Michel Foucault, a philosopher who believed that political power structures play a significant role in regulating sexuality.  
      • Chapter 3: In this section, Fry discusses the work of Judith Butler, a leading scholar in queer theory who has argued that gender is not comprised of natural or fixed bodily categories, but rather can be understood as a performance.  
      • Chapter 6: In these remarks, Fry explains why queer theory is relevant to the study of literature.
      Consider the following study questions: How are gender studies related to the psychoanalytic tradition of criticism? How might literature regulate sexual behavior?

      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Paul H. Fry.

    • Reading: Bedford/St. Martin’s “Definition of Feminist Criticism”

      Link: Bedford/St. Martin’s “Definition of Feminist Criticism” (HTML)

      Instructions: Read this brief overview of feminist criticism published online by Bedford/St. Martin’s Press

      Consider the following study questions: What is the primary focus of feminist criticism and theory? How do feminist critics and theorists regard the role of women in literature?

      Bedford/St. Martin’s is an academic press that has made available on its website brief definitions and overviews of various critical and theoretical approaches to literature.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

  • 1.2.6 Context-Oriented Approaches: Marxism and Critical Theory  
    • Lecture: Open Yale Courses: Paul H. Fry’s Lecture on “The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory”

      Link: Open Yale Courses: Paul H. Fry’s Lecture on “The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory” (Video)
       
      Instructions: Watch the following sections of the lecture, which you can select from the right side of the screen:

      • Chapter 1: In this part of the lecture, Fry expands on the Marxist concept of “ideology,” which is introduced in the above reading.
      • Chapter 6: At the beginning of this chapter, Fry discusses Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, German critics who argued that popular literature and art are created by a “culture industry” that creates artwork in much the same way as factory-made products are mass produced. Products of the culture industry encourage audiences to passively consume art and make them susceptible to easy manipulation.
      • Chapter 7: In this chapter, Fry discusses the theories of Walter Benjamin, another German critic sometimes associated with Marxist criticism. Unlike Adorno and Horkheimer, Benjamin believed that popular art forms had some redeeming qualities and could help audiences recognize and even subvert the controls of ideology.
      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Paul H. Fry.

    • Reading: Bedford/St. Martin’s “Definition of Marxist Criticism”

      Link: Bedford/St. Martin’s “Definition of Marxist Criticism” (HTML)

      Instructions: Read the brief overview of Marxist criticism published online by Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.

      Consider the following study questions: What is the primary concern of Marxist criticism? How do Marxists conceptualize social power structures?

      Bedford/St. Martin’s is an academic press that has made available on its website brief definitions and overviews of various critical and theoretical approaches to literature.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

  • 1.2.7 Context-Oriented Approaches: New Historicist  
  • 1.2.8 Context-Oriented Approaches: Postcolonial Theory  
    • Reading: Bedford/St. Martin’s “Definition of Postcolonial Criticism”

      Link: Bedford/St. Martin’s “Definition of Postcolonial Criticism” (HTML)

      Instructions: Read this brief overview of postcolonial criticism published online by Bedford/St. Martin’s Press. As you will see, postcolonial criticism is a subset of cultural studies and, like gender studies, focuses on the cultural assumptions and attitudes underlying literature.

      Consider the following study question: How might postcolonial criticism be applied to literature? Can you think of anything you’ve read that would invite postcolonial criticism?

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

  • 1.3 Try Your Own Literary Analysis  
    • Reading: Edgar Allan Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado”

      Link: Edgar Allan Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” (HTML)

      Instructions: Read Poe’s short story. As you read, consider the following study questions: Are the narrator and Fortunado really “friends?” What are the connotations of the name “Fortunado?” Is this name meant to be ironic? Amontillado is a very fine and expensive sherry. What does Fortunado’s taste in wine say about him?

      Terms of Use: Edgar Allan Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” is in the public domain.

    • Activity: Conduct Your Own Literary Analysis

      Instructions: Review the critical approaches described in this unit and choose one that you feel helps provide insight into Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado.”  Then, write a 1-page essay using this critical approach to analyze the short story.

  • Unit 2: Poetics  

    After the discovery of “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” we learned that poetry has been around since the third millennium, BCE (and likely well before that), and that it has survived, in one form or another, in every society since. But what is poetry? What distinguishes it from other forms of literary expression? In this unit, we will seek to clarify these questions by acquainting ourselves with the principle modes, styles, and elements of poetry in English. Along the way, we will read and explicate a number of the most widely anthologized poems in the English tradition, including poems by authors as varied as William Shakespeare and W. H. Auden.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1.1 Introduction to the Genre  
  • 2.1.2 Poetic Imagination  
  • 2.1.3 Poetry and Society  
    • Reading: Project Gutenberg’s version of Aristotle’s Poetics: “Sections I, II, III, and IV”, and Bartleby’s version of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry”

      Link: Project Gutenberg’s version of Aristotle’s Poetics: “Sections I, II, III, and IV” (PDF), and Bartleby’s version of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry” (PDF)

      Instructions: Scroll down and read only sections I, II, III, and IV of Poetics. In this essay, written in 335 B.C.E., Aristotle argues that poetry is, essentially, a form of imitation and that humans enjoy and learn from artistic mimicry. It is widely thought that Poetics is a response to Aristotle’s teacher, Plato, who argued in The Republic that poets should be banished, because they portray a false image of the world.
       
      Then read Shelley’s Romantic-era essay concerning the ways in which poetry should be defined and understood. This essay was written in 1821 and published in 1840. Like Aristotle, Shelley argues that poetry reflects a desire to reproduce rhythm, harmony, and beauty. Taking this argument one step further, Shelley believes that poets are visionaries who can order the world in new ways and positively influence civil society. According to Shelley, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”[1]

      Consider the following study questions: What does Aristotle consider to be the primary social function of literature? How does Shelley directly or implicitly rework some of Aristotle’s ideas? What is the status of poets and poetry in today’s society?

      Terms of Use: Aristotle’s Poetics and “A Defence of Poetry” are both in the public domain.

      [1]Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “A Defense of Poetry,” English Essays: From Sidney to Macaulay.  Harvard Classics. 1909–14.  http://www.bartleby.com/27/23.html
       

  • 2.2 The Basics of Poetics: Sound and Sense  
  • 2.2.1 Poetic Techniques  
  • 2.2.2 Poetic Rhythm and Meter  
  • 2.2.3 Scansion  
  • 2.2.4 Rhyme  
  • 2.2.5 Sound Patterns  
  • 2.2.6 Figurative Language: Metaphors, Similes, and Apostrophes  
    • Reading: Poetry Foundation’s Definition of “Metaphor”, Rutgers University: Dr. Jack Lynch’s Definitions of “Simile” and “Apostrophe”

      Link: Poetry Foundation’s Definition of “Metaphor” (HTML), Rutgers University: Dr. Jack Lynch’s Definitions of “Simile” and “Apostrophe” (HTML)

      Instructions: First read the Poetry Foundation’s definition of metaphor, then follow the link at the bottom of the page, which will take you to poems in the Poetry Foundation’s archive that make use of metaphor as a primary poetic device. Choose one of these poems, print it out, and underline every example of a metaphor that you find. Then, read Dr. Jack Lynch’s definitions of “simile” and “apostrophe.” Pay close attention to the examples provided.

      Consider the following study question: What is the difference between a simile and a metaphor?

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

  • 2.3 Matters of Form  
  • 2.3.1 The Basic Units: Lines, Couplets, and Stanzas  
  • 2.3.2 Stanzaic versus Continuous Forms  
    • Reading: Bartleby’s versions of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain” and “Song of Myself: Stanzas 1–10”

      Link: Bartleby’s versions of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain” (PDF) and Song of Myself: Stanzas 1–10” (PDF)

      Instructions: Read Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain” and stanzas 1–10 of his “Song of Myself” in order to gain a sense of the difference between stanzaic versus continuous poetic forms.

      Many literary critics and historians feel that Whitman was America’s first great poet. Whitman’s poetry is full of passion and personal expression, yet he also focuses on democracy and equality of the American people. Many contemporary American poets consider Whitman to be the greatest American poet of the nineteenth century and in possession of a remarkable and engaging measure of humanity and personal insight. “O Captain, My Captain” is an elegy written after the assassination of President Lincoln. “Song of Myself” is a celebration of Whitman’s self and through him, the self of all others. In essence, Whitman expressed vox populi, or the voice of the people.

      Terms of Use: “O Captain, My Captain” and “Song of Myself” are both in the public domain.  

  • 2.3.3 Fixed Form I: The Sonnets  
  • 2.3.4 Fixed Form II: Haikus, Villanelles, and the Sestina  
  • 2.4 Poetic Conventions  

    Note: In this unit, we will examine three different poetic conventions by poets that wrote in the same era—The Romantic Period.  By confining our study here to a single era, we will be able to see how contemporary poets made use of different traditions to express similar concerns.

  • 2.4.1 The Ballad and Oral Traditions  
  • 2.4.2 The Ode: Types, Tones, and Other Traditions  
  • 2.4.3 The Elegy  
  • 2.4.4 Lyric Poetry  
  • 2.4.5 Narrative Poetry  

    Narrative poems are poems that tell stories.  They are among the most ancient forms of storytelling and were often recited aloud or set to music.  Homer’s Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are all examples of narrative poems.  In the following subunit, you will examine two famous examples of narrative poems.

    • Reading: Bartleby’s version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Dartmouth Reading Room’s version of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost: Book 9”

      Link: Bartleby’s version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (HTML) and Dartmouth Reading Room’s version of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost: Book 9” (HTML)

      Coleridge also available in:
      Google Books
      Kindle

      Instructions: Read Coleridge’s poem (and its accompanying gloss) and Book 9 of Milton’s epic poem.  Note that Book 9 of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” is an example of epic poetry, which is a subgenre of narrative poetry.

      Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is widely considered to be one of the greatest epic poems of the English Romantic age. This richly symbolic story of the ancient mariner, who is seemingly cursed for killing the albatross and his resulting encounters with death in a variety of different forms, and left to forever wander and tell his story, is a richly allegorical and philosophical tale. The accompanying gloss notes – which were written by Coleridge after his composition of the original draft of the poem itself – serve to expand on a number of themes presented within the text and provide another set of ideas and a separate perspective on the events that occur within the poem.

      John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” is considered to be the greatest English epic poem. Over the course of the poem’s 10 books, Milton chronicles and reworks the Christian story of the fall of man in order, as he stated, to “justify the ways of God to man.” Milton explores a range of topics throughout the poem, including politics, faith, fate, and the nature of good and evil. In Book 9, which is presented here, Milton explores Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden and their fall from God’s grace.

      Terms of Use: “Paradise Lost” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” are both in the public domain.

  • 2.4.6 Dramatic Poetry  

    Dramatic poetry, as its name implies, is a poem that is intended to be enacted in a theater or that is written in the style of a play or the voice of a character speaking aloud. For example, Shakespeare’s plays are written as extended dramatic poems, and his characters speak to one another in verse. Some dramatic poems are never intended to be enacted but rather adopt the style of a live conversation or monologue. Robert Browning and Alfred, Lord Tennyson are among the best-known for this style of dramatic poem.  The genre of dramatic poetry sometimes overlaps with narrative poetry. For example, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is often considered an extended narrative poem; however, much of the story is told through dramatic monologue and dialogue. 

    • Reading: Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s version of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream: Act 1, Scene 1

      Link: Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s version of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream: Act 1, Scene 1 (PDF)

      Instructions: Read Act 1, Scene 1, of Shakespeare’s play for a classic example of the genre.

      Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is probably his most famous comedic play. The plot of the play involves the festivities surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens and Queen of the Amazons, a group of actors, two pairs of lovers, and the manipulations of a group of fairies who reside within the forest in which the play is set. The play is considered by many critics to be Shakespeare’s most inventive, subtle, and complicated work. In the first scene of the play, which you will read here, the Duke of Athens and Queen of the Amazons discuss their impending marriage and, among a variety of other topics, the nature of love.

      Terms of Use: A Midsummer Night’s Dream is in the public domain.  

    • Reading: Poetry Foundation's version of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess”

      Link: Poetry Foundation's version of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” (PDF)

      Instructions: Play the audio recording at the top of the page and read the poem as you listen.

      Consider the following study question: Why does Browning write his poem in a dramatic form?  How is the poem’s effect different from that of a narrative poem?

      Terms of Use: “My Last Duchess” is in the public domain. 

  • 2.5 Exercise: Explicate a Poem  

    In this unit, you have learned about several genres of poems. You have also learned several literary terms and techniques for analyzing poems. Now it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice by explicating a poem. Explication is a term literary scholars use to describe the process of analyzing every aspect of a poem, from its structure to its meaning.

  • Unit 3: Narrativity and the Novel  

    In the preface to his novel, The AmbassadorsHenry James once described novels as “the most independent, the most elastic, the most prodigious of literary forms.” With this high praise in mind, we will begin to examine this most popular of literary forms, from the reasons for its emergence in the first half of the eighteenth century to the mechanics of its construction. We will also acquaint ourselves with a variety of novelistic conventions and subgenres, recognizing – to quote James – the novel’s elasticity and range as a form. By the end of this unit, we will have developed an appreciation for the novel’s distinctive features – that is, what makes a novel a novel – and will be capable of both comprehending and discussing a novel at a high level, with the help of critical terms and theories.

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 The Rise of the Novel  
  • 3.1.1 What Is a Novel?  
  • 3.1.2 History of the Novel  
  • 3.1.3 The Spanish Picaresque, the French Romance, and Other Forerunners to the Novel  
    • Reading: Brooklyn College: Dr. Lilia Melani’s “The Novel”

      Link: Brooklyn College: Dr. Lilia Melani’s “The Novel” (PDF)

      Instructions: Read Dr. Melani’s “The Novel,” which speaks about the development of the modern novel out of the earlier genres.

      Terms of Use: “The Novel” has been reposted by the kind permission of Dr. Lilia Melani from Brooklyn College and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 3.1.4 “Popular” Fiction: The Middle Class and the Novel  
    • Reading: Brooklyn College: Dr. Lilia Melani’s “Robinson Crusoe as Economic Man”

      Link: Brooklyn College: Dr. Lilia Melani’s “Robinson Crusoe as Economic Man” (PDF)

      Instructions: Read Dr. Melani’s brief discussion of the relationship between Daniel Defoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe, and the rise of the British middle class.

      Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Dr. Lilian Melani and can be viewed in its original form here (HTML). Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 3.1.5 Verisimilitude: Reality and Representation in the Novel  
  • 3.1.6 The Form of the Novel and Early Novelistic Conventions in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe  
    • Reading: Project Gutenberg’s version of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe

      Link: Project Gutenberg’s version of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (PDF)

      Instructions: Read Defoe’s novel. Often considered the first novel in English, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe combines elements of adventure-writing with a keen attentiveness to the status of the Westerner in a post-Renaissance world. The story of Robinson Crusoe explores the relationship between man and nature, and man’s unique ability to adapt and reconceptualize himself.

      Terms of Use: Robinson Crusoe is in the public domain. Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.2 Narrativity and the Mechanics of the Novel  
  • 3.2.1 Characterization and Conflict  
  • 3.2.2 Narrative Technique – Perspective and Style  
  • 3.2.3 Imagery, Symbolism, and Motif: Means of Establishing Theme  
    • Reading: Oxford Tutorials’ “Imagery, Motif, and Symbolism”

      Link: Oxford Tutorials’ “Imagery, Motif, and Symbolism” (PDF)

      Instructions: Scroll down and study only the selections for “Imagery,” “Motif,” and “Symbolism” from this glossary of literary terms.

      Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Elizabeth Wood, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 3.3 Novelistic Conventions  
  • 3.3.1 The Bildungsroman: Goethian Roots  
  • 3.3.2 The Gothic: Tropes and Modes  
  • 3.3.3 The Gothic: A Close Reading  
  • 3.3.4 The Epistolary Novel and Framed Narratives  
  • 3.3.5 The Novel of Manners and Victorian Culture  
  • 3.3.6 Historical Novels and National Identity  
  • 3.4 Convention and Parody in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey  
    • Reading: Project Gutenberg’s version of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey

      Link: Project Gutenberg’s version of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (PDF)

      Instructions: Read Austen’s novel. As you read, consider how the novel portrays gender and class relations, the supernatural, and the Gothic. Jane Austen, one of the most popular novelists of all time (none of her novels have ever been out of print!), experiments with and satirizes a number of the novelistic conventions we have discussed in this unit in her novel Northanger Abbey, all the while making serious commentary on nineteenth century society. Austen’s novels tend to be dense and character heavy, so take your time reading this novel. Pay close attention to the discussions that the characters engage in with each other. Many of the key details and ideas that the novel explores are revealed and explored in conversations between characters.

      Reading this novel should take approximately 8 hours.

      Terms of Use: Northanger Abbey is in the public domain.

    • Activity: Historical Novel Essay

      Instructions: In the essay you read in subunit 3.3.6, Shamsur Faruqi says, “A historical novel is the creative imagination’s ultimate effort at making sense of things.”  In her novel, Northanger Abbey, of what is Austen attempting to make sense?  Chose one social issue that Austen explores in her novel and analyze how she does or does not make sense of that issue for her readers.

  • Unit 4: Drama  

    While elements of both poetry and narrative are present in drama, we will now encounter and account for a new dimension in cultural and literary studies: performance. Over the course of this unit, we will sample plays that exemplify different types of dramatic structure, acquainting ourselves with the basic elements of drama and the many purposes it can serve.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 4.1 Basic Elements of Drama  
  • 4.1.1 Classical Roots: Greek Tragedy  
  • 4.1.2 Term Toolkit: Chorus, In Media Res, and Other Essentials to the Study of Drama and Theater  
  • 4.1.3 The Unities of the Play  
    • Reading: Project Gutenberg’s version of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King

      Link: Project Gutenberg’s version of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King (PDF)

      Instructions: Scroll down and only read Sophocles’ play, Oedipus the King. This Athenian tragedy was first performed in fifth century BCE, but it explores the timeless conflict between forces of fate and free will. Give careful consideration to the function of irony in the play, and pay close attention to the relationships between various characters that are presented throughout the play. Keep this play in mind as you read Hamlet, too. Some critics have pointed out thematic similarities between the two plays.

      Terms of Use: Oedipus The King is in the public domain.

  • 4.2 Drama and Communal Purpose  
  • 4.2.1 Tragedy and Ancient Greek Society  
  • 4.2.2 Religious Ritual and the Mystery Plays in Medieval England  
    • Reading: University of Arizona: Dr. John C. Ulreich’s “Medieval Mystery Plays”

      Link: University of Arizona: Dr. John C. Ulreich’s “Medieval Mystery Plays” (PDF)

      Instructions: Scroll down to “Lecture 9” and select the link to open the lecture as a PDF. Read Dr. Ulreich’s lecture, which concerns the Medieval Mystery Plays.

      Consider the following study questions: What are the core components of a medieval mystery play? What makes a play a mystery play?

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.2.3 Elizabethan Theatre and Class Relations  
    • Reading: Bartleby’s version of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

      Link: Bartleby’s version of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (PDF)

      Instructions: Read Shakespeare’s Hamlet. As one of William Shakespeare’s most famous dramatic tragedies, Hamlet explores themes of treachery, incest, and moral corruption, and it has been the inspiration for innumerable adaptations and even psychoanalytical theories. Pay close attention to Hamlet’s shifting thoughts and emotions. Take note of how Hamlet develops as a personality and character throughout the play. Consider how he attempts to reconcile his father’s death, and his mother’s and uncle’s actions. Take notice of his treatment of Ophelia and the soliloquies he delivers throughout the play. Give careful consideration to Hamlet’s viewpoint on the meaning of life and death. As you read the play, pay close attention to the language that is used and the manner in which Hamlet considers not only the meaning of life and the purpose of his existence but also his wry and sometimes cutting – and darkly humorous – observations on life.

      Terms of Use: Hamlet is in the public domain.

  • 4.2.4 Why is Hamlet a Tragedy?  

    The answer to this question may seem obvious, but as you will recall from your reading in subunit 4.2.1, tragedy can be defined by language and characters as much as plot.

    • Activity: Critical Essay

      Instructions: Print out and annotate Dr. Mike Webster’s essay “Tragedy, the Basics.” Then, return to Hamlet and take notes on any parts of the play that either support or refute the play’s status as a tragedy. Afterwards, write a 1.5-page critical essay in which you explain why or why not Hamlet should be categorized as a tragedy.

  • 4.3 Drama in the Twentieth Century  
  • 4.3.1 Overview of Trends in Twentieth-Century Theater  
    • Reading: Excerpts from Bertolt Brecht’s “Modern Theater Is Epic Theater”

      Link: Excerpts from Bertolt Brecht’s “Modern Theater Is Epic Theater” (PDF)

      Instructions: Click on the link titled “Brecht epic theater” to read these excerpts from Brecht’s essay on modern drama.

      Consider the following study questions: What does Brecht consider to be the purpose of Modern theater? How do Modern theatrical practices differ from Pre-Modern theatrical practices?

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

      The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

      Submit Materials

  • 4.3.2 Post-Modern Drama  
    • Reading: Samuel-Beckett.net’s version of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot

      Link: Samuel-Beckett.net’s version of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (PDF)

      Instructions: Read Acts I and II of Beckett’s play. There is a link to move on to Act II at the very bottom of the Act I page.

      Subtitled a “tragicomedy in two acts,” Waiting for Godot is Samuel Beckett’s Post-Modern incarnation of the dramatic form. In the play, Beckett challenges dramatic conventions and denies the viewers’ expectations, leaving his work open to a number of varied interpretations. The play is widely considered to be a profound meditation on the meaning of life and the absurd nature of existence in the modern world. The meaning(s) of the play can be found not in the actions that occur but instead within the discussions – which are often circular and seemingly pointless – between the characters.

      Consider the following study questions: What might Godot symbolize in this play?  Why does Godot never arrive?

      Terms of Use: Waiting for Godot is in the public domain.

  • 4.3.3 Theater Culture Today  
  • Unit 5: Rhetoric and the Critical Essay  

    As you have discovered by now, literary criticism requires you to carefully read and analyze literary texts. It also requires you to develop a convincing argument that encourages readers to view a piece of writing in a new way. The best literary criticism can become a form of literature in its own right.

    Most literary criticism is written in the form of an essay, which is a piece of writing that makes an argument and that uses rhetorical devices, techniques intended to convince and persuade readers or members of an audience. The study of rhetoric first began in ancient Greece, and rhetoric is still an important foundation for writers of all genres today.
     
    In this unit, you will encounter several examples of literary essays, which are intended to reinforce many of the concepts you learned in the previous units. You will also learn how to conduct a meta-analysis of literary criticism. In other words, you will learn how to analyze and critique the essays that critique literature.

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 5.1 What Is Rhetoric?  
  • 5.1.1 Questions of Audience and Presupposition  
  • 5.1.2 Rhetorical Strategies: Ethos, Pathos, Logos, and More  
  • 5.1.3 How Texts Interact: Engaging with Discourse  
    • Reading: University of Illinois at Chicago: Gerald Graff’s They Say, I Say: “Introduction”

      Link: University of Illinois at Chicago: Gerald Graff’s They Say, I Say: “Introduction” (PDF)

      Instructions: Read Gerald Graff's introduction to They Say, I Say, which can be found by following the link to Graff's home page and clicking on the yellow circle that says  “read the introduction here.” In the book, Graff claims that academic argument is a dialogue in which the author recognizes what others are saying while making space for his own thoughts in that discourse. It is a useful introduction to the “academic moves” that experts make in crafting their arguments.

      Consider the following study question: According to Graff, how do literary texts interact with each other?

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.2 The Critical Essay  

    Note: In each of the following essays for this subunit, we will encounter a different critical approach to the same text, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which we read in Unit 4.  We will identify critical approaches, examine discursive practices, and attempt to evaluate the relative success of each.

  • 5.2.1 Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Lectures and Notes on Shakespeare”  
    • Reading: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Lectures and Notes on Shakespeare”

      Link: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Lectures and Notes on Shakespeare” (HTML)

      Instructions: Read Coleridge’s lecture on Hamlet. The article begins after the parenthetical remarks with the sentence that begins “The seeming inconsistencies…” Coleridge was the romantic poet who wrote “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” which you read earlier in this course. He was also an influential literary critic. His criticism often combines logical argument with an interest in his own emotions, and those of the characters he studies.

      Consider the following study questions: Coleridge is writing in 1818, well before the schools of literary criticism discussed in Unit 3. Which schools of criticism do you think Coleridge influenced? Why? What rhetorical strategies does Coleridge use? Do you notice any similarities between the writing style used in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and the writing style of this essay?

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the webpages above. “Lectures and Notes on Shakespeare” is in the public domain.

  • 5.2.2 Dr. R. Allen Shoaf’s “Hamlet: Like Mother, Like Son”  
    • Reading: University of Florida: Dr. R. Allen Shoaf’s “Hamlet: Like Mother, Like Son”

      Link: University of Florida: Dr. R. Allen Shoaf’s “Hamlet: Like Mother, Like Son” (PDF)

      Instructions: Read Dr. Shoaf’s article on Hamlet.

      Consider the following study questions: How does Dr. Shoaf conceptualize the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude? How would you define this type of literary criticism? What rhetorical strategies does Dr. Shoaf use?

      Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Dr. Shoaf, and can be viewed in its original form here (HTML). Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 5.2.3 Shakespeare and Public Discourse  
  • 5.3 Meta-Critical Essay  
    • Activity: Meta-Critical Essay

      Instructions: Print out and annotate Gerald Graff’s essay “They Say, I Say.” Then, choose one of the Hamlet essays you read in this unit and write a critique of that essay. Use the suggestions provided in the Graff article as a guide. Write a 1.5-page critical essay in which you critique one of the Hamlet essays you have read in this unit.

  • Final Exam  

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