College of Languages


Literary Criticism

Course Code C0270 Th 2 Pr 2 CrHrs 4

This course begins with a seemingly simple question: why do people read and study literature? It’s a question at the heart of English Departments today, yet it often goes unasked in the classroom. This course will keep it front and center as we survey how a wide range of critics, scholars, and artists have grappled with the uses of literature over the last hundred years. We will read from key essays of literary criticism and theory since the end of the nineteenth century, as well as some poems and plays from the period that have repeatedly turned up as test cases of new approaches to reading literature. Our goal is to understand what people thought about literature in the past so that we can articulate why we read it seriously now. This class will be organized around a series of recurring sub-questions that fall under our title: What is “literature,” anyway? What counts as “studying” it? What makes literature good or bad? Should we only study the good stuff? What makes literature different than or similar to other arts: painting, film, television, music, etc.? What is the relationship between an author and her work of art? Why do readers respond to literature in such different ways? Each week we will read exceptional essays of literary and cultural criticism that in some way try to answer one or more of the above questions. We will place the essays in intellectual and historical context, analyze them as rhetorical constructions, and assess their implications for the study of literature. Critical readings will be paired with short primary works throughout the semester.

  • One of the goals of the class is to analyze and discuss the works in their respective socio-historical contexts, with a special focus on the theme of encounter, be it textual or cultural. The impact of various factors (class, race, gender, generation, religion, and so forth) will be taken into consideration in our discussions. The students’ critical engagement with the assigned works of literature will be further enhanced by the historical and literary background provided by lectures and secondary sources.

No prior knowledge of or familiarity with the pertinent languages is required. All reading materials will be provided in English translation. 

Through individual reading, individual and collaborative writing, and active attention to and participation in class lectures and discussion, students who complete all of the activities in this course will be able to:
demonstrate familiarity with a variety of world literatures as well as methods of studying literature and culture across national and linguistic boundaries and evaluate the nature, function and value of literature from a global perspective.
Identify and become familiar with the key literary elements and rhetorical devices represented in these highly influential literary masterpieces from Greece, Asia and Africa.
demonstrate critical reasoning and research skills; to design and to conduct research in an individual field of concentration;
This course fulfills Core Learning Goal (analyzing arts and/or literatures in themselves and in relation to specific histories, values, languages, cultures, and technologies).
To meet these objectives, class time will incorporate lecture, class and group discussion, audio-visual presentations, and a variety of in-class exercises.
The main classroom activity will involve detailed analysis and discussion of specific passages from the weekly readings, but in-class activities will also include reading out loud, group work, oral presentations, and short in-class writing exercises.
Students will be prepared to discuss the assigned readings. Students must bring the readings to class and should prepare notes on the readings, highlighting and researching unfamiliar words, contexts, or references. Students will be asked in-class to provide an analysis of a passage from the assigned reading.    
Where appropriate, students may need to look up specific words or research the historical context.
My teaching philosophy and practice emphasize the importance of interaction; this means that I attempt to foster an informal and open atmosphere in class whereby everyone is encouraged to express her or his views and to listen to the views of others. My wish is that we all benefit and learn from an atmosphere characterized by respect.

Distribution of Marks

First Semester


Second Semester

Final Exam

Final Mark




















LITERARY CRITICISM: An Introduction to Theory and Practice

Charles E. Bressler


[M._A._R._Habib] A History of Literary Criticism


Literary Theory: An Introduction

By Terry Eagleton. University of Minnesota Press


Introduction to Literary Criticism

History: Plato

History: Aristotle

History: Horace

History: Longinus

History: Sidney

History: Wordsworth and Coleridge

The Romantic Critical Theory Wordsworth and Coleridge

Literary Approaches: Psychoanalysis

Application of Psychoanalysis

Literary Approaches: Marxism

Application of Marxism

Literary Approaches: Feminist Theory

Application of Feminist Theory

Literary Approaches: Reader-Response Criticism

Application of Reader-Response Criticism

Application of New Historical and Cultural Criticism

Literary Approaches: Postcolonial Criticism

Application of Postcolonial Criticism

Literary Selections – Readings and applications

Overview of the Course