Department of English Department of English College of Arts and Sciences
Course Descriptions

This introductory course in literary studies is designed to familiarize the beginning or intermediate graduate student with the form and theory of advanced literary criticism.  We will survey a variety of different theoretical approaches to interpreting literature, consider some of the different modes in which literary scholars work, and practice the craft of the literary critic through a number of different ‘products.’  Though our reading will not be deep in any one field or author, students are required to engage critically with each text so as to gain a better understanding of the different possibilities for literary scholarship.  The successful student will come away with a greater understanding of the potential of literary criticism, an appreciation for the real labor involved in the field, as well as a deeper knowledge of the skills and tools available to scholars.

The bulk of our time this semester will be spent surveying some of the field’s most influential theoretical modes and applying them to our two primary texts, Zadie Smith's novel White Teeth and Tim O'Brien's short story cycle The Things They Carried.   We will also discuss a number of different professional concerns, host guest speakers, and conduct an in-class academic conference.  Students will be responsible two presentations, a seminar paper, as well as a number of shorter written assignments.  Engaged, thoughtful class discussion is required; absences will not be tolerated.

Required Texts


The following texts are available from the University of Memphis bookstore, as well as a number of local and online retailers.  Please be certain to purchase the edition indicated.


Abrams, M. H. and Geoffrey Galt Harpham.  A Glossary of Literary Terms.  9th edition.  Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009.  ISBN: 9781413033908.


Culler, Jonathan.  Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction.  New York, Oxford UP: 2001.  ISBN: 978-0192853837.


Gibaldi, Joseph, ed.  MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.  7th edition.  New York: Modern Language Association, 2009.  ISBN: 9781603291241.  (Highly recommended but not required.)


O’Brien, Tim.  The Things They Carried.  New York: Broadway, 1990.  ISBN: 0767902890.


Richter, David H., ed.  The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends.  3rd edition.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007.  ISBN: 0312415206.


Smith, Zadie.  White Teeth: A Novel.  New York, Vintage: 2001.  ISBN: 9780375703867.

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