LITR 300: Literary Analysis and Research 

Spring 2016   

Prof. James J. Donahue      267-2833

Office: 130 Morey Hall

This class provides an introduction to literary theories. In addition to reviewing the basics of literary criticism (e.g., interpretation supported by close reading), the course will introduce and examine a number of different methods of reading, analyzing, and writing about literature, including Feminist, Marxist, and Deconstructive approaches.

The purpose of “theory” is to help change how we read, how we think, and in some cases how we act. The goal of this course is to introduce you to materials that confuse, frustrate, or challenge your own existing ways of reading and interpreting literary texts. You will spend much of the time confused…at first. As we work through these theories, you will discover new methods of interpretation and new ways to explore how to make meaning out of the chaos that is art and culture.

Upon successful completion of this course, you will have:

  • Broadened your ability to analyze literature through understanding multiple theoretical approaches
  • Developed your skills in reading, writing, and speaking about literature
  • Built a solid base for continuing advanced literary study and engagement with the profession


James Joyce, “The Dead” (ed. Daniel R. Schwarz)

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (ed. Johanna M. Smith)

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights (ed. Linda H. Peterson)

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, Literary Theory: An Anthology



3 essays: 25% each

Final Exam: 25%

(See end of syllabus for essay instructions.)


Course Policies:

Attendance and participation are expected. Class is more interesting when everyone participates. Although no portion of your final grade is devoted to attendance and participation, being excessively absent or late may result in your final grade being penalized. Also, being absent does not excuse you from the work of that day. You are responsible for keeping up with the readings and for turning your work in on time.

Unannounced late work will not be accepted for any reason. Any arrangements must be worked out with me in advance. All due dates are noted below.

Students requiring special accommodations must see me as soon as possible, with proper documentation.

This material can be very difficult, as can I. My expectations are high, and I promise you the rewards will be as well. Upon successful completion of this course, you will be more familiar with many of the theoretical approaches employed by professional scholars. I love this material, and promise to share my excitement. In return, I ask that you devote the proper time and effort to the readings and writing assignments. Make no mistake, there is a great deal of reading for this class, and it will be challenging. But if you give it the time and attention it deserves, you will be well rewarded.

Final note: In this course we will be reading works that address adult themes, and often do so by employing adult language. These themes and this language may also become a part of our own intellectual discussions. Some of the issues and language choices may be offensive to some readers.

It is important to remember that our methods are analytical, and our goal is a greater understanding of the materials.

Further, there are multiple avenues for interpretation, and part of our goal will be to explore as many of them as we can. When discussing these issues and/or analyzing the language of the text, we must remember to be respectful to all. Intolerance of any kind will not be allowed in this classroom, and has no place in education.

If you have any thoughts, comments, questions, or concerns, I invite you to speak to me.

Course Calendar

 Week 1: Introduction/Structuralism I

M 1/25: Course Introduction

W 1/27: Rivkin and Ryan, “The Implied Order: Structuralism”

F 1/29: Ferdinand de Saussure, “Course in General Linguistics


Week 2: Structuralism II

M 2/1: Jonathan Culler, “The Linguistic Foundation”; Roman Jakobson, “Two Aspects of Language”

W 2/3: Vladimir Propp, “Morphology of a Folk-Tale”; Roland Barthes, “Mythologies

F 2/5 James Joyce, “The Dead”


Week 3: Deconstruction I

M 2/8: Rivkin and Ryan, “Introductory Deconstruction”

W 2/10: Jacques Derrida, “Differance

F 2/12: Jacques Derrida, “Of Grammatology


Week 4: Deconstruction II

M 2/15: Jean Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulations

W 2/17: Barbara Johnson, “Writing”; Helene Cixous, “The Newly Born Woman”

F 2/19: James Joyce, “The Dead”

(Recommended optional reading: “Deconstruction and ‘The Dead’”)

Paper 1 Due


 Week 5: Feminism I

M 2/22: Luce Irigaray, “The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of the Feminine”; “Women on the Market”

W 2/24: Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, “The Madwoman in the Attic

F 2/26: Coppelia Kahn, “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”


Week 6: Frankenstein

M 2/29: Frankenstein, 19-79

W 3/2: Frankenstein, 79-128

F 3/4: Frankenstein, 128-189

(Recommended optional reading: “Feminist Criticism and Frankenstein”)


Week 7: Spring Recess


Week 8: Feminism II (Intersectionalism)

M 3/14: Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”

W 3/16: NeMLA Conference (no class)

F 3/18: NeMLA Conference (no class)


Week 9: Gender Studies/Queer Theory I

M 3/21: Rivkin and Ryan, “Contingencies of Gender”

W 3/23: Gayle Rubin, “Sexual Transformations”; Michel Foucault, “The History of Sexuality

F 3/25: Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution”


Week 10: Gender Studies/Queer Theory II

M 3/28: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Epistemology of the Closet

W 3/30: Michael Moon, “A Small Boy and Others: Sexual Disorientation in Henry James, Kenneth Anger, and David Lynch”

F 4/1: Judith Halberstam, “Female Masculinity

Paper 2 Due


Week 11: Marxism I

M 4/4: Rivkin and Ryan, “Starting With Zero”

W 4/6: Karl Marx, “Wage Labor and Capital,” “Capital

F 4/8: Antonio Gramsci, “Hegemony”; Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses


Week 12: Wuthering Heights

M 4/11: April Recess

W 4/13: Wuthering Heights, 15-108

F 4/15: Wuthering Heights, 108-188


Week 13: Marxism II

M 4/18: Wuthering Heights, 188-288

(Recommended optional reading: “Marxist Criticism and Wuthering Heights”)

W 4/20: Mikhail Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel”; “Rabelais and His World”

F 4/22: Pierre Macherey, “For a Theory of Literary Production”

Paper 3 Due


Week 14: Ethnic Literary Studies/Critical Race Theory I

M 4/25: Ian F. Haney Lopez, “The Social Construction of Race”

W 4/27: Shelley Fisher Fishkin, “Interrogating ‘Whiteness’”; Toni Morrison, “Playing in the Dark”

F 4/29: Henry Louis Gates, “The Blackness of Blackness: A Critique of the Sign and the Signifying Monkey”


Week 15: Lougheed Arts Festival

No classes this week. Students are encouraged to attend arts festival events.


Week 16: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

M 5/9: Chapters 1-17

W 5/11: Chapters 18-30

F 5/13: Chapters 31-The Last

(Recommended optional reading: Jocelyn Chadwick-Joshua, from “The Jim Dilemma: Reading Race in Huckleberry Finn”)


The Final Exam will be given on the day and time assigned by the university. Please make all travel plans accordingly.

Essay Assignments:

  1. 4 pages: For your first essay, you are to provide a Structuralist or Deconstructive reading of “The Dead” (in whole or in part), grounded in the theoretical readings (from Rivkin and Ryan). Some questions to consider before you begin are: What does that particular theory value? What does that theory look for in a text? What passage(s) serve as the best examples for such a reading? How do the theoretical readings help provide a method for analysis? Your goal for this assignment is to demonstrate your ability to employ a theoretical model, and you will be graded on your ability to demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical text(s) you work with, as well as your ability to use those readings as a lens. Your goal for this assignment is to interpret “The Dead” according to the principles of the theory you work with.
  2. 5 pages: For your second essay, you are to provide a Feminist or Gender Studies/Queer Theory reading of either “The Dead” or Frankenstein. Using any of the theoretical texts read for this section, your goal is to provide an analysis of the text that engages the same concerns, issues, etc. (See above.)
  3. 6 pages: For this paper you are to provide a Marxist reading of any of the three literary texts read for class. Using any of the theoretical texts read thus far, your goal is to provide an analysis of the literary text that engages the same concerns, issues, etc. (See above.)

Final Exam: For your final exam, you are to provide an Ethnic Studies/Critical Race Theory reading of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Your goal with this exam is to demonstrate an ability to understand the theoretical essays and apply them effectively to the novel.

For each of the above assignments, you will be graded on the following:

  • Your ability to demonstrate an understanding of the theory
  • Your ability to apply that theory to the text of your choosing
  • Your ability to select and cite the most appropriate textual examples, and discuss them accordingly
  • Your ability to craft a structured, supported, and clear essay

For all but the final essay, you will also be graded on your ability to write clean, well-edited prose.

The final exam will be written in class, but you may prepare for this essay as you see fit. This exam will be open-book.

The exam will be held on the date and time assigned by the university. Make your end of semester travel plans accordingly.



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