This syllabus is subject to change. The latest version on this website is the binding syllabus.

Office: Bartlett 259
Office Hours: Wed and by appointment.
545-6598 | sharris@english.umass.edu

W 1:00pm - 3:30pm

COURSE: This course introduces students to current debates, issues, and challenges inherent in the discipline of literary study. This course incorporates two separate though related lines of inquiry. The first line traces the historical transition from Matthew Arnold to the postmodern linguistic turn and beyond. We will examine textual criticism, stylistics, structuralism, Marxism and cultural materialism, deconstruction, and second-wave Feminism. The second line of inquiry opens the discussion to the literary profession. You will be encouraged to investigate top journals in your field, to acquaint yourself with some of the UMass faculty working in specific areas, and to pursue archival and web-based research. Course requirements are limited to two presentations, a number of leads, and a final paper.

BOOKS: We will be using:

  1. BRADFORD, Richard. Stylistics. Routledge, 1997.
  2. CULLER, Jonathan. Pursuit of Signs. Cornell UP, 2002.
  3. EAGLETON, Terry. Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader. Blackwells, 1996.
  4. EAGLETON, Terry. Marxism and Literary Criticism. U California, 1983.
  5. WILSON, Edmund. To the Finland Station. NY Review of Books, 2003.
  6. McQUILLAN, Martin. Deconstruction: A Reader. Routledge, 2001.
  7. NORRIS, Christopher. Deconstruction: Theory and Practice. Routledge, 2002.
  8. IRIGARAY, Luce. Speculum of the Other Woman. Cornell UP, 1985.
  9. CIXOUS, Helene. The Newly Born Woman. U Minnesota, 1986.
  10. BUTLER, Judith. Gender Trouble. 10th ed. Routledge, 1999.
  11. HEANEY, Seamus. Beowulf. Norton, 2000.

All will be available at Amherst Books (formerly Atticus Book) in Amherst, 8 Main St. I encourage you to buy them all. Recommended readings will be on reserve at Du Bois.

Course Links:

MOVIES. I have recommended a few relevant films. These are purely optional, and can be had on campus from either the library or the DEFA film archives in Herter Hall. Look for the exciting icon in the schedule!


STRUCTURE AND OBJECTIVES: The general objectives of this course are to have you engage knowledgeably with literary theory, to apply that theory, and to see how theory interacts with the business of English Departments.


Each person is responsible for one presentation and a write-up; During the 15-minute presentation, you will summarize the views of a philosopher or critic whose work relates to the theory we are considering. A three-page write-up is due within 10 days of this presentation. Each person is also responsible for a lead, which is a brief (3- to 5-minute) introduction of a text during which you raise questions and issues of relevance for class discussion. Finally, each person is responsible for a final paper. It is to be 20 to 25 pages, fully documented, and to engage one of the critical approaches we discuss.

GRADING: The breakdown of your class grade is as follows:

  • presentation : 10%
  • presentation write-up: 20%
  • lead: 5%
  • final paper 65%

CONFERENCES: I encourage you to meet with me at least once during the semester. Please let me know beforehand if you would like to meet during my office hours. Otherwise, please make an appointment to meet with me at a time convenient to you and I will try to oblige.

NOTE 1: Please make and keep a copy of all your assignments. That copy may be a disc copy. You do not want to risk your work to the caprices of an indifferent fate. Also, in case any difficulties arise with respect to misplaced assignments or with respect to discrepancies between your records and my own, I will accept the evidence of your computer system's dating function. For your own peace of mind, I suggest that you lock any document on the day it is due. That will prevent your computer's operating system from associating your document with a later date.

NOTE 2: The course schedule is subject to change. It is not to be construed as a substitute for your attendance or as a catalogue of all the information for which you are responsible. All changes will be announced with a reasonable lead time. This syllabus constitutes a binding contract. If you do not agree with any of the provisions set herein or if you foresee disagreeing with any of the provisions which may reasonably be added during the course of the term, then you are free to drop this class within the time allotted by the university.

NOTE 3:All material pertaining to this course--namely handouts, quizzes, exams, tests, maps, graphs, charts, printed matter, recorded matter, electronic matter including but not limited to this syllabus and associated electronic documents, films, video clips, conversations, office consultations, classroom responses, lectures, asides, answers to classroom queries, and related utterances--is copyrighted material and is subject to international and US laws of copyright. Enrollment in this course constitutes tacit acceptance of this agreement and of the copyright claims made therein. Any breach of this agreement or use of copyrighted material by any member of the university or the public without prior consent will be met with legal action.