online syllabus:

electronic reserves:
(password 511)

class handouts:

class email:

novel at

~ schedule ~



Literature 511: Literary Criticism

Summer 2008 

Dr. Abby Coykendall

acoykenda at

Office: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G

Phone: (734) 487-0147 (messages only)
Office Hours: MW 3:40-4:40

~ or  email for an appointment ~

Pray Harrold Hall 318

Registration #41866

Monday & Wednesday 1:00-3:40 PM


Literature 511: Literary Criticism

LITR 511 is a course in which we will investigate a wide variety of literary theory, both past and present, paying especial attention to the critical debates most influencing current practice in the field.  Literary criticism, and aesthetics more generally, has long held a vexed status within the public realm.  How we read, whom we read, and what we read says as much about our own values (and those of the larger culture) as it does about our facility to accommodate the values and the perspectives of others.  Although reading is in itself an ephemeral undertaking, reading theory can be even more so.  Theory is situated in an ambiguous and unnerving locale: between ourselves and the text, between others and the text, and ultimately between ourselves and others.  We will thus approach our theoretical texts in much the same fashion as we approach our primary texts: at once imaginatively and critically.  We will search for sites of affinity as well as sites of ambivalence, recurring motifs as well as recurring problems and paradoxes.  We will begin by briefly surveying the so-called “classics”--selections from Plato and Aristotle--and then move rather quickly to philosophers like Marx and Freud, writers who have most profoundly shaped the interpretation of literature and life itself.  We will primarily concentrate on the critical methodologies that have arisen during the last half century--deconstruction, feminism, queer theory, postcolonialism, new historicism, and cultural studies--testing out each of these approaches in turn through an ongoing analysis of a single literary work: Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

Texts and Materials

The following books are available at Ned’s (; 483-6400; 707 Cross St.), although some copies may be available at other EMU bookstores:


The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter

(Bedford, 2006; ISBN 0312415206)

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights.  Ed. Linda H. Peterson

(Bedford, 1992; ISBN 0312256868)

The remaining materials are in the Electronic Reserves (ER):** Make sure to bring a copy of each text that we will be discussing to class, whether it be an actual book or a printout from the Electronic Reserves.  You will need to have the readings on hand for group work and class discussions. 

Assignments & Assessment

Instead of a cumulative final exam, there will be various kinds of informal homework assignments due almost every class period to ensure your ongoing participation and progress over the course of the semester.  These assignments will not only keep you personally engaged with the array of the materials that we will cover, but also make the class as a whole more student-centered and interactive.  See the Weekly Homework Assignments handout for a description of the specific tasks due each day:   



Homework Assignments & Class Participation

due dates:


Proposal for the Seminar Paper (4 pages)

August 4


Conference Style Presentation on Paper Topic

August 20


Seminar Paper (10-15 pages)

August 25

Consult with me as early as possible in the term to brainstorm possible topics for the seminar paper, which constitutes a significant proportion of the final grade (with the homework coming in a close second).  The essay will offer an interpretation of Wuthering Heights from the point of view of a single theoretical paradigm, such as feminism, new historicism, or deconstruction.  You can recycle ideas that you generate through the homework assignments in the seminar paper itself; e.g. by answering one of your own discussion questions in more detail, by expanding one of your responses into a more formal essay, or by using the supplemental reading as a basis for further analysis and research.


Because this course consists primarily of reading, discussion, and collaborative inquiry--rather than facts, figures, or memorization--attendance is crucial.  According to the English Department policy, students who miss more than two classes (i.e. the equivalent of almost three weeks during a regular term) will not be eligible to pass.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is the use of concepts and/or expressions of others as if they are your own.  Any plagiarism will automatically result in a failing, zero-percent grade for the assignment.  It is your responsibility to acknowledge when you are drawing on outside sources for support or inspiration.  When you are paraphrasing, or describing the ideas of other people in your own words, make sure to acknowledge that fact by identifying the source (So and so says X ... ).  Most importantly, when you insert other people’s expressions directly into your text, credit those authors with the words and ideas, using quotation marks on either side of the passage (So and so says, “ X ... ”).  Any text without these acknowledgements or quotation marks is presumed to be your own by default; that is, your own ideas expressed in your own words.  If either of these are not in fact your own, but appear to be so because un-cited or un-quoted, they will pass as your own and thus be plagiarizing the original source.




Unless otherwise indicated, texts are located in The Critical Tradition.  Those marked “ER” are in the Electronic Reserves, and those marked “Brontë” are in Wuthering Heights.

Introduction of Students, Course, and Topic (Monday, June 30):

Theorists: Plato, “Allegory of the Cave” [ER]

Theoretical Overview: “What is [Theory]?” [ER]

Case Study: Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho (1960)

* In-class conjectural response and collaborative discussion.

Classicism and Dialogism (Wednesday, July 2):

Theoretical Background: “New Criticism” [ER]; Selections from Aristotle’s Poetics [ER]

Theorists: Harrold Bloom, “Elegiac Conclusion” [ER]; Gerald Graff, “Disliking Books at an Early Age” [ER]

Primary Text: Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (3-13, 25-48)

Optional Theorists: David Hume, “Standard of Taste”; Matthew Arnold, “Study of Poetry”

In-Class Case Study: M. M. Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel” [ER]; Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess” [ER]

HOMEWORK: Group 1 Respondent; Group 2 DQ; Group 3 Research; Group 4 Application

Formalism and Reader Response (Monday, July 7):

Theoretical Overview: “What is Reader Response Criticism?” [ER]

Theorists: Stanley Fish, “How to Recognize a Poem When You See One”; Judith Fetterley, Resisting Reader

Primary Text: Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (15-24, 48-146)

Optional Theorists: Northrop Frye, “Archetypes of Literature”; Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation”

HOMEWORK: Group 2 Respondent; Group 3 DQ; Group 4 Research; Group 1 Application

Classic Psychoanalysis (Wednesday, July 9):

Theoretical Overview: “What is Psychoanalytic Criticism?” (Brontë 348-59)

Theorists: Sigmund Freud, Selections from Interpretation of Dreams [ER] and “The ‘Uncanny’”

Primary Text: Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (146-188)

Optional Theorists: Sigmund Freud, “Creative Writers and Daydreaming” and Totem and Taboo [ER]

In-Class Case Study: Salvador Dali’s dream sequence in Spellbound (1945)

HOMEWORK: Group 3 Respondent; Group 4 DQ; Group 1 Research; Group 2 Application

Lacanian Psychoanalysis (Monday, July 14):

Theorists: Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage”; Jane Gallop, “Lacan’s ‘Mirror Stage’” (abridged) plus “Reading Lacan” [ER]

Primary Text: Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (188-288)

Optional Theorists: Slavoj Zizek, “Courtly Love; or Woman as Thing”; Frederic Jameson, “Imaginary and Symbolic in Lacan” [ER]

HOMEWORK: Group 4 Respondent; Group 1 DQ; Group 2 Research; Group 3 Application

Feminist Psychoanalysis (Wednesday, July 16):

Theoretical Overview: “What is Feminist Criticism?” (Brontë 451-59)

Theorists: Hélène Cixous, “Laugh of the Medusa” (with “Medusa's Head”); Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror [ER]

Literary Criticism: Lyn Pykett, “Changing the Names” (Brontë 468-77)

Optional Theorists: Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” [ER]; Mary Russo, “Female Grotesques" [ER]

In-Class Extra: Selections from the film Wuthering Heights (1939)

HOMEWORK: Group 1 Respondent; Group 2 DQ; Group 3 Research; Group 4 Application

Structuralism and Deconstruction (Monday, July 21):

Theoretical Overview: “Background on Derrida” [ER] and “What is Deconstruction?” [ER]

Theorists: Roland Barthes, “Striptease”; Jacques Derrida, “Structure, Sign and Play”

Context: “Critical History of Wuthering Heights” (Brontë 333-46)

Literary Criticism: Carol Jacobs, “Threshold of Interpretation” [ER]; J. Hillis Miller, “Repetition and the ‘Uncanny’” [ER]

Optional Theorists: Ferdinand de Saussure, “Nature of the Linguistic Sign”; Jean Baudrillard, “Precession of Simulacra”

In-Class Case Study: Posters for Wuthering Heights [ER] and “Grad Student Deconstructs Take-Out Menu” [ER]

HOMEWORK: Group 2 Respondent; Group 3 DQ (focus on the literary criticism); Group 4 Research; Group 1 Application

Classic Marxism (Wednesday, July 23):

Theoretical Overview: “Background on Marx” [ER] and “What is Marxist Criticism?” (Brontë 379-91)

Context: “Cultural Documents and Illustrations” (Brontë 289-330)

Theorists: Karl Marx, “Meaning of Human Requirements” [ER] and “Fetishism of Commodities” [ER]; Freud, brief selection from Three Theories [ER]; Frederic Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” [ER]

Optional Theorists: The Red Collective, “Revolution as Seduction, Pedagogy as Therapy, and the Subject is Always ‘Me’” [ER]

In-Class Film: Zizek! (2005)

HOMEWORK: If you are in Groups 1-2, write response interpreting Wuthering Heights from a psychoanalytic point view, and if you are in Groups 3-4, write a response interpreting Wuthering Heights from a deconstructive point of view; all groups should directly quote at least two theorists from their respective schools, and be prepared to discuss marxism and the contextual materials in class.

Marxist Schools (Monday, July 28):

Theorists: Louis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses; Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature

Literary Criticism: Terry Eagleton, “Myths of Power” (Brontë 394-410)

Optional Theorists: Crystal Bartolovich, “Consumerism; Or the Cultural Logic of Late Cannibalism” [ER]; Adorno and Horkheimer, “Culture Industry” (abridged) [ER]

HOMEWORK: Begin work on the Seminar Paper Proposal (due August 8); also be prepared to discuss how the various marxist theorists above would respond to Eagleton’s essay, focusing on a different theorist depending on which group you are in (Group 1, Althusser; Group 2, Williams; Group 3, Adorno & Horkheimer; Group 4, Bartolovich).

Materialist Feminisms (Wednesday, July 30):

Theorists: Luce Irigaray, “Women on the Market” [ER]; Donna Haraway, “Cyborg Manifesto”

Literary Criticism: Philip K. Wion, “Absent Mother” (Brontë 364-78); Abbie L. Cory, “Gender, Class, and Rebellion” [ER]

Optional Theorists: Monique Wittig, “One Is Not Born a Woman”; Rosemary Hennessy, Profit and Pleasure [ER]

HOMEWORK: Continue work on the Seminar Paper Proposal; also be prepared to discuss the ways that the feminist theorists above would respond to the literary critical essays, focusing on how a different theorist would see the strengths or weaknesses of each depending on which group you are in (Group 1, Wittig; Group 2, Hennessy; Group 3, Irigaray; Group 4, Haraway).

Postcolonial Theory (Monday, August 4):

Theoretical Overview: Begin “Postcolonialism and Ethnic Studies” (Critical Tradition 1753-69)

Theorists: Edward Said, Orientalism; Homi Bhabha, “Signs Taken for Wonders”; Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, “Three Women's Texts”

HOMEWORK: Begin finalizing the Seminar Paper Proposal; email a quote and a list of three main arguments from a literary critical article found in the MLA Bibliography that you plan to use for your paper (not otherwise assigned in class) to acoykenda at; be prepared to discuss how the various postcolonial theorists above would respond to that article, focusing on a different theorist depending on which group you are in (Group 1, Said; Group 2 & 3, Bhabha; Group 4, Spivak).

Ethnic Studies (Wednesday, August 6):

Theoretical Overview: Finish “Postcolonialism and Ethnic Studies” (Critical Tradition 1769-74)

Theorists: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “Writing, ‘Race,’ and the Difference It Makes”; Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark

Literary Criticism: Carine Mardorossian, “Geometries of Race, Class, and Gender” [ER]

Optional Theorists: Barbara Smith, “Toward a Black Feminist Criticism”; bell hooks, “Postmodern Blackness”

HOMEWORK: Group 3 Respondent; Group 4 DQ (one of them should focus on the literary criticism); Group 1 Research; Group 2 Application

New Historicism and Cultural Studies (Monday, August 11):

Theoretical Overview: “What is Cultural Criticism?” (Brontë 411-24)

Theorists: Nancy Armstrong, “Some Call It Fiction”; John Guillory, Cultural Capital

Literary Criticism: Susan Meyer, “Reverse Imperialism” (Brontë 480-502); Nancy Armstrong, “Imperialist Nostalgia” (Brontë 430-50)

Optional Theorists: Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies”; Michel Foucault, “What Is an Author?”

HOMEWORK: Group 4 Respondent; Group 1 DQ (focus on the literary criticism); Group 2 Research; Group 3 Application

Individual Conferences (Wednesday, August 13)

See Schedule online:

Gender Studies and Queer Theory (Monday, August 18):

Theorists: Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics; Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination”; Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, excerpt from Epistemology of the Closet [ER]

Literary Criticism: Lyn Pykett, “Changing the Names” (Brontë 468-77)

HOMEWORK: Email a quote and a list of three main arguments from a theoretical work that you are using in the paper (and not otherwise assigned in class) to acoykenda at and be prepared to discuss how the various gender theorists above would respond to that work, focusing on a different theorist depending on which group you are in (Group 1, Moi; Group 2, Butler; Group 3 & 4, Sedgwick).

Closing Activities and Due Dates:

Presentations: Wednesday, August 20

Seminar Papers Due: Monday, August 25 (12 Noon)


[Syllabus last modified August 7, 2008]