In our era, criticism is not merely a library of secondary aids to the understanding and appreciation of literary texts, but also a rapidly expanding body of knowledge in its own right.    — David Lodge

Literary theory informs and changes the way we understand literature, and through this how we understand culture, history, politics and society. This course offers a survey of major theories and critical schools over the course of the twentieth century and recent literary development in the new millennium, including formalism, new criticism, structuralist and post-structuralist theories, psychoanalysis, new historicism, Marxist literary theories, postcolonial theories, critical race theory, feminism and queer theories. It addresses the key issues underpinning contemporary literary studies: what is theory and why it matters for our reading of literature; what is the relationship between literary texts and the social and/or historical contexts in which literature is produced and interpreted; how literature shapes our thinking of language, meaning, identity, gender, and subjectivity.

This course aims to demonstrate how literary theory illuminates texts and enriches our reading and enjoyment of literature. To demystify some key ideas and debates in contemporary literary criticism, we will apply different approaches in the reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby among other shorter texts in class. This course equips students with a range of critical and analytic vocabulary. It enables students to read and discuss selected works from the canon of literary criticism, and most importantly, to develop effective, informed approaches to interpreting literary texts.




This course will enable students to:

  1. Understand the historical and recent development of literary theory;
  2. Understand different theories and critical schools;
  3. Read extracts from selected works by theorists and critics;
  4. Apply critical concepts and theoretical approaches in analysing literary texts;
  5. Write coherent and argumentative essays.




We will meet once a week for three hours.  The course consists of formal lectures, group work, and discussions. Each week different students will present short argumentative papers on our weekly reading and its potential application to specific literary texts, which will pave the way to the writing of term papers.




  1. Class Participation/Attendance/Moodle Responses – 10%
  2. Paper Presentations – 20%
  3. Mid-Term Paper – 30%
  4. Final Paper – 40%


These are the core texts (available online): 

Seldon, Raman, Peter Widdowson, and Peter Brooker. Ed. A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory. (Harlow: Pearson Education, 2005, 5th edition)
Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996, 2nd edition; or 2008, anniversary edition).

We will use different theoretical approaches with The Great Gatsby. Please read it before the class begins.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. (Notes & Preface by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Simon & Schuster, 1995.)

Other theoretical materials and short literary texts will be made available on Moodle.



Last updated: 8 July 2019