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English 576: Introduction to Critical Theory

This course is designed to introduce graduate students to the current issues, methodologies, and debates in contemporary critical theory. The following table will help you to navigate this page. It provides syllabus and assignment information, links to other helpful sites, and access to the John Hopkins Online Theory Dictionary. I will update this page over the course of the semester and will welcome comments, suggestions, and even complaints as long as they are sweetly worded.

Course Expectations

The papers are, of course, required. As a general rule, mastery of the materials of critical theoryrequires a great deal of class participation. You will need to articulate your questions and concernsfor your own sake, but your questions will likely spark the interests of others. Here, perhaps morethan in any other course, there are no stupid questions. I encourage you to address questions to mebefore class meetings by email or by a note in my box if that seems like a more comfortable formatfor you. As long as you present your question before 9:30 the day of the class, I will do my best tomake sure we cover it in class that day. You will need to choose a day to present an essay from thesyllabus to your colleagues. We’ll discuss the particulars of your approach to the material in a briefconference a week before your presentation.

The Course Texts

  • Literary Theory: An Anthology. Edited by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.

(This is the default source for the readings).

  • Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Defoe, ed. Michael Shinagel, New York: Norton, 1993.
  • Reserve Poetry Packet, available in the reserve room. (P)
  • Reserve Readings, available in the reserve room. (RR)


The breakdown of grades is roughly as follows:

Class participation 15%
Class Presentation 10%
Paper 1 5%
Paper 2 30%
Paper 3 40%

Links to Other Theory Sites

The following links should help you get started as you navigate the web resources for critical and literary theory. Not all sites are equally useful, but each of the sites listed below has (potentially) something to offer you.