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 A&H 336 - Critical Perspectives on Literary Meaning


As literature is a socially important aesthetic message, learning to read it from multiple perspectives is a f​ine intellectual challenge. This is what our course is about: it prepares students for reading in the global and diverse world, from multiple points of view, and with an awareness of societal consequences of taking a stance on cultural meaning. What difference does it make to participate in culture and read literature as a humanist, feminist, materialist, psychoanalyst, gay, or a member of cultural minorities? What accounts for literary meaning and what is the relation of literature to other forms of cultural production?

The course provides knowledge practical for students who plan to major in literature, enabling them to read and write about literature in an informed and sophisticated way, being aware of values and assumptions involved in every act of reading.

In the course we will also discuss how major ways of reading literature have evolved throughout time, especially in the 20th century, and analyse how modern social context influenced readers’ sensitivity to literary meaning.

In order to demonstrate practical uses of theory, the course integrates conceptual knowledge with practical critical activity and application of concepts. Students will be expected to work on their critical apparatus, and perform readings of the following: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a poem by Emily Dickinson ‘I Started Early – Took My Dog’, three short stories: ‘A Rose for Emily’ by W. Faulkner, ‘Everyday Use’ by Alice Walker, ‘Don’t Explain’ by Jewelle Gomez, and one chapter of Ralph Ellison’s Novel ‘Invisible Man’.

Course books chosen for the course help students to realise how we ‘do things with texts’, and how we justify our own standpoint by referring to various theoretical paradigms. 


Dr. Ewa Tak-Ignaczak​




One of the following courses is required in order to take this course:

  • A&H 135 Great Literary Works
  • A&H 136 Introduction to Literary Studies
  • A&H 237 Life and Travel Writing  

By rejecting or ignoring theory, we are in danger of canonizing ourselves as literary saints who possess divine knowledge and who can, therefore, supply the one and only correct interpretation for a given text.
Charles Bressler. 2007. Literary Criticism. An Introduction to Theory and Practice. p.12