BA Art History and English Literature

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Theory and Text

Unit code ENGL10062
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course introduces first year students to literary and critical theory. This will be done by looking at key issues to do with interpretation, textuality and authority.  We will explore the concepts of reader, text and author using a mixture of literary, filmic, and theoretical texts


  • To help students reflect on their position as culturally and historically situated readers;
  • To challenge contemporary 'common sense ' approaches to reading;
  • To rigorously examine how thinkers from different historical periods have examined the problems of textuality, power and value;
  • To help students learn how to examine, discuss, and defend a theoretical position;
  • To examine the category of 'the literary';
  • To encourage and facilitate reflection on the relevance of theory in relation to a large variety of texts and genres;
  • To encourage students to reflect on habits of reading, and on how gender, ethnicity and sexuality play crucial roles in discussions of authorship and readership;
  • To familiarise students with key critical notions which will help their criticism in future years.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:


  • Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of key theoretical issues such as: narration, intentionality, authority, cultural value, genre, ideology, habits of reading.
  • Show an ability to close read and analyse both primary texts and relevant theoretical interventions.
  • Demonstrate an ability to develop an independent critical position in relation to these.
  • Evidence an ability to enter literary and non-literary texts into a dialogue with theoretical texts.
  • Show an ability to rigorously argue and defend one’s own critical position through textual evidence.
  • Demonstrate an ability to write with a degree of self-reflectivity (i.e. to reflect on one’s own critical language and approach).
  • Demonstrate an ability to see the connection between self-reflective thinking in relation to literary, cinematic, and theoretical texts, and our day-to-day critical practices.
  • Show an ability to transfer the analytical and self-reflective skills acquired on this course to non-academic environments.


Weekly Schedule
Week 1. Introduction (JR)
Chapters ‘The beginning’, ‘Readers and reading’, ‘The author’, and ‘Me’, from Bennett and Royle
Week 2. Reading the Cultural Text (JR)
Roland Barthes, Mythologies (Hill and Wang)
Week 3. What is a Reader? (DC)
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (Norton Critical Edition)
Jodi L. Wyett, ‘Female Quixotism Refashioned: “Northanger Abbey”, the Engaged Reader, and the Woman Writer’ (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Wolfgang Iser, ‘Interaction between Text and Reader’ (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Week 4. What is an Author? (AV)
Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Purloined Letter’ (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’ (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Michel Foucault, ‘What is an Author?’ (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Week 5. The Text and the Real (DC)
Aristotle, Poetics (Penguin Classics). Please focus on chapters 1-8 and 10-13
The opening of Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Plato, The Republic, Book X (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Week 6. Literature and Environment (DC)
A selection of poetry (Blackboard)
Chapters ‘Eco’ and ‘Animal’ from Bennett and Royle
Pam Morris, Realism, pp. 1-13 (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Week 7. Psychoanalysis and Textual Analysis (JS)
Elizabeth Wright, Psychoanalytic Criticism: A Reappraisal, pp. 1-23 (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Todd McGowan, Psychoanalytic Film Theory and The Rules of the Game, pp. 1-90 (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Week 8. Reading the Monstrous-Feminine on Screen (JS)
Ridley Scott, dir., Alien (I will post a link to the film on Blackboard)
Barbara Creed, The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism and Psychoanalysis, pp. 1-30 (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Week 9. Finish Early for Easter (for Theory and Text only)
For this module, we will finish one week early for Easter. Your other modules will still run in week 9 unless you are told otherwise. The Easter break officially starts at the end of week 9.
Week 10. Reading the Other I (AV)
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (Wordsworth Classics)
Extracts from Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Week 11. Reading the Other II (JR)
Caryl Phillips, Cambridge (Vintage)
Extracts from Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (Course booklet and Blackboard)
Week 12. Conclusion (JR)
Chapters ‘The Text and the World’, ‘Pleasure’, and ‘The end’, from Bennett and Royle
Conclusions and essay revision

Teaching and learning methods

One 2-hour lecture per week, plus one 1-hour seminar per week.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate arguments and texts. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently.
Group/team working
Students taking this unit will be able to work courteously and constructively as part of a larger group.
On this unit students are encouraged to respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by texts and other media.
Students on this unit must take responsibility for their learning and are encouraged not only to participate in group discussions but to do so actively and even to lead those discussions.
Project management
Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines and to manage their time effectively.
Oral communication
Students taking this unit will be able to show fluency, clarity and persuasiveness in spoken communication.
Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods

Essay 1 (35%)

Essay 2 (65%)

Feedback methods

Written and face-to-face (upon arrangement)

Recommended reading

Books to Purchase
¿ Roland Barthes - Mythologies (Hill & Wang)
¿ Jane Austen - Northanger Abbey (Norton Critical)
¿ Aristotle - Poetics (Penguin)
¿ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (Wordsworth Classics)
¿ Caryl Phillips, Cambridge (Vintage)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
John Roache Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Timetable for 2019/20:

Lecture: Mon 10am - 12pm

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