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Literature

For a list of requirements for the major or minor in Literature, please click here.

The Literature Concentration approaches the study of English language and literature in terms of specific disciplinary practices and methods of analysis with clearly defined learning outcomes at each stage of the major. 

Our introductory, 1000-level courses emphasize the art of formal analysis (“close” or “slow” reading and observation), paying attention to the generic and stylistic characteristics of poetry, the novel, drama, and / or film within five different frameworks: Medieval and Renaissance, Neoclassical and Romantic, Victorian and Modern, American, and Film Studies. Each of these courses introduces students to the elements of literary and/or cinematic form. While taking their cue from the aesthetic practices and assumptions of a particular period or medium, these courses invite students to explore the various ways in which questions of literary genre and form have been understood over the course of the last ten centuries.

Our 2000-level courses operate at several different scales of historical and geographical analysis.  Some 2000-level courses, such as “Reading Shakespeare,” "American Modernism," and "Modern Asian Literature,” focus more intensively than our 1000-level courses on a discrete slice of literary history. Other 2000-level courses, such as “The English Novel” and “Women’s Writing,” follow a particular topic or genre over several centuries as a way of gaging how literature responds to and helps to shape social conditions over time. Whether the unit of comparison is a single decade (the “Roaring Twenties”), a geographical area (the view from Africa), or a tradition of writing by a particular social group (women, gay writers, African-Americans), all our 2000-level courses ask students to conceive of literature in comparative terms, as a product of historically specific environments and institutions.

Our 3000-level courses vary widely by subject matter but are united around the goal of enabling students to incorporate research methods into their interpretative practice. All 3000-level seminars familiarize students with the procedures and conventions of scholarly research as applied to a particular problem, field, or author(s). These seminars require students to generate a research paper of 10 or more pages with a substantial annotated bibliography. 

The seminar on Literary Theory, which is required of all students in the Literature concentration, asks students to explore a range of theoretical schools and movements (i.e., formalism, deconstruction, feminism, postcolonialism, queer theory, etc.). The aim of this course is to show how literary theory can provide a variety of interpretative lenses through which to conceptualize the objects of literary study. Building from this emphasis on the constructive power of critical theory, students are invited to explore how the study of literature necessarily leads into questions of power, location, language, and identity.

All majors in the Literature Concentration are required to designate one of their 3000-level courses as a seminar in which they will undertake a “Senior Thesis.” In addition to enrolling in a regular 3 credit seminar course, those pursuing the Senior Thesis will receive an additional 1 credit upon the completion of a research essay of at least 20-25 pages. The Senior Thesis must include some component of literary theory and a bibliography suitable to the depth and complexity of the subject in question.