Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Techniques of Close Reading and Comparative Literature

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION ‘Applied Theory’: An Introduction


The study-unit introduces students to some of the techniques through which theories of literature may be brought to bear on the critical analysis of literary texts.


The study-unit seeks to demonstrate how theories of literature can inform critical practice. It bases itself on ongoing reference to studies which are well established in this field, and particularly to the texts edited by David Lodge, Douglas Tallack, Raman Selden, and Julian Wolfreys and William Baker (see bibliographic details below). It will also look at readings by major theorists of canonical texts. For the purposes of allowing students experience in theoretically informed critical practice, Henry James’s short story, ‘The Figure in the Carpet’, will be extensively discussed in seminars which will assess the tale’s relative amenability to different interpretations.

Comparative Literature: An Introduction


The study-unit provides an introduction to comparative literature, and to the critical approaches by which the nature of literary influence and cross-cultural and intertextual affinities across texts can be brought to light.


The first part of the study-unit will briefly review the indebtedness of English and American literature to other literary traditions, and assess the issues which this raises for critical practice. Students will be introduced to concepts involving comparatism, intertexuality, and the study of literary influence. Reference will be made to Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence and to theories of intertextuality associated with critics like Julia Kristeva and Michael Riffaterre. In order to allow for a ‘case studies’ component in the course, subsequent sessions will focus on the study of specific instances of literary influence and correspondences between texts; particular reference will be made to the work of Coetzee, Defoe. Kafka and Derrida. The aim will therefore be that of providing practical demonstrations of how correspondences between texts can be studied. Students will be expected to explore how an awareness of the intertextual issues discussed in the course can help in developing enhanced methods of critical practice.

Reading List

‘Applied Theory’: An Introduction

Selected Reading
- Lodge, David, Working with Structuralism: Essays and Reviews on Nineteenth- and Twentieth-century Literature (London: Routledge, 1982).
- Selden, Raman, Peter Widdowson, and Peter Brooker, A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory (London: Longman, 2005).
- Tallack, Douglas, Literary Theory at Work: Three Texts (London: Batsford, 1987).
- Wolfreys, Julian, and William Baker, Literary Theories: A Case Study in Critical Performance (London: Macmillan, 1996).

Comparative Literature and Intertextuality: An Introduction

- Allen, Graham, Intertextuality (London: Routledge, 2000).
- Bakhtin, M.M., The Dialogic Imagination (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981).
- Bloom, Harold, The Anxiety of Influence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
- Coetzee, J.M., Foe (London: Penguin, 1987).
- Coetzee, J.M., Elizabeth Costello (London: Vintage, 2004).
- Culler, Jonathan, ‘Comparative Literature, at Last’, in The Literary in Theory (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007).
- Derrida, Jacques, ‘Before the Law’, in Jacques Derrida: Acts of Literature, ed. By Derek Attridge (London: Routledge, 1992).
- Eliot, T.S., ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’, in Selected Essays (London: Faber, 1999).
- Moi, Toril, ed., The Kristeva Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986).
- Orr, Mary, Intertextuality: Debates and Contexts (Cambridge: Polity, 2003).
- Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, Death of a Discipline (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Take Home Examination (3 Hours) SEM1 Yes 50%
Assignment SEM1 Yes 50%

LECTURER/S Mario Aquilina
Marija Grech

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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.