University of Surrey - Guildford

Registry > Module Catalogue
View Module List by A.O.U. and Level  Alphabetical Module Code List  Alphabetical Module Title List  Alphabetical Old Short Name List  View Menu 
2010/1 Module Catalogue
 Module Code: ELI1004 Module Title: THEORIES OF READING
Module Provider: English Short Name: ELI1004
Level: HE1 Module Co-ordinator: GIBSON SE Dr (English)
Number of credits: 30 Number of ECTS credits: 15
Module Availability

Year long

Assessment Pattern

Unit(s) of Assessment


Weighting towards Module Mark (%)






Exam: Text Analysis (semester 1)




Exam: Comparative analysis  (semester 2)




Module Overview

The module aims to give students the necessary methodologies for undertaking close reading of literary texts and a self-aware understanding of their own subject positions in so doing. It provides wide coverage of different forms of theory and sets this alongside ample opportunity to practice critical analyses on the programme's set texts. The module acts as a basis for levels 2 and 3 where the theoretical knowledge and application skills will be reinforced.



The module is based on a specific reader, Rivkin and Ryan (eds.) Literary Theory: An Anthology, for three reasons: first, students will have a considerable degree of reading to undertake in their parallel modules and this rationalises preparation time as well as allowing them to use the material discussed in lectures on that course and throughout the degree programme. The text provides students with the opportunity to engage directly with primary theoretical readings; and it reduces the overall cost of studying English that is quite high in terms of book purchase. Each session will encourage engagement with primary materials through close reading. Tutors will be able to choose the literary texts for close analysis from the range of material taught in the World Literatures and Cultures, and Genres and Contemporary Writing modules.



Teaching is divided into one hour lectures and two-hour workshops to allow students to work through the new skills acquired.



The assessment is designed to give students a variety of skills that they will use in their overall degree:


The Presentation is designed to develop oral skills and confidence in presentation work at the beginning of Level 1. These group presentations will focus on one particular theory for discussion in the workshops.



The combination of a close analysis and an exam based on discussion of theories combines testing of wide knowledge as well as independent analysis. Students will be asked to write a close analysis of an (unseen) excerpt from a literary text using one theoretical approach. The exam will take the form of a take-away paper asking students to use a further two forms of criticism in an analysis of one of the literary texts studied on the Genres module.

Module Aims

The module aims to introduce students to:


  • a range of critical theory;


  • the skills necessary for using that theory;


  • how to apply theory to literary texts, in particular through the process of close reading;


  • skills in oral and written communication;


  • the ability to work independently and as part of a seminar group.



Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students will have a knowledge of:


  • the different forms of critical theory used in English Literature;


  • using theory in the close reading of literary texts;


  • skills in analysis and critical thinking;


  • skills in oral and written communication;


  • how to work independently and as part of a seminar group.
Module Content

Semester 1



Week 1




Discussion of the module in general with a practical session on presentations, exams and essays. Presentations allocated.



Week 2


Lecture: Before Theory


An introduction to the module which will provide an overview of methodologies used by literary critics and an introduction to the set text and how it will be used; description of the materials for close critical reading drawn from the Genres and World Lits. module and how this will work. There will also be a discussion of assessment and advice on how to write a text analysis and essays, as well as how to give an oral presentation.


This introductory lecture will also contextualise the rise of 'theory' in English degrees.


No set reading.



Week 3


Seminar: Before Theory



Week 4


Lecture: Structuralism


This lecture reviews the crisis in English Studies generated by the introduction of French Structuralism, explaining how this critical practice works, and the theory behind it.


Set reading:


Ferdinand de Saussure ‘Course in General Linguistics’


Roland Barthes ‘Mythologies’



Week 5


Seminar: Structuralism




Week 6


Lecture: Deconstruction


This lecture examines the move on the part of certain theorists away from structuralism, providing a practical insight into deconstruction and explaining some of the ideas associated with the practice.


Set reading:


Jacques Derrida ‘Difference’


Jacques Derrida ‘Of Grammatology’



Week 7


Seminar: Deconstruction



Week 8


Lecture: Postmodernism


How on earth can anything be post-*modern*? This lecture situates the historical origin of the term in the arguments relating to developments in contemporary architecture, explains how the term has subsequently been applied to literature and outlines some of the key theoretical ideas to have emerged from this move.


Set reading:


Jean-François Lyotard ‘The Postmodern Condition’


Jean Baudrillard ‘Simulacra and Simulation’



Week 9


Seminar: Postmodernism



Week 10


Lecture: Psychoanalytic Theory


The focus of this lecture will be on the idea of 'reading the unconscious'. We will discuss Freud's theory of the unconscious mind and its effects, as well as the way in which the concept has been re-imagined by literary critics as a psychologically informed mode of reading. In particular we will consider Freud's analysis of the 'latent' and 'manifest' content of dreams and the idea that literary texts are also a kind of 'dream work'. We will also explore Freud's work on the uncanny and what is at stake in the process of defamiliarisation, or 'making strange'. Finally, we will consider the following question: Can all literature and the act of reading be described as uncanny? 


Set reading:


Sigmund Freud ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’


Sigmund Freud ‘The Uncanny’



Week 11


Seminar: Psychoanalytic Theory


Discussion of psychoanalytical approaches to literature, particularly as we might want to apply them to readings of texts studies elsewhere on the course. Role-play group activity: 'Genres on the analyst's couch'.



Week 12





Week 13


Exams/ Assessment



Week 14


Exams/ Revision



Week 15


Reading week




Semester 2



Week 1


Seminar: rereading material from semester 1 and feedback on close analysis assessment



Week 2


Lecture: Feminism, Lesbian and Gay criticism


This lecture offers an overview of feminism's history to interrogate the use of 'sex' and 'gender' as social categories, especially in their current usage in feminist studies and LGBT and queer criticism.  Beginning with Wollstonecraft and ending with Butler , the distinction between an individual having a biological sex, to more recent criticism that sees gender as a performance, will be analysed. 


Set reading:


Judith Butler ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution’


Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar ‘The Madwoman in the Attic’



Week 3


Seminar: Feminism, Lesbian and Gay criticism



Week 4


Lecture: Marxism


Marx's models for class and class consciousness have had a lasting legacy in literary criticism, and this lecture offers an introduction to those nineteenth-century theories, especially in the context of how ideologies produce and replicate power structures.  Althusser's work on the Ideological State Apparatus and the Repressive State Apparatus will also introduced as a key engagement with Marx's work and legacy in the late twentieth century. 


Set reading:


Louis Althusser ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’


Karl Marx ‘The German Ideology’



Week 5


Seminar: Marxism



Week 6


Lecture: New Historicism and Cultural Materialism


The lecture begins by tracing the impact of Michel Foucault's work, in particular the idea that we police ourselves, allowing the mechanisms of social control to inhere in our individual subjectivity. We will then look at Stephen Grennblatt's focus upon Early Modern theatre where he locates the mechanisms of power in religious and political discourses and argues that the audience, while acknowledging complexities, ultimately accepts social boundaries. Although Dollimore's response to Greenblatt is not in the reader, I will refer briefly to the development in the of a counter form of historicism, which akin to Marxism, suggested that misrule need not be contained and that individual and groups may challenge dominant hierarchies and enact revolution. Through the focus on Shakespeare's The Tempest we will explore the concepts of condoned imprisonment and racial difference, including comments on present-day parallels.




Set reading:


Michel Foucault ‘Discipline and Punish’


Stephen Greenblatt ‘Shakespeare and the Exorcists’



Week 7


Seminar: New Historicism and Cultural Materialism



Week 8


Lecture: Postcolonial Criticism


By thinking about how postcolonial space can be 'mapped', this lecture will offer a topographical introduction to the area of postcolonial studies.  In particular, the use and abuse of key postcolonial terms will be considered, along with the crisis and controversy that postcolonial criticism has caused for the future of English Literary studies. 


Set reading:


Edward Said ‘Jane Austen and Empire’


Anne McClintock ‘The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term “Post-colonialism”’



Week 9


Seminar: Postcolonial criticism



Week 20


Lecture: Module Review


No set reading.



Week 11


Seminar: This final workshop will reflect on the place of theory within English Literature as a discipline, making connections to Levels 2 and 3 of the degree programme.



Week 12





Week 13


Exams/ assessment



Week 14


Exams/ assessment



Week 15


Exams/ Assessment



Assessment Deadlines



Oral Presentation:  Throughout module



Exam (Text Analysis):  tbc


Exam (Comparative Analysis):  tbc

Methods of Teaching/Learning

Alternating: one one-hour lecture and one two-hour seminar

Selected Texts/Journals

Essential Reading / Viewing


Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, eds, Literary Theory: An Anthology ( Oxford : Blackwell, 2004).



Recommended Reading


Abelove, Henry, Michele Barale and David Halperin, eds, Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 1993)


Ashcroft, Bill and Pal Ahluwalia, Edward Said ( London : Routledge, 2001)


Ashcroft, Bill et al, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literature (London: Routledge, 1989)


Ashcroft, Bill, ed, The Post-colonial Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 1994)


Baldick, Chris, The Social Mission of English Studies 1848- 1932 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983)


Peter Barry, Beginning Theory. An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002)


Barthes, Roland, The Pleasure of the Text (Hill and Wang, 1975)


Belsey, Catherine and Jane Moore, eds, The Feminist Reader: Essays in Gender and the Politics of Literary Criticism (London: Palgrave, 1997)


Benjamin, Andrew, ed., The Lyotard Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989)


Bhabha, Homi, Nation and Narration (London: Routledge, 1990)


Bhabha, Homi, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994)


Césaire, Aimé, Return to My Native Land (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969)


Culler, Jonathan, Structuralist Poetics (London: Routledge, 1975)


Derrida, Jacques, A Derrida Reader, ed. Peggy Kamuf (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998)


Dollimore, Jonathan and Alan Sinfield, eds, Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994)


Dowling, William, Jameson, Althusser, Marx: An Introduction to the Political Unconscious (London: Methuen, 1994)


Eagleton, Mary, ed, Feminist Literary Theory: A Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995)


Eagleton, Terry, Literary Theory: An Introduction (University of Minnesota Press, 1996)


Eagleton, Terry, Marxism and Literary Criticism (London: Routledge, 1976)


Fanon, Frantz, The Wretched of the Earth (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961)


Freud, Sigmund, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2007)


Freud, Sigmund, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2007)


Freud, Sigmund, Case Histories (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2007)


Gallagher, Catherine and Stephen Greenblatt, Practicing the New Historicism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000)


Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic ( Yale University Press, 2000)


Greenblatt, Stephen, Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance (California University Press, 1991)


Greene, Gayle and Coppelia Kahn, eds, Making a Difference: Feminist Literary Criticism (London: Routledge, 1985)


Introduction to Modern Literary Theory (


Jameson, Frederic, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic act (Cornell University Press, 1981)


Jefferson , Ann and David Robey eds, Modern Literary Theory: A Comparative Introduction (Batsford, 1986)


Lacan, Jacques, Ecrits ( London : Routledge, 2001)


Lodge, David, Modern Criticism and Theory (London: Longman, 1988)


Loomba, Ania, Colonialism/ Post-Colonialism (London: Routledge, 1998)


Marks, Elaine and Isabelle de Courtivron, eds, New French Feminisms (London: Harvester, 1981)


McLeod, John, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000)


Mills, Sarah, Feminist Readings : An Introduction to Feminist Literature (Prentice Hall, 1996)


Moi, Torril, Sexual/Textual Politics (London: Methuen, 1985)


Newton , K.M., Twentieth Century Literary Theory: A Reader (London: Macmillan, 1988)


Norris, Chris, Deconstruction: Theory and Practice (London: Routledge, 1991)


Said, Edward, Culture and Imperialism (New York: vintage, 1994)


Said, Edward, Orientalism (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1995)


Sarup, Madan, An Introductory Guide to Post-structuralism and Postmodernism (London: Longman, 1993)


Sedgwick, Eve Kosovsky, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosexual Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985)


Showalter, Elaine, A Literature of Their Own (London: Virago, 1999)


Spivak, Gayatri, In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (London: Routledge, 1987)


Vesser, H. Aram, ed, The New Historicism (London: Routledge, 1989)


Vesser, H. Aram, ed, The New Historicism Reader  (London: Routledge, 1994)


Voice of the Shuttle (


Waugh, Pat, Postmodernism: A Reader (London: Arnold, 1992)


Williams, Raymond, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977)


Wilson, Richard and Richard Dutton, eds, New Historicism and Renaissance Drama (London: Longman, 1992)

Last Updated

5 July 2010 JG