Ways of reading: understanding literary theory

Course Dates: 19/06/23 - 24/07/23
Time: 18:00 - 19:30
Location: Online
This course explores the critical perspectives which have shaped literary study in recent decades. We will focus on key developments in literary theory and the influence these have had on how literary works are read and interpreted. We examine a range of theoretical approaches and consider the numerous connections that can be made between them. We also explore how thinking about literature has been informed by different disciplinary areas such as history, philosophy, linguistics and psychoanalysis.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £99.00 Senior fee £99.00 Concession £64.00

Course Code: HLT301

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Mon, eve, 19 Jun - 24 Jul '23

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

In this online course we will read extracts from the writing of key theorists and apply these ideas through close reading of poetry, drama and prose fiction, ranging from the 17th century to the present day, from Shakespeare’s plays to the Beano comic.

We will debate some abidingly fascinating questions, beginning with ‘What makes a piece of writing ‘literature’?

We will focus our attention on three main questions:

Who and what do we read?
How do we read?
Whose time do we read in?

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

We will cover a range of theoretical approaches, including semiotics and structuralism; theories of narrative; psychoanalytic, feminist and Marxist readings; new historicism. We will read extracts from influential theorists such as Roland Barthes, Stephen Greenblatt and Julia Kristeva and use these to inform our own reading of extracts from novels and plays, as well as whole poems and short stories. In exploring how literature might be defined, we will engage with a diverse range of texts, from Shakespeare’s plays to the Beano comic, questioning what is meant by ‘high culture’ and ‘popular culture’.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- Identify key concepts in literary theory
- Engage with the key ideas of influential literary theorists
- Interpret literary texts using a variety of critical frameworks
- Make connections between different theoretical approaches
- Understand the interdisciplinary nature of English studies today.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This is a course for people who have already done some literary study and are interested in further developing their skills of literary analysis and interpretation. You need to be open to different ways of reading and willing to listen to engage with the views of others in discussion.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

There will be a mix of tutor presentation, small-group and whole-class discussion. You will be asked to read and think about short readings set before each week’s class.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

All materials will be provided by the tutor.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Please look for other Literature courses under History, Culture and Writing/Literature at www.citylit.ac.uk.

Jenny Stevens

Jenny Stevens has taught English at both pre-university and degree level. A former Head of English, she currently combines part-time teaching with academic writing and series editing for Methuen Modern Drama editions. She has an MA in Victorian Studies and a PhD in late-Victorian literature. Her publications include ‘Faith, Fiction and the Historical Jesus’ (2010) and three co-authored Arden Shakespeare guides for undergraduate readers. Jenny is a Founding Fellow of the English Association.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.