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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Linda S Watts
BIS 361
Bothell Campus

Studies in American Literature

Examines important literary movements and literary genres with attention to their historical context. Emphasizes issues of race, class, and gender.

Class description

Autumn 2011: "Texts and Contexts"

This course introduces students to the theories and processes of literary study-- that is, to the problems, questions and issues that constitute literary study as a critical activity and as a profession. Students examine such areas of inquiry as literature’s definition, function and value; the authority of authors, readers, critics, and texts; the “nature” of texts; and the problem of situating both the text and the reader in history, society and culture.

As the title of this course suggests, our objective this term will be to explore the complex relationship between literary works and the cultures in which they are produced and read. Literary study is a term referring not to one set of practices, but rather to many. Even a single text may elicit multiple and conflicting forms of response.

In considering literary texts, we will engage in many of the practices used by literary scholars, critics, and theorists. Most specifically, we will consider and enact the practices associated with such approaches as Biographical Criticism, Historical Criticism, Reader-Response Criticism, Psychoanalytic Criticism, Feminist Criticism, Marxist Criticism, and Cultural Criticism. We will also explore the possibilities for research concerning additional critical approaches, including those of our own devising.

By the time we conclude our work together, we will likely have not one but many perspectives on literary texts discussed. More importantly, we will have access to several analytical frameworks within which to situate, investigate and respond to literary texts.

Student learning goals

Students will become more knowledgeable about literary study.

Students will become more adept at analyzing literary texts from a variety of critical approaches.

Students will become conversant with several theories of literature.

General method of instruction

This course combines full- and small-group discussion with hands-on activities.

Recommended preparation

No prior coursework serves as prerequisite, although it is necessary both to have some energy for exploring critical theory as applied to close readings of literary texts, and to acknowledge that determinations of authorial intention are not the singular or most definitive achievements readers/critics make. Further, three attributes in each participant within this shared inquiry are absolutely crucial to our--and your--success: (1) seriousness of purpose, (2) passion for dialogue, and (3) commitment to be both reflective and consultative in academic practice.

Class assignments and grading

Evaluation of student performance typically includes participation, presentations, exams, in-class writings, and projects.

Grading will reflect student performance in such areas as class contributions, presentations, tests, papers and in-class writings, and projects.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Linda S Watts
Date: 04/18/2011