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Literature 5C: Literary Theories: Approaches to the Study of Literature


Admission Requirements



This course offers an introduction to a number of influential twentieth-century literary theories, ranging from early twentieth-century formalism to more recent methodologies such as new historicism and cultural studies. The aim of the course is twofold. On the one hand, students will study a number of key theoretical texts, but they will also learn to employ theoretical insights in their readings of literary texts (Shakespeare’s King Lear, Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, and a selection of shorter texts). Some of the texts which we will study are quite difficult, and students will need an open mind and a willingness to tackle complex material.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course the student will have a basic knowledge of the history of literary theory and the various interrelationships and contradictions between the various theories. The student will show that he or she can actively apply these theories to the study of literature by writing a research essay, for which they will have to do some research in the university library, and by showing their knowledge of the technical terminology and insight into the relevance of the studied theories for literature in a final written exam.


The timetable will be available from June 1st on the Internet.

Mode of Instruction

One two-hour seminar per week.


Classroom presentation (20%), paper (40%), written test (40%).


This course is not supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan (eds.), Literary Theory: An Anthology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 2nd edition. Paperback.

  • Hans Bertens, Literary Theory: The Basics (London: Routledge, 2001).

  • William Shakespeare, King Lear, ed. R.A. Foakes (Arden Shakespeare, Third Series). Paperback. ISBN 1903436591

  • Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (Penguin, 2004).

  • Reader


Students can register through uSis.

Register for ‘Contractonderwijs’ via:

Register for ‘À la Carte’ via:

Contact information

English Department, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103c. Phone: 071 527 2144, or mail: