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


Admission requirements

Successful completion of Literature 1A, 1B, 2 and 3 or equivalent.


This course offers an introduction to a number of influential twentieth-century literary theories, ranging from early twentieth-century formalism to cultural studies, feminist and gender studies, and postcolonialism. Students will apply methods and insights from these theories to Shakespeare’s plays, works which have always, historically, been subject to varied and conflicting interpretations. Along with primary readings from key theorists, we will read six plays, each providing an opportunity to focus on one or two critical approaches to literary texts: Romeo and Juliet (structuralism, New Criticism); Hamlet (psychoanalytic theory); Taming of the Shrew (feminism); King Lear (Marxism and cultural materialism); The Tempest (postcolonialism); and Twelfth Night (gender theory).

Course objectives

Concise description of the course objectives formulated in terms of knowledge, insight and skills students will have acquired at the end of the course. The relationship between these objectives and achievement levels for the programme should be evident.


The timetable will be available by June 1st at the website.

Mode of instruction

One two-hour seminar per week

Assessment method

  • Class participation (10%)

  • Short Shakespeare essay (20%)

  • Short research essay (20%)

  • Final research essay (50%)


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. ISBN: 978-0192853837

  • Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, eds. Literary Theory: An Anthology. ISBN: 978-1405106964

  • William Shakespeare, Hamlet. ISBN 978-0312055448

  • William Shakespeare, King Lear. ISBN 978-0393926644

  • William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. ISBN 978-1411400368

  • William Shakespeare, The Tempest. ISBN 978-0312457525

  • William Shakespeare,The Taming of the Shrew. ISBN 978-0393927078

  • William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night. ISBN 978-0393925791


Students should register through uSis. Exchange studentens cannot register through uSis, but must see the director of studies and register with her. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Departmental Office English Language and Culture, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144; mail:
Studentcounsellor Bachelor: Ms. S.H.J. Bollen, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103B.
Coordinator of Studies Master: Ms. K. van der Zeeuw-Filemon, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.