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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 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 theorical 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

This course provides students with a basic knowledge of the history of modern literary theory. By the end of the course, students will know how to use some of the theoretical language of the discipline of literary studies, and have acquired a new set of tools for literary interpretation. Students will gain special expertise by researching, in greater depth, two theoretical approaches in a final research paper, in which they also apply these two approaches to a literary work on the reading list.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website

Mode of instruction

One two-hour seminar per week

Assessment method

Classroom presentation (15%), mid-term paper (40%), written test (45%).


Yes, see 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).


Students should register through uSis. Exchange students 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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Departmental Office English Language and Culture, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144; mail:
Co-ordinator of Studies: Ms T.D. Obbens, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.