English (ENGL) 423

Advanced Literary Theory (Revision 4)

ENGL 423

Revision 4 is closed for registrations, replaced by current version

View previous syllabus

Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: ENGL 211 and ENGL 212 or equivalent, and any senior-level English course.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

English Studies Home Page

ENGL 423 is not available for challenge.

check availability


ENGL 423 examines the major contemporary theories of literature and their application in practical criticism.

The twentieth century has seen the development of several theories of literature that have influenced our reading, understanding, and criticism of various genres and of both old and new works. The course looks at the history and nature of the following movements: Formalism, New Criticism, Reader-Response Theory, Structuralism, Psychoanalysis, Poststructuralism, Feminist Poetics, Postmodernism, and Postcolonialism.

Course Outline

  • Week 1: Introduction: Literary Studies and Theory
  • Weeks 2-3: Formalism and New Criticism
  • Week 4: Rhetoric and Reader-Response
  • Weeks 5-6: Structuralism and Semiotics
  • Weeks 7-8: Poststructuralism, Deconstruction and Postmodernism
  • Week 9: Psychology and Psychoanalysis
  • Week 10: First Assignment
  • Weeks 11-12: Historical Criticism
  • Weeks 13-14-15: Feminism and Gender Studies
  • Weeks 16-17: Postcolonialist Theories
  • Week 18: Second Assignment
  • Weeks 19-20: Cultural Studies
  • Week 21: Final Examination


To receive credit for ENGL 423, you must complete and achieve a minimum grade of “D” (50 percent) on each essay and final examination and achieve an overall grade of at least “D” (50 percent) on the entire course. The weighting of the course assignments is as follows:

Assignment 1: Research Essay Assignment 2: Research Essay Final Examination Total
25% 35% 40% 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Davis, Robert Con and Ronald Schleifer, eds. Contemporary Literary Criticism: Literary and Cultural Studies, 4th edition. New York: Longman, 1998.

Gunew, Sneja and Anna Yeatman, eds. Feminism and the Politics of Difference. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 1993.

Hutcheon, Linda. The Politics of Postmodernism, 2nd edition. London and New York: Routeledge, 2002.

Selden, Raman, Peter Widdowson and Peter Brooker, eds. A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory, 5th edition. London and New York: Pearson Longman, 2005.

Other materials

All other materials are available online.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 4, December 5, 2012.

View previous syllabus