English (ENGL) 423

Advanced Literary Theory (Revision 5)

ENGL 423 Course Cover

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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

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ENGL 423: Advanced Literary Theory investigates the theory and practice of communication, and more specifically, how people understand and use language and literature to make meaning.

The course starts with an account of the institutionalization of English literature and literary theory, followed by an introduction to the social history of English. Next, the course considers effective communication, the theory and practice of book history, and contemporary reading practices. Throughout, the course materials emphasize how reading practices and the social production of literature contribute to subjectivity and community.

Course Outline


Part 1: Social Histories of Literature and Language

  • Unit 1: Literature and Literary Theory
  • Unit 2: A Social History of English

Part 2: Effective Communication

  • Unit 3: Signifying History
  • Unit 4: Signs and Not-Signs
  • Unit 5: A New Formalism

Part 3: Theory and Practice of Book History

  • Unit 6: What Is Book History?
  • Unit 7: The Impact of Print
  • Unit 8: Communication Circuits in Action
  • Unit 9: Reading Practices and Communities

Part 4: Contemporary Reading Practices

  • Unit 10: Book History and New Media
  • Unit 11: The Case of Harlequin Enterprises

Final Comments


To receive credit for ENGL 423, you must submit all the assignments and write the final examination. To pass the course, you must achieve a course composite grade of at least D (50 percent) and a grade of at least D (50 percent) on the final examination.

Activity Weighting
Assignment 1: Four Short Responses 10%
Assignment 2: Expository Essay 20%
Assignment 3: Project Report 30%
Final Examination 40%
Total 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


Finkelstein, David, and Alistair McCleery. An Introduction to Book History. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013.

Finkelstein, David, and Alistair McCleery, eds. The Book History Reader. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2006.

McHoul, Alec. Semiotic Investigations: Towards an Effective Semiotics. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press, 1996.

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 5, October 15, 2015.

View previous syllabus