Last updated:
April 14, 2008

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Laura L. Runge
Office: CPR 360 D
Phone: 813-974-9496

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    ENG 6018
    Criticism and Theory I

    Course Description:

      This required course covers the first half of the survey of literary criticism and theory from the Ancients through the early nineteenth century. While the texts bring us backward in history, the orientation of the class will be toward understanding the contemporary purposes of literary study and literature itself. Toward that end, we will begin with an investigation of the recent debates collectively nominated “The Crisis in the Humanities” and seek to understand why our society has deemed literature, poetics, and the humanities alternately irrelevant and politically dangerous. With a focus on classical, medieval, renaissance and Enlightenment theories, the class will rethink these issues through the early debates on mimesis, representation, rhetoric, exegesis, literacy, humanism, didacticism, and aesthetics. Students will read about and report on theories of political and social values of literature, arguments between ancients and moderns, the development of print culture and the notion of authorship and literary property.

    This course has been designed to meet the following objectives:

  • For students to read and interpret the original texts of criticism and theory from ancient, medieval, renaissance and enlightenment eras;

  • For students to draw comparisons between earlier critical models and contemporary thought;

  • For students to research and report on topics to debate and further understand the significance of these early texts;

  • For students to develop tools of critical inquiry and analysis through weekly writings, peer-response and written examinations.

  • Required Texts

    Vincent B. Leitch, general editor, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001

    Selected readings available in Blackboard Course Documents

    Recommended Texts

    Charles Bressler, Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice, fourth edition, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, Prentice Hall, 2007.

    Sophocles, Oedipus the King

    The Bible

    Shakespeare, Othello

    Electronic Media

    For an general introduction to computing facilities and classes at USF, see USF Academic Computing Home Page.

    This class will be interacting with the Blackboard website for ENG6018.001.S08, to be located on your MY USF website. To register and log in, visit .

    You will find the discussion board for your weekly informal postings on this Blackboard site, and I will also post assignments, messages and further information about the class on this site. PLEASE CHECK IT FREQUENTLY.

    My website: information on class, assignments and links to other important sites on literature, etc.

    Other important websites will be listed in the schedule of reading and following the assignments.


    Please note, individual class notes will be linked to the website at the date. These links will be updated weekly.
    Date Criticism Reports/Response Assignment
    1/8 Introductions: Values in Literary Criticism In class writing
    1/15 Crisis in the Humanities Selections from course documents; NATC Introduction (pp 1-28); also Oedipus the King Post #1
    1/22 Gorgias, Plato (NATC 29-85) Report: Paul Quigley; Response: Bob Batchelor Post #2
    1/29 Aristotle (NATC 87-121) Report: Rob Brown; Response: Taylor Mitchell Post #3
    2/5 Horace, Longinus, Quintillian (NATC 121-171) Report: Brian McAllister; Response: Quentin Vieregge Post #4
    2/12 Plotinus; Augustine; Macrobius (NATC 171-201); selections from the Bible; selections from course docs Report: G. Bogin; Response: Melissa Jones Post #5
    2/19 Hugh St. Victor, Moses Maimonides (NATC 201-226) Report: Quentin Vieregge and Joe Good; Response: Paul Quigley and Ann Sofia Post #6
    2/26 Geoffrey of Vinsauf, Aquinas, Dante (NATC 226-252) Report: Taylor Mitchell; Response:Joe Good Post #7
    3/4 Boccaccio, Christine de Pizan (NATC 253-270) Report: Jessica McKee and Melissa Jones; Response: Rob Brown and Pamela Coovert Post #8; MIDTERM DUE
    3/18 Giambattista Giraldi, du Bellay, Ronsard (NATC 270-299) Report: Angela Tartaglia; Response: Jessica Trant Post #9
    3/25 Sidney (NATC 323-362) Report: Patrick McGowan; Response: Gerard Bogin Post #10
    4/1 Corneille, Dryden, Behn (NATC 323-399); and Essay of Dramatic Poesie see course docs Report: Jessica Trant and Pamela Coovert; Response: Patrick McGowan and Jessica McKee Post #11
    4/8 Addison, Young, Pope (NATC 416-455) Report: Saritiza Legault; Response: Brian McAllister Post #12
    4/15 Johnson, Hume (NATC 455-499) Report: Bob Batchelor; Response: Saritza Legault Post #13
    4/22 Kant, Burke (NATC 499-551) Report: Ann Sofia; Response: Angela Tartaglia Post #14

    Graded Assignments

    Participation -- 10%

    Weekly posts -- 15%

    Report (approx. 5 pages) -- 20

    Response (2-3 pages) -- 15

    Midterm -- 20

    Final -- 20

    This syllabus is subject to change.

    ** Students who anticipate the necessity of being absent from class due to the observation of a major religious observance must provide notice of the date(s) to the instructor, in writing, by the second class meeting.

    Description of Graded Assignments


    Students are expected to be present and active for each class. Full participation includes preparation of all readings; completion of writing assigments outside and inside class; active listening and questioning; respect for and interaction with other members of the class. Periodic self-evaluations for participation will be required throughout the term and used in conjuction with attendance records for grading this assignment.

    Weekly Posts:

    For general description and specific requirements of this assignment, see my webpage on weekly posts. For each class, I will post a series of discussion questions and related information about the day’s reading. From this list, you can choose a question to focus your writing. Also, try to incorporate the ideas and observations made in other posts by your classmates. It is your responsibility to read the posts (and print them out if necessary) before class, so that we can use these ideas as the starting point for our class discussion.


    These five-page documents will be selected and designed by students and the product of research and reflection on course texts and themes. The documents should present a concrete idea or message about the subject; subjects will be listed in the syllabus notes for each week (based on suggestions made by the Norton guide) and students can begin their research based on the bibliographies and suggestions in the NATC. If students want to research a different subject that is related to the material for that week, they can do so with approval from the instructor. Independent projects need to be approved by the third week in the semester.

    The student should submit the report to the course WIKI by Friday evening before the class on which it is due. This is necessary to give students in the class enough time to read and for one student to write a response to the report and post it to the WIKI. The student will present the RESPONSE in class, and the report writer can offer comments on the response.

    One of the purposes of the assignment is to generate information about the context and implications of the critical arguments from the past that we are reading. These reports may be contentious, but they should always be well reasoned and well written. Students should be aware of and engage in critical discussions of the subject through a variety of critical lenses available in the research.

    The reports should also be submitted to the instructor in standard formatting and bibliography; the preferred method of submission is by MS Word document as email attachment. In the email to me, students should explain what they attempted in the paper and what they perceive to be the purpose and the main point of the paper; they can also take the opportunity to express any reservations, hesitations or questions they may yet have about the paper.

    Papers will be evaluated on the basis of competence in writing and reasoning, on the lucidity of argument, and on the completeness of research and presentation.


    These two to three page documents should be critical reflections on the reports, designed for public delivery and discussion. The subject should ALWAYS be the report itself, not the writer. The audience is our class. The tone should be professional: critical but reasonable and with minimal unselfconscious emotional reaction.

    The response should begin with a statement of the report's main point and a very brief summary. The response should raise questions about the report for discussion. Some ideas to consider in writing your response are:

  • Does this report present enough contextual information to make sense of the point?

  • Does this report present more than one scholarly view of the subject?

  • Does the report ignore important information that would affect the conclusion?

  • Does the conclusion follow from the information presented?

  • What are the implications of the information presented?

  • Are there other conclusions one might draw from the information presented?
  • What intellectual values (or other) are at stake in the position taken?
  • How does this information relate to the texts we have read for class?

  • How does this information shape our understanding of the role of humanities in our culture?

  • What did you learn from this report?

  • What questions does this report inspire?

    Response will be evaluated on the basis of competence in writing and reasoning, on the lucidity of points and questions raised, on promptitude and formal requirements.


    This will be a take-home, formal writing of substantial length (min. 10 pages.) More information to follow.


    This will be a take-home, formal writing of substantial length (min. 10 pages.) It will be due at the beginning of finals week. More information to follow.

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