Over the course of the twentieth century, modern literary theory has transformed the field of English studies. It has also changed the way we read literature, and how we understand language, identity, and society. Despite its enormous influence, literary theory can seem overly abstract, complex, and intimidating to readers and critics. This course aims to demystify some key ideas and debates in modern literary theory, and to show exactly how these exciting ideas enhance our understanding and enjoyment of fiction and poetry. This course is for anyone who would like to know what terms such as deconstruction, Marxist criticism, and postcolonialism really mean, and for those who are curious about the relationships between history, politics, philosophy, and literature. This course is also aimed at anyone interested in honing their critical reading skills, and most importantly, anyone who enjoys reading and would like to learn even more about literature.
This course will enable participants to:
• Understand the historical development of literary theory and its role in English studies;
• Understand and discuss relationships between different theories and critical schools;
• Understand and discuss some key ideas of particular theories and schools;
• Understand extracts from works by selected theorists and critics;
• Understand the practical applications of literary theory;
• Apply literary theory themselves in analysing prose and poetry
By the end of the course you will know:
• The broad development of literary theory from the early twentieth century to the present;
• Differences and similarities between several theories and critical schools;
• Some key concepts of individual theories;
• How theory has been applied to literary analysis;
• How to use theory when reading and analysing literature
By the end of the course you will have developed the ability to:
• Enhanced ability to read, contextualize, and compare primary material by different literary theorists;
• Ability to apply literary theory when analysing literary texts;
• Enhanced ability to understand their own critical/theoretical stance as readers
This course is accredited and you are expected to take the course for credit. To be awarded credit you must complete written contributions satisfactorily. Successful students will receive credit, awarded by the Board of Studies of Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. The award will take the form of 10 units of transferable credit at FHEQ level 4 of theCredit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS). A transcript detailing the credit will be issued to successful students. Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
Always verify the dates on the programme website.
1. Why literary theory?
2. Russian Formalism and the New Criticism
3. Reader response
6. Psychoanalysis and literature
7. Feminist literary theories
8. Marxist literary theories
9. Postcolonial literary theory
10. Theory now
We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.
Sources of funding
Student Loans for students on Undergraduate Award Bearing Courses, including the Certificate of Higher Education
Students on Undergraduate Award Bearing courses who do not have an undergraduate degree are eligible to apply for a non means-tested student loan for all or part of their fees. If you apply for a student loan for all or part of your fees you may still apply for a Departmental bursary if you are on a low income (see below).
Departmental bursaries for those on Award Bearing Courses
If you are on a low income or certain income-related benefits you may be eligible to apply for a Departmental bursary, whether you have an undergraduate degree or not, and whether or not you also apply for a student loan.
Access to Learning Fund for those on Award Bearing Courses
The government provides the University with funds to help students on very low incomes with childcare and course costs. Access to Learning Fund grants cannot be used for paying tuition fees.
We advise international students to contact their local British Council, who can advise on studying in the UK. If you are on a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma course you may find funding opportunities on the Oxford Fees, Funding, and Scholarship Search.
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Disabled Students' Allowance for students on Award Bearing, Masters and DPhil programmes
This is a non means-tested allowance aimed at helping people with a disability or learning difficulty (e.g. dyslexia) to study on the same basis as other students.
Professional and Career Development Loans
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StudyPortals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.
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