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Literary Theory: an Introduction, Short Course

  • Anytime
    Application Deadline
  • 3 months
University rank #1 (WUR) Online
Literary theory has changed the way we think about literature, language, identity, and society. Although theory might sometimes seem intimidating, it can be very accessible and exciting. This course aims to demystify literary theory, showing how it illuminates literary texts and enriches our understanding and enjoyment of literature.



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.

Course aims

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

Teaching outcomes

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.

Detailed Programme Facts

  • Programme intensity Part-time
    • Average part-time duration 3 months
    • Intensity Flexible
    • Part-time variant
  • Credits
    10 credits alternative credits
  • Languages
    • English
  • Delivery mode
    • Time flexibility
      Fully structured
    • Attendance
      No Attendance
    • Teacher support
      Continuous support with feedback on request
    • Student interaction
      Online group works/assignments

Programme Structure

Programme details

1. Why literary theory?
2. Russian Formalism and the New Criticism
3. Reader response
4. Structuralism
5. Post-structuralism
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.

English Language Requirements

This programme requires students to demonstrate proficiency in English.

Tuition Fee

  • International Applies to you

    295 GBP/year
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 295 GBP per year and a duration of 3 months.
  • EU/EEA Applies to you

    245 GBP/year
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 245 GBP per year and a duration of 3 months.
We've labeled the tuition fee that applies to you because we think you are from and prefer over other currencies.


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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.

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