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Literary Theory

Field of Study Reading List

[Note: where selections are indicated ("from"), the references in square brackets are to one of the anthologies included at the end of the list. Where no reference is included, the student is free to choose which sections to read. This should be noted on the amended reading list.]

Classical Period

1. Plato, IonRepublic, Book X (on art); Book VII (the myth of the cave) (c. 400 BCE).
2. Aristotle, Poetics (c. 350 BCE).
3. Horace, Ars Poetica (c. 20 BCE).
4. Longinus, On the Sublime, Books I-XII; XL (1st c CE).
5. Quintillian, Institutio Oratoria, Book 8, Ch. 5 (tropes) (1st c CE).
6. Plotinus, On Intellectual Beauty (3rd c CE). 
7. Augustine, from On Christine Doctrine, Book II (signs), Book IV (tropes) (395-427).

Medieval Period

8. Dante, Letter to Can Grande Della Scala (allegory) (1319).
9. Boccaccio, Genealogy of the Gentile Gods (1350-62).
10. Christine de Pisan, from City of Women, chapter 1; chapter 36 (education), (1405).
11. Aquinas, selection from Summa Theologica, 9th and 10th articles (on metaphor), (1265-73).


12. Sidney, Philip. An Apology for Poetry (1583).
13. Puttenham, George. The Art of English Poesie, Book 1 (1589).
14. Guarini, Giambattista. The Compendium of Tragicomic Poetry (1599).
15. Boileau Despreaux, Nicolas, Art Poetique (1674).
16. Bacon, Francis, from The Advancement of Learning (1605) [Adams and Searle]; from Essays (1601).
17. De vega, Lopa. The New Art of Making Comedies (1607).
18. Heywood, Thomas. "An Apology for Actors" (1612).
19. Jonson, Ben, from Timber: OR, Discoveries Made upon Men and Matter (1641) [Bate].
20. Milton, John. Areopagitica (1644).
21. Hobbes, Thomas, from Leviathan I: 1-15. (1651).
22. Dryden, John. "An Essay of Dramatic Poesy"; "A Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire".

Eighteenth Century

23. Jonathan Swift, The Battle of the Books (1704).
24. Addison & Steele, essays from Spectator [Adams and Searle].
25. Edward Young, "Conjectures on Original Composition" (1759) [Adams and Searle].
26. Alexander Pope, "Essay on Criticism" (1711).
27. Giambattista Vico, from The New Science (1725) [Adams and Searle].
28. Samuel Johnson, from Preface to Shakespeare (1765) [Adams and Searle] Lives of the Poets (Cowley) [Adams and Searle].
29. Edmund Burke, Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757).
30. David Hume, "Of the Standard of Taste" (1757).
31. Von Herder, Fragments on Recent German Literature (1767-8).
32. Immanuel Kant, "Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime" (1764)-"What is Enlightenment?" (1784).
33. Clara Reeve, "The Progress of Romance" (1785).
34. Quobna Cugoano, Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evils of Slavery (1787).
35. Ignatius Sancho, Correspondence with Laurence Sterne (1766).
36. William Blake, selections [Adams and Searle] -The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790).
37. Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795).
38. Anna Laetitia Barbauld, "On Romances: An Imitation".
39. Mary Wollstonecraft, from A Vindication of the rights of Woman. (1792) [Leitch]. 
40. William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800-1802). 
41. Friedrich Schlegel, "Letter About the Novel" (1799).

Nineteenth Century

42. Hegel, G.W.F., from Phenomenology of Spirit (Introduction, Master-Slave Dialectic) (1807).
43. von Schlegel, A.W., "Shakespeare's Irony" (1808). 
44. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, selections from Biographia Literaria (1817) [Kaplan and Anderson].
45. Shelley, Percy Bysche, A Defence of Poetry (1821).
46. Keats, John, Four Letters [Adams and Searle].
47. Hazlitt, William, selections (1819) [Bate].
48. DeQuincey, Thomas, "Literature of Knowledge and Literature of Power" (Essay on Pope 1848).
49. Mill, John Stuart, "Thoughts on Poetry and Its Variety" (1833,1859).
50. Carlyle, Thomas, from Sartor Resartus (1834) "The Hero as Man of Letters" (Heroes and Hero Worship 1841).
51. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "The Poet" (1844).
52. Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Philosophy of Composition" (1846). 
53. Fuller, Margaret. Papers on Literature and Art (1846).
54. Robert Buchanan, Robert. "The Fleshly School of Poetry" (1870).
55. Ruskin, John. "Mountain Gloom" and "Mountain Glory" (1856) - vol 4 of Modern Painters
56. Marx & Engels, Communist Manifesto (1848).
57. Mulock Craik, Dinah. "A Woman's Thoughts About Women" (1857-8).
58. Arnold, Matthew. "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time" (1864) -from Culture and Anarchy (1882). 
59. Nietzsche, Frederick. "On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense" (1873).
60. James, Henry. The Art of Fiction (1884).
61. Wilde, Oscar. "On the Decay of Lying" (1889) -"The Critic as Artist" (1890, 1891).
62. Pater, Walter. Preface/Conclusion to Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873-1893) and "Emerald Uthwart" (1892, 1895).

Early Twentieth Century

63. Freud, Sigmund. "Creative Writers and Daydreaming," "The Uncanny". 
64. Eliot, T.S. "Tradition and the Individual Talent" and "The Objective Correlative" (in Hamlet essay).
65. Leavis, F.R. from The Great Tradition.
66. Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own and "Modern Fiction".
67. T.S. Flint and Ezra Pound, "Imagism".
68. de Saussure, selections from "Course in General Linguistics" [Adams and Searle].
69. Shklovsky, Victor. "Art as Technique".
70. W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley, "The Intentional Fallacy" and "The Affective Fallacy".
71. Brooks, Cleanth. The Well-Wrought Urn, especially "The Heresy of Paraphrase".
72. Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." 
73. Lukacs, Georg. "The Ideology of Modernism." 
74. Camus, Albert. "The Myth of Sysiphus".
75. Adorno, Theodor. "The Culture Industry Reconsidered", "On Lyric Poetry and Society".
76. Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis, especially chapters 1 and 20.
77. Orwell, George. "Politics and the English Language". 
78. Lacan, Jacques. "On the Agency of the Letter in the unconscious or Reason Since Freud" and "The Mirror Stage".
79. Lévi-Strauss, Claude. "The Structural Study of Myth".
80. de Beauvoir, Simone. from The Second Sex [Leitch].

Later Twentieth Century

81. Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought.
82. Althusser, Louis. "Ideology Has No History"; "Ideology Is a ‘Representation of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to Their Real Conditions of Existence'"; "Ideology Interpellates Individuals as Subjects," Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays.
83. Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. 
84. McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media.
85. Barthes, Roland. "The Death of the Author"; The Pleasure of the Text.
86. Foucault, Michel. "What is an Author?" 
87. de Man, Paul. "The Resistance to Theory"; Allegories of Reading.
88. Williams, Raymond. Marxism and Literature.
89. Iser, Wolfgang. "The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach".
90. White, Hayden. "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality".
91. Derrida, Jacques. "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences"; "Différance"; Positions; "The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing" and "Of Grammatology as a Positive Science," Of Grammatology, pp.6-26 and 74-93.
92. Jameson, Frederic. "Metacommentary"; "Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism"; "On Interpretation: Literature as a Socially Symbolic Act," Chapter 1 of The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. 
93. Said, Edward. "Introduction" to OrientalismThe World, the Text, and the Critic.
94. Cixous, Helene. "The Laugh of Medusa".
95. Gilbert, Sandra M. and Gubar, Susan. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. 
96. Fish, Stanley. "Is There a Text in this Class?" The Authority of Interpretive Communities".
97. Chakravorty Spivak, Gayatri. "Can the Subaltern Speak?" 
98. Bhabha, Homi K. "The Other Question: Stereotype, Discrimination and the Discourse of Colonialism". Greenblatt, Stephen. "Resonance and Wonder".
99. Haraway, Donna. "A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s".
100. Bakhtin, Mikhail M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays.22. 
101. Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. 
102. Kristeva, Julie. "The Semiotic and the Symbolic," part 1 of Revolution in Poetic Language.
103. Pratt, Louise Mary. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation.
104. Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble
105. Zimmerman, Bonnie. "What Has Never Been: An Overview of Lesbian Feminist Literary Criticism".
106. Davis, Lennard J. "Visualizing the Disabled Body: The Classical Nude and the Fragmented Torso," Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body.
107. Talpade Mohanty, Chandra. "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourse".

Suggested Anthologies

(caution: some of these publish abridged versions of essays/articles)

For Early Period and Twentieth-Century Readings

Adams, Hazard and Leroy Searle. Eds. Critical Theory Since Plato. Boston: Thomson
Wadsworth. Bate, W. J. Criticism: The Major Texts. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 
Kaplan, Charles and William Davis Anderson. Eds. Criticism: Major Statements. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's. 
Leitch, Vincent et al. Eds. The Norton Anthology: Theory and Criticism. New York: Norton.

For Twentieth-Century Readings

Rice, Philip and Patricia Waugh. Eds. Modern Literary Theory. London: Arnold.
Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan. Eds. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell.