In Critical Methods, students closely examine and discuss texts from three primary literary genres—fiction, poetry, and drama—in the process developing analytical and writing skills that will facilitate their success in all English courses. You’ll become familiar with technical vocabulary, ways to effectively structure interpretive essays, and the basics of several major theoretical approaches we can use to analyze literature: Marxist theory, critical race theory, and feminist theory. You’ll use those tools to develop your own close readings of the texts we study. By the semester’s end, you should be able to formulate clear and compelling interpretive arguments about literature, backed by well-chosen textual evidence, and informed by formal and theoretical approaches.    

Questions this course raises:


  • How is literature inherently ambiguous? 

  • What does it mean to conduct a close reading of a literary text? How do we close read?

  • How do form and content work together to co-create meaning(s)?

  • How are fiction, poetry, and drama formally different?

  • How does the application of a theoretical lens encourage us to see and engage with different aspects of a text?

  • What are the characteristics of an effective interpretive essay?


Critical Methods for English Majors

Surreal images of violence and oppression in Shaun Tan's The Arrival (2006)