Syllabus | Fall 2013

"He must be theory-mad beyond redemption who...shall still persist in attempting to reconcile the obstinate oils and waters of Poetry and Truth."

- Edgar Allan Poe, "Criticism" (1850)

Course Information

ENGL 8906: Introduction to Critical Theory

Section 001, course #26558—meets from 3:00 p.m. - 4:45 in Chemistry 153 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The course home page and schedule can be found at <>

Professor Information

Dr. Craig Stroupe,, 218-726-6249, Humanities 437 (inside the 420 Humanities office suite), Office Hours Tuesdays/Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 or by appointment.

Resources Needed

  • Kate Chopin, The Awakening. Ed. Nancy Walker. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. ISBN 978-0-312-19575-5.
  • Cultural Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Imre Szeman and Timothy Kaposy. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4051-8082-5.
  • A number of printouts of chapters or articles to print out, available via the course Moodle site.



  • Attendance; active informed participation in in-class and online conversations; occasional, brief written responses to assigned readings (40%)

  • One 15-20 minute presentation (20%)

  • One seminar paper (15 pages) (40%). In preparation for writing the seminar paper--and as part of its grade--you will complete the following during the course of the semester:
    • a paper proposal identifying a problematic aspect of a literary text
    • an abstract explaining the theoretical problem that the text presents, or the theoretical apparatus you will apply to the problematic, primary text
    • an annotated bibliography reviewing the secondary, critical literature on the primary text and the interpretative problem on which are you focusing.
    • a conference



This course introduces first-year graduate students to advanced literary study in two ways.

First, we will read and discuss works of critical theory, highlighting the fundamental questions they ask and answer, and examining how they can be relevant to the study of literature and culture.

Second, we will learn and actively apply the practices of literary scholarship: how to identify suitable objects of inquiry, to do research, and to develop and present arguments according to the norms of Literary Studies.

Preparation for Discussion

For each class meeting, I will ask you to complete the readings in time to write and post discussion questions to the Moodle site, based on each reading, by noon of the day of class.

Below each discussion question, write a brief commentary (two or three sentences), explaining what you hope this question will reveal or open up.

Between noon and 3:00, visit the Moodle forum for the reading(s) and make some notes toward answering the questions of your classmates.


Your regular attendance is absolutely necessary for your success in the class. The UMD policy states:

Students are expected to attend all scheduled class meetings. It is the responsibility of students to plan their schedules to avoid excessive conflict with course requirements. However, there are legitimate and verifiable circumstances that lead to excused student absence from the classroom. These are subpoenas, jury duty, military duty, religious observances, illness, bereavement for immediate family, and NCAA varsity intercollegiate athletics. For complete information, please see:

Allowed Absences

You are allowed a small number of absences which you can spent however you wish: 4 (in a MWF class) or 3 (in a TT class). Allowed absences do not excuse you from the work due or completed on the days you are absent, and some in-class activities and timely requirements cannot be replicated or made up. Save your "free" absences for a rainy (or snowy) day.

Unexcused Absences and Penalties:

Absences in excess of the number of allowed instances deduct 2 percent each from your overall grade.

Excused Absences

In the case of serious, legitimate, and verifiable conflicts that result in absences in excess of the allowed number, the UMD attendance policy states that absences can be excused if

1. you contact me prior to, or as soon as possible after, the circumstance resulting in your absence(s)

2. you provide written documentation from an authoritative source (e.g., a doctor, the Athletic Department) which speaks specifically to the reason you were unavoidably unable to attend class that particular day.


Like the other types of absences, documented, excused absences do not excuse you from the work due or completed when you did not attend, and some in-class activities and timely requirements cannot be replicated or made up.

Tardiness and Leaving Early

In addition to your budget of allowed absences, you also have 3 or 4 instances (depending on the TT or MWF schedule) of arriving late or leaving early to use if necessary. Instances in excess of this allowance will decrease your overall grade by 2 percentage points each. If you need to leave class early, even if it's one of your allowed instances, please arrange it with me in advance

Students with Disabilities Policy

It is the policy and practice of the University of Minnesota Duluth to create inclusive learning environments for all students, including students with disabilities. If there are aspects of this course that result in barriers to your inclusion or your ability to meet course requirements – such as time limited exams, inaccessible web content, or the use of non-captioned videos – please notify the instructor as soon as possible. You are also encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Resources to discuss and arrange reasonable accommodations. Please call 218-726-6130 or visit the DR website at for more information.


Incompletes for the semester will be given only in the following very limited circumstances:

  • you must contact me in advance of the semester's end to make a request for an incomplete;
  • no more than one or two weeks of class, or one or two assignments, can have been missed;
  • you must be in good standing in the class (not already behind, in other words);
  • you must have a documented family or medical emergency, as required by university policy;
  • you must arrange a time table with me for completing the missed work that is acceptable for both of us.

Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Please see UMD's pages concerning these two issues: