Spring 2024 - ENGL 364 E100

Literary Criticism: History, Theory, and Practice (4)

Class Number: 4769

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Thu, 4:30–8:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 20, 2024
    Sat, 7:00–10:00 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    30 units or two 200-division English courses. Recommended: ENGL 216.



The study and application of select literary theories.


Critical Theory in the Modern World


This course introduces students to the academic field of critical theory, with an emphasis on its relation to art and culture. We will situate critical theory within its historical context as a response to developments in modern society, especially the rise of enlightenment reason and the onset of industrial capitalism. Beginning with foundational texts from Plato and Immanuel Kant, we will assess both the aspirations and limitations of the critical force of rationality and universalism as they resurfaced under modernity. Throughout the course, we will explore the role of critique as it developed through Hegel and Marx to theorists such as Theodor Adorno, Judith Butler and Leanne Betsamosake Simpson.


As we will see, critical theory as a form of protest against the injustices of modern society has decided applicability to literary and cultural texts. By outlining the contours of critical theory and its crucial relationship to issues of literary and artistic representation within a range of historical and geographical contexts, we will assess the suitability of cultural criticism for a crisis-ridden world. Ultimately, we will explore critical theory as both a product of and form antagonistic toward material realities that haunt the modern and contemporary world, including: the rise and fall of the notion of “the individual”; the commodification of life; the mass reproduction of artworks; gendered oppression; the destruction of nature; and the legacies of transatlantic slavery and settler colonialism.


  • Participation 10%
  • Presentation 10%
  • First paper (1000 words) 20%
  • Midterm 25%
  • Final paper (3000 words) 35%



Leitch, Vincent B., et al., eds., The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 3rd. ed.

Additional course materials are posted on Canvas. This site is password protected and is available only to students registered in the course. In accordance with Canadian copyright law and best practices with regard to “fair dealing,” please download only one copy of assigned PDFs for private study in the context of this course. On the days that these materials are being used, please bring your copy to class.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html