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ENGL233 Literary Theory: From Marxism to Ecocriticism

Examines key literary texts in relationship to a variety of critical methods, including affect theory; History of Emotions; Marxism; Postcolonialism; and cognitive approaches to literary study.

Have you ever considered how politics, environmentalism, and emotions can shape your reading of literary texts?

ENGL 233 will introduce you to a variety of critical approaches to literature and culture, from Marxist analyses of class dynamics, to Ecocritical readings by scholar-activists. We will examine how affect theory and work on the History of Emotions can illuminate our understanding of characters and their motivations. We will also address ways to deploy literary theory to reclaim silenced voices and to shine a light on those who have been under-represented.

The paper will explore work by prominent literary critics including Lauren Berlant, Brian Massumi, and Gayatri Spivak. We will discuss how literary theories often develop from one another, and we will apply a range of different approaches to primary texts including George Eliot's 'The Mill on the Floss', Inga Simpson's 'Nest', and Amitav Ghosh's 'Gun Island'. We will analyse a range of nature writing to consider the representation of climate change, human agency, and what the critic Rob Nixon has described as 'slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor'.

Paper title Literary Theory: From Marxism to Ecocriticism
Paper code ENGL233
Subject English
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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One 100-level ENGL paper (excluding ENGL 124, ENGL 126, ENGL 128) or 36 points
Schedule C
Arts and Music

Teaching staff

Co-ordinator and Lecturer: Dr Grace Moore

Paper Structure

This paper consists of two 1-hour lectures each week that provide an overview of a major literary theory and demonstrate an application of the theoretical approach to the primary sources. The weekly lectures are complemented by tutorials, which involve group discussion and student activities based on (a) the theory at hand for that week and (b) supplementary reading.

Teaching Arrangements

This paper is taught by the Coordinator via lectures and tutorials.


Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss
Ghosh, Amitav. Gun Island
Simpson, Inga. Nest

Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle. An Introduction to LIterature, Criticism and Theory (5th edition).

ENGL 233 Course Readings are available online via Blackboard.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Scholarship, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will gain:

  • A broad knowledge of the major schools and debates of literary criticism and theory
  • A working knowledge of the critical vocabulary of the field of literary study
  • The ability to critically evaluate different approaches to literary criticism and apply key concepts to their own interpretations of literary texts, both in written form (in critical essays) and in spoken form (in class discussion and tutorials)
  • Critical-thinking skills that extend beyond literary critical practice to broader problem-solving domains in contemporary social and political contexts
  • Communication skills derived from group work in tutorials and written assessment
  • An understanding of the ethical dimension of literary analysis and critical reading, including a greater cultural awareness gleaned from the socio-historical context of the primary and secondary sources

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system