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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 wondered what reading fiction has to do with the real world?

ENGL 233 explores what the way we read can reveal (or conceal) about fictional worlds and characters, as well as about others and ourselves. Taking as its primary object of study Charlotte Bronte's controversial classic 'Jane Eyre', ENGL 233 demystifies the terms used in literary studies. Through adopting a wide range of critical "lenses" - including New Criticism, Narratology, Marxist criticism, gender theory, New Historicism, postcolonial theory and psychoanalytic criticism - we will investigate the vastly different ways of interpreting fiction and reflect on the relative advantages/disadvantages of each critical "lens". Students will also have the opportunity to use these lenses to critically read the pressing issues of their own era, exploring whether class is still relevant, the 'us and them' mentality of post-9/11 politics and the danger of a single story shaping the way we view the world. At the end of the semester, students will be equipped with a toolkit for reading not only literary works but also today's world.

Paper title Literary Theory: From Marxism to Ecocriticism
Paper code ENGL233
Subject English
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2021, expected to be offered in 2022 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $913.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,073.40

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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 Josie Carter

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 source, Charlotte Bronte's novel 'Jane Eyre'. 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.


Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre (2008 Oxford World's Classics Edition is required).

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms 3rd edition (recommended).

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 2021, expected to be offered in 2022

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system