Make your own free website on
Literary Criticism I: Ancient to Modern
Courses and Syllabi
SVC Homepage
Pre-Law Society
Sigma Tau Delta
English Club
Prospective Majors
Creative Writing
Documents and Deadlines
News and Events
Writing Contests
Bulletin Board
Fall 2007
Tuesday, Thursday 10:00-11:15

William C. Snyder, Professor
Office: 412 Placid
Ext. 2318, or 724 805 2318

Text Required

The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, 3rd ed., by David H. Richter
Blackboard course site

Course Profile:

With beginnings as a sub-discipline in the Renaissance, Literary Criticism has expanded to become a significant part of literary study. Today, criticism has become a broad field of investigation with has its own canon, history, and special conventions. While criticism and theory are dependent upon imaginative literature for their subject-matter, the way that poems, plays or fiction is approached has taken interesting and useful directions, providing a number of methods of finding meaning in literary works. We will be investigating those methods which have been applied to works from Classical times up to the Modern Era through the 1950’s. EL 201, Literary Criticism II, taught in the Spring semester, will cover contemporary trends in the field, now known as “Literary Theory”. The Richter book contains many of the readings for both courses.

We will follow a chronological progression of writers, philosophers, and critics, starting with the ancient Greeks, and moving through the centuries to study the development of English as a language and literature, and to analyze the texts of Medieval and Renaissance critics, of Neo-classical, Romantic and Impressionist authors, and of Modernist and New Critical thinkers. While The Critical Tradition includes excerpts from many canonical works, there will be handouts and visual references to complement, extend, set context or fill in gaps. My role is to highlight the readings and to set them into a cultural context; your role is to invest in the texts, absorb as much as you can in class, ask and answer questions, and synthesize the information in your writing.
From time to time, we will also refer to arts other than literary:
Painting, architecture, music, theater, cinema, and popular culture. In short, you will begin to formulate your own system of aesthetics, informed by those thinkers who comprise the critical canon and those who challenge it.

The texts that we study represent writers who attempted to gauge and describe the ideas and values of the cultural eras that they inhabited. In many cases, their language is not our language, but the concepts and connections are either influential or current in some way. In other words, Plato and Plotinus still have something to say to us, and it is our job—and my job as your guide—to determine what they are saying, and how it has been built upon and reconstituted by later writers. To enhance understanding in the fullest possible way, this course is built on these requirements:

Three Critical Exercises

To develop skill in writing about literary texts, you must do three critical exercises. These are concise, well-organized essays of at least four pages which reveal your own abilities to synthesize and analyze. Secondary sources may be consulted but not featured. Your purpose is to show understanding and to bring to light the inherent meanings and patterns in the primary works assigned. As in any analysis, your task is to provide a tenable response to a specific question, and to enlighten your reader as you have enlightened yourself while pursuing your investigation.

Your time to do these exercises is deliberately constricted; you will get only a week to write your piece. So plan judiciously. These critical exercises are worth 240 points, over half your grade. In one way or another, each class period will address knowledge or skills which will be of use in the critical exercise.


The Mid-Term Exam is scheduled for October 25. It will be focused on identification of passages that we have read throughout the semester. You may know this testing style as “Name the author.” There will also be a section of definitions. The Final Exam will take place on December 11, Tuesday, at 9:00.

Writing-Designated Course

As well as providing knowledge within the field of Literary Criticism, this course is designed to nurture your skills in critical thinking and written expression. In this class, you will complete several writing assignments; I will evaluate them according to how well you follow the Six Principles of Good Writing: Purpose, Clarity, Organization, Coherence, Support, Insight. I will expect your written work to use standard English as you learn the writing conventions of this sub-field.

This course is part of an interdisciplinary writing project which follows standards for all Writing-Designated courses. If you have problems or questions, consult me, or departmental tutors who are trained to help with writing assignments in this class.

Literary Criticism endeavors to address all English Department goals:

to discern and appreciate different forms and styles of writing, and to be able to use them in their own writing;
to become familiar with and be able to use traditional rhetorical modes;
to learn to read critically;
to understand the importance of primary texts;
to be able to explicate primary texts;
to see an individual literary work in relation to literary and cultural history ;
to be aware of current ideas and theories in the discipline;
to be able to participate in class discussion, and to synthesize and reflect;
to understand literature as an act of imagination in language;
to make relationships between literature and "life": a growing understanding and valuing of self, humanity and diverse cultures, the human condition, and the human spirit.

As well, this course addresses the following Saint Vincent core curriculum goals:

to form habits of ordered inquiry, logical thinking, and critical analysis
to develop skills in reading, writing, and literature
to foster historical awareness

Grading Points
Critical Exercise 1 60
Critical Exercise 2 80
Critical Exercise 3 100
Mid-Term Exam 50
Final Exam 60
Perfect Attendance 35
Leadership 35
Total 420

You may track your grading progress on Blackboard.
Please refer to the handout “Grading and Attendance Policy in Dr. Snyder’s Courses”

Attendance point levels:

35 30 20 10 0 -10 -20 -5 late
no cuts one cut two cuts three cuts four cuts five cuts six cuts

Leadership point levels:

35 25 15 0
consistently occasionally infrequently keep quiet and
offered; offered offered count on attendance points
work upheld
as model

EL 200
Fall 2007

All assignments are to be completed by the date given. Page numbers refer to Richter. Assignments given via Blackboard will be described and given deadlines in class.

Date Work Due

August 28 T Course Introduction
August 30 H Course Orientation 1-22

September 4 T Classical Criticism, 25-54
September 6 H Classical Criticism, 55-81
September 11 T Classical Criticism, 82-119
September 13 H Writing a Critical Essay: Assignment Given
September 18 T
September 20 H Essay Due: The Emergence of the English Language
September 25 T The Emergence of the English Language
September 27 H Renaissance Criticism, 120-159

October 2 T Renaissance Criticism
October 4 H Neo-Classicism, 160-188
October 9 T Neo-classicism, 189-230
October 11 H Late neo-classicism, 231-274
October 16 T Extended Weekend
October 18 H Transition to Romanticism, 275-303
October 23 T Romanticism, 304-368
October 25 H Mid-Term Exam
October 30 T Late Romanticism; 369-396; Essay 2 Assigned

November 1 H
November 6 T Critical Essay 2 due; Victorians, 397-461
November 8 H Victorians, 462-496
November 13 T Impresssionism (handout & web material)
November 15 H Early Modernism, 497-564
November 20 T Modernism, 565-621
November 22 H Thanksgiving
November 27 T Critical Essay 3 Assigned
November 29 H

December 4 T Critical Essay 3 due;Modernism, 622-672
December 6 H 673-701; Overview; Preparation for Final
December 11 M Final Exam 9:00

Back to SVC English Majors Homepage