Research Methods

This course will introduce students to MLA citation style, standard bibliographic and research practices, literary theories of the later 20th century, and possible scholarly directions in the 21st century.

January 16, 2017
12 weeks
LITZ 5301


Sørina Higgins
Chair of the Department of Language & Literature
Dr. Karl Persson
Dr. Karl Persson
Lecturer & Preceptor

What is literature? Why do we read it? How do we interpret it? Who has the authority to interpret it? What practical tools and skills are required for the interpretation of literature? How do we evaluate conflicting interpretations? How do we bring our own interpretations into dialogue with those of others? How do contingent matters such as gender, race, class, and historical context affect the ways we interpret literature? How do we maintain contact with the significant scholarly conversations relevant for reading particular kinds of literature? And how does one learn to communicate clearly and cogently concerning these matters?

These questions and the various ways the discipline of English literature has responded to them are the subjects of Signum’s Research Methods course. Beginning with the most basic matters of writing, evaluation of evidence, and essay structure, this course is designed to introduce students to: the MLA citation style; standard bibliographic and research practices; the “theoretical turn” of the later twentieth century; and possible scholarly directions in the twenty-first century “post-theoretical” state of the discipline.

Structurally, the course is oriented around lecture material featuring introductions to weekly topics from a variety of scholars, not only giving students access to presenters uniquely qualified to introduce their particular fields, but also giving them experience with a number of different lecture formats and scholarly approaches. Following up on these recorded lectures, preceptors provide the more hands-on content of the course, including direction in assignments, discussion of citation and research, and application of theoretical paradigms to literary texts. Through these means, students by the end of the course will be well-equipped with the mechanical, theoretical, and bibliographic tools necessary for both an informed scholarly approach to their own research interests and entry into broader scholarly discourse in the field of English literature.

Weekly Outline

Lectures will be held on Tuesday, 7:30 – 9:00 pm Eastern Time, with one 90-minute discussion session as assigned. Weekly outline, readings, and assignments subject to change in the final syllabus.

Week 1

  • “On the Writing of Papers”
  • Mechanics, Sentence Structure, Sentence Diagramming, Essay Organization

Week 2

  • The “So-What” Question; On Being a Public Intellectual
  • Research Avenues at Signum University; What is Peer-Review?; Evaluating Sources

Week 3

  • The Theory of Bibliography; Joining the Conversation; Deep Listening; They Say/I Say
  • An Introduction to MLA Style; Essay Formats and Conventions; Quotation, Paraphrase

Week 4

  • On-Site Archives; Digital archives; Paleography
  • Group Discussion

Week 5

  • Pre-Twentieth Century Perspectives on Literature: Augustine on Semiotics; Philip Sidney’s Apology for Poetry; Romanticism
  • Discussion of Primary Texts

Week 6

  • The Situation in English Departments in the Early 20th Century; Overview of Critical Theory
  • Discussion on Readings/Lecture

Week 7

  • Formalism/New Criticism
  • Discussion on Readings/Lecture

Week 8

  • Historicism; New Historicism; Cultural Materialism; Reception Theory
  • Discussion of Readings/Lecture/Application of Theory

Week 9

  • Structuralism/Semiotics; Poststructuralism/Deconstruction
  • Discussion on Readings/Lecture/Application of Theory

Week 10

  • Gender/Race/Class
  • Discussion of Readings/Lecture/Application of Theory

Week 11

  • Philological Approaches; Pop-Culture/Cultural Studies
  • Discussion of Lecture

Week 12

  • “The Inklings and Literary Theory”; The Religious Turn
  • Discussion

Required Texts

Course History

Research Methods Offerings
Semester Preceptor(s)
Spring 2017 Dr. Karl Persson