Foundations in Critical Reading and Research

Disclaimer: The information on this page is provided as an overview. The course outline, readings, and assignments may be subject to change in the final syllabus as determined by the lecturer and/or preceptors.

Foundations in Critical Reading and Research introduces students to current practices and conventions of graduate scholarship in Language and Literature, core literary theories, and foundational Humanities skills. In the first part of the course, students will read essays by noted scholars and writers from the twentieth century alongside a well-known fairy tale, modern fantasy novel, and epic poem, using the set theoretical texts to consider different approaches to these pivotal works. As the course progresses and expands to include works in other genres and forms, students will learn about several different literary theories, weighing the strengths and limitations of different critical lenses against differing texts and types of texts. Along the way, students will practice reading closely (and writing about it!), crafting and developing thesis statements and analytical paragraphs, using Signum’s library resources, citing and integrating primary and secondary sources, organizing short and long work, responding to criticism, and revising their work.

Each week will include a full-length (90-minute) lecture on the primary text as well as a shorter practical lecture or pair of lectures applying critical theories and secondary readings to that set text and introducing foundational writing and research techniques. Students will have two preceptor sessions weekly. In one, students will discuss the set primary text and any new or relevant secondary and critical models; in the other, students will discuss and apply recently presented practices, techniques, or approaches in a more practical writing workshop. Roundtables and guest lectures by Signum’s experienced faculty will allow students to encounter a range of approaches to the study of language and literature throughout the course, illustrating some of the many ways in which scholarly differences benefit academic discourse and contribute to the growth of knowledge.

Note for students admitted to the Master’s Program in Language and Literature: Effective for students admitted starting Fall 2022 and after, this course is required and must be taken within the first two calendar years of the M.A. program. Students admitted before Fall 2022 are encouraged but not required to take this course.

Weekly Schedule

This course will include one 90-minute pre-recorded lecture, 1-3 shorter pre-recorded lectures or roundtables, and two hours of live discussion per week as assigned. Remember to indicate your availability and time zone in the Goldberry registration system.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Stories and Story Structures

  • “Cinderella”
  • Fairy Stories and the Classics
  • Topic Sentences and Paragraph Structure

Week 2: Thinking, Pondering, Deducing, and Deciding: Close Reading Techniques

  • The Princess Bride
  • Close Reading Prose (roundtable)
  • MLA Style and Bibliography

Week 3: Macro and Micro Readings

  • The Princess Bride
  • The Odyssey
  • Close Reading Poetry
  • Thesis Statements and Analytical Paragraphs (roundtable)

Week 4: Words and Meanings

  • The Odyssey
  • Formalist Criticism
  • Avoiding Plagiarism

Week 5: Scholarly Discussions and How to Find Them

  • The Odyssey
  • Library Resources
  • Research and Research Questions

Week 6: Some Advances in Theory and Bibliography

  • The Odyssey
  • New Historicist Criticism
  • Advanced Citations and Bibliographies

Week 7: I’m a Scholar, not a Theorist!

  • Feminist & Marxist theory
  • Planning a Longer Argument (roundtable)
  • Annotated Bibliographies
  • Literature Reviews

Week 8: Languages of Literature

  • Star Trek
  • Science Fiction
  • Postcolonialism and Critical Race Theory
  • Citing and Analyzing Non-print Media

Week 9: The Serviceable Cogs of Scholarship

  • “Leaf by Niggle”
  • Ecocriticism

Week 10: Other Things to Read than Print

  • Old Norse and Old English Literature
  • Engaging with Secondary Sources (roundtable)

Week 11: Conceivable Changes

  • The Princess Bride
  • Adaptation Studies
  • Effective Peer Review
  • Responding to Criticism (roundtable)

Week 12: Coda

  • “Cinderella”
  • Children’s Literature
  • Other Analytical Methods
  • Concluding Remarks

Required Texts

The Amazon links are provided for convenience only, and we encourage students to purchase texts wherever they wish.

**Students will need access to “Leaf by Niggle” and “On Fairy-Stories.” Both are contained in Tree and Leaf (linked above) or this edition of The Tolkien Reader, but students are welcome to any edition of the set texts.

Optional: The Blue Fairy Book(Andrew Lang)

Further required readings will be supplied by the instructors in the final syllabus.

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

Fall 2024Dr. Faith Acker and Dr. Sara Brown
Fall 2023Dr. Faith Acker and Dr. Sara Brown
Fall 2022Dr. Faith Acker and Dr. Sara Brown
Logo for the Foundations in Critical Reading & Research course is a clip art style graphic of a shelf, an open laptop, and a stack of thick books with different colored spines.

This core course introduces students to current practices and conventions of graduate scholarship in Language and Literature, core literary theories, and foundational Humanities skills.

START: August 26, 2024

DURATION: 12 Weeks

ID: LITZ 5302