Course Descriptions

ENG 2225
Literary Interpretation

April Middeljans

TuTh 12:50-2:50 p.m.

English 2225 is a required writing-intensive (“W”) course designed to prepare English majors for literary study and critical writing at the college level.

It explores the foundational questions of the discipline of English: why do we read, write and argue about literature (theoretical), and how do we read, write and argue about literature (practical). The department strongly recommends taking 2225 early in your college career; it provides a good foundation for writing and researching at the 3000 and 4000 levels, and it provides creative writers with an invaluable tool box of literary devices.

In the first three units of the course, we will work on the skills of close reading and interpretation, studying how literary devices work in three major genres of literature—fiction, drama, and poetry:

  • Close reading intensively examines a text’s language and literary devices, creating a detailed map of the text’s possible connotations and implications. Close reading is the primary tool used in interpretation.
  • Interpretation is an explicit argument about a text’s deeper meanings—its implied themes, values, and assumptions. It pays special attention to the text’s contradictions, tensions, and ambiguities. Interpretation also recognizes how the cultural context of the text and the reader might influence our interpretive conclusions.

After we have developed our own interpretive skills, we will enter a conversation with the broader community of scholars—peers and professional critics. The final unit focuses on the skills of criticism, research, and revision:

  • Criticism is the art of analyzing and questioning a text’s themes, values, and assumptions (identified in the process of interpretation). A good literary critic resists the tendency to automatically “buy into” the text’s world view, considering what the text doesn’t say and critiquing its arguments from a distance. Literary critics use different theoretical approaches when interpreting texts, and the priorities of literary criticism have shifted over time. While this is not a critical theory course, it will briefly introduce some major schools so you can recognize them and perhaps experiment with one or more of them in your own work.
  • Research. Literary critics do research in order to participate in the conversation scholars are having about a certain text. This course trains you to find scholarly articles and to integrate scholarly viewpoints into your own interpretation productively and responsibly.
  • Revision. We will write regularly throughout the entire course, but Unit IV will focus especially on drafting and sharing with peers to help you develop a paper that engages a community of scholars.
Writing on the window of an English classroom

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English Professor Susan Van Zanten gives you a quick guide on how to get the most out of reading poetry.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Jane Austen
Pride & Prejudice