Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Literature in Theory Syllabus 2022-23

Most readings are available via the Library Reading List. Please complete weekly readings prior to your seminar.



Week 1. Introduction: Literature in Theory



Week 2. The Library

J. L. Borges, ‘The Library of Babel’

Walter Benjamin, “Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting”, in Illuminations, translated by Harry Zorn (Pimlico, 1999) pp.61-69

Week 3. The Canon

Terry Eagleton, ‘Introduction: What is Literature?’ in Literary Theory: An Introduction (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996/2011); pp. 1-15.

Toni Morrison, “black matters” from Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (New York: Random House, Inc, 1993), pp. 1-28.

Week 4. The Writer

Orhan Pamuk, ‘My Father's Suitcase'

Franz Kafka, ‘The Burrow’; ‘The Stoker’; ‘In the Penal Colony’

Week 5. The Reader

Ivan Vladislavic, ‘The Reading’, in 101 Detectives (London: And Other Stories, 2015).

Namwali Serpell, ‘The Banality of Empathy’

Teju Cole, 'A Reader's War'




Week 7. Disciplining English

Edward Said, Orientalism (excerpt)

Gauri Viswanathan, 'The Beginnings of English Literary Study in British India', Oxford Literary Review Vol. 9, No. 1/2, COLONIALISM & other essays (1987), pp. 2-26

Week 8. Decolonising English

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, 'On the Abolition of the English Department', in Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, eds. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 438-442.

Daljit Nagra, Look We Have Coming to Dover (2007)

Week 9. The Library of World Literature

Aamir Mufti, ‘Prologue: The Universal Library of World Literature’ in Forget English! Orientalisms and World Literature (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016), pp. 1-55. 

Epeli Hau‘ofa, ‘The Glorious Pacific Way’, in We Are the Ocean (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008)

Week 10. The University

Dalia Gebrial, 'Rhodes Must Fall: Oxford and Movements for Change’, in Decolonising the University, ed. by Gurminder K. Bhambra, Dalia Gebrial, Kerem Nişancıoğlu (Pluto Press, 2018), pp.19-32. TBC.

Rahul Rao, ‘Neoliberal Antiracism and the British University', Radical Philosophy, 2. 8 (2020), pp. 47-54.

Seminar activity: decolonising the syllabus.






Week 1: Cultural Capital

Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, 'The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception' (excerpt)

Pierre Bourdieu, “The Forms of Capital”, in J. G. Richardson (ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1986), pp.241-258.

Pierre Bourdieu,‘Introduction', Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste

Week 2: Creative Industries and Literary Labour

Raven Leilani, Luster (Picador, 2020)

Week 3: Publishing, Prizes, Prestige

James F. English, ‘Introduction: Prizes and the Study of Culture’, The Economy of Prestige (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2005)

Graham Huggan, ‘Prizing “Otherness”: A Short History of the Booker’, Studies in the Novel 29. 3 (1997), pp. 412-433.

Laura B. McGrath, 'Comping White'

Seminar activity: book covers and prizes

Week 4: Culture, Heritage, Tourism

Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place (1988)



Week 5: The Public Humanities

Michael Warner, ‘Publics and Counterpublics’, Public Culture 14.1 (2002), pp. 49-90.

Mary Mullen, ‘Public Humanities’ (Victorian) culture problem’, Cultural Studies 30. 2 (2016), pp. 183-204.

Seminar activity: book clubs, public theatre, literary festivals.

Week 7: The Digital Humanities

Simone Murray, ‘Charting the Digital Literary Sphere’, Contemporary Literature 56.2 (2015), pp. 311-339.

Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel, 1800-1900 (London: Verso, 1999), pp. 12-24. 

Week 8: The Writer as Activist

Selected poetry from Craig Santos Perez, Habitat Threshold and Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner, Iep Jaltok

Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016) (excerpt)

Week 9: Literature and Social Change

Ursula Le Guin, ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’

China Mieville, ‘From Choice to Polarity: Politics in, and, and of Art

Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, ‘Being-in-the-Room Privilege: Elite Capture and Epistemic Deference

Week 10: Conclusion and Research Project Preparation