Introduction to Literature, Culture, and English Studies

Course information


Introduction to Literature, Culture, and English Studies


Attila Kiss

Course code





Auditorium Maximum


Friday 10-12

Course description

Short description

The study of literature and culture involves the student in a complex activity of reading and interpretation. This process combines methods of understanding how meaning is produced on different levels of society; how meaning-making activities reflect the dominant discourses of our social and historical position; how the status of cultural representations in general, and the literary work of art in particular, becomes problematic when investigated in an interactive model between text and interpreter, society and human subject. This introductory course aims at providing students with a set of tools to examine the above problems as represented in various literary works, together with a survey of the technical skills indispensable to the experience of reading. Special emphasis will be laid on students' understanding of terminology. The fundamental concepts, methodologies, and perspectives of English Studies as an academic discipline will also be presented.


1. Organizational meeting.

Culture and cultural practices. The system of cultural representations.

Problems in the definition of literariness and literature.

The languages of science and literature: reality and fictionality.

Society and the production of meaning.

Correspondence and coherence theories of truth-conditions.

Meaning and the structure of the sign. Literature as communication.

The ontology of the LWA.

2. The theory and system of genres. Genre generating factors.

Subdivision and fusion. Historical changes.

3. The system of English Studies

Canon, canon-formation. Rhetoric, poetics, philology.

The history of English as a university subject.

Critical thinking, critique of ideology, criticism, registers of culture

Critical approaches to literature and culture.


Figurative language. Metaphor (explicit, implicit), metonymy, synecdoche, symbol, allegory, oxymo­ron, paradox.

Metaphorical understanding, tenor and vehicle.

5. English prosody and stanzas.

Couplet, quatrain, sonnet, rhyme structure, iambic pentameter, blank verse.

Interpretation: Keats “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”


Narration: story-telling and the textual world. Plot and plotting. Time and space.

Focalization and the system of point of view. Polyphony.

Character typology.

Levels and voices. Narrative agents: author, implied author, narrator, narratee, implied reader, reader.

Interpretation: Hawthorne “The Artist of the Beautiful”

7. DRAMA: text and performance. The semiotics of drama and theatre. Deixis.

The ritual origins of drama.

Setting, diction, decorum, action.

Proposition, conflict, crisis, climax, catastrophe.

Anagnorisis, peripeteia, hybris.

Interpretation: Yeats Purgatory





Requirements to get the grade

final examination in writing, 50% pass

Reading list

Bertens, Johannes W. Literary Theory: The Basics. Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2007.

Kiss, Attila – Matuska Ágnes. Introduction to the Study of Cultures and Literatures in English. e-book. IEAS Szeged, 2016.

Pope, Rob. The English Studies Book. London and New York: Routledge, 1998. pp. 67-154: “THEORETICAL POSITIONS AND PRACTICAL APPROACHES.”

Selden, Raman - Peter Widdowson - Peter Brooker. A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory. Pearson Education Limited, 2005.

Wolfreys, Julian - Ruth Robbins - Kenneth Womack. Key Concepts in Literary Theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.


Suggested reading list