Theory of Literature

lfial1550  2017-2018  Louvain-la-Neuve

Theory of Literature
4 credits
30.0 h + 7.5 h
Dufays Jean-Louis; Lisse Michel;
Main themes
The course instruction comprises two sections, one after the other: a theoretical course (15 2-hour sessions) and sessions for small group exercises (5 1-and-a-half-hour sessions).
a) The theoretical course will begin by tackling the principal modern definitions of literature and by briefly retracing the history of the issue of literary genres. It will then analyse the constituent elements of dramatic, poetic and narrative texts. Emphasis will be placed, for example, upon the analysis of stories: we will, in turn, concentrate upon the components of diegesis (plot, characters, space, time), narration (narrative mode and tense) and composition of texts around the narrative genres (epic, story, novella, novel,...) and the worlds in the story (realism, fairy tales, fantasy, detective stories,...). Finally, using examples, we will review possible methods for a literary reading process.
b) The purpose of the exercise sessions, which will preferably be organised in groups of around 15 students according to their disciplines (GERM / GLOR / ROM), will be to require students to read literary theory texts thoroughly, as well as to prepare for the requirements of the exam. Grouping the students by discipline will allow priority to be given to reading texts in the students' specialist languages (i.e. English, Dutch or German for the Germanists, Greek or Latin for the classicists) and tackle the issues which the instructors in that discipline wish to give priority to. The texts will be chosen both in order to look at the content of the theoretical course more deeply, and also by way of a complement or introduction as regards that course.

At the end of this learning unit, the student is able to :


- To be able to problematize the relationship between the phenomenon of literature and the notion of genre by referring to the main definitions and approaches advanced in the course of critique.

- To master the main elements allowing for the analysis of a poetical, narrative, or theatrical text, and to master the basic strategies for analyzing works from other genres of writing in future courses.

- To master a reading strategy that is informed by literary theory.


The contribution of this Teaching Unit to the development and command of the skills and learning outcomes of the programme(s) can be accessed at the end of this sheet, in the section entitled “Programmes/courses offering this Teaching Unit”.
a) First, the magistral lessons will opposite several modern conceptions of the notion of literature and of the act of reading. On a second time, it will introduce to the problematic of the literary genres. Finally, it will analyse the constitutive elements of the dramatic text, of the poetic text and of the narrative text.
b) The exercises, which will be organized in specialized groups (GERM / GLOR and LAFR / ROM and ROGE), will train the students to read with accuracy texts of literary theory, which will be chosen in order to emphasize the contents of the magistral lessons, as a complement or as an opening related to these lessons.
Teaching methods
Evaluation methods
The exam, which will be writen or oral, will contain two parts : the explanation of some concepts exposed during the lessons, and the presentation of a personal work. This one will consist in showing how several theoretical texts choosen in the bibliography of the course allow the student to answer a problem question that he has asked to himself.
Other information
Course material : a large bibliography, classified by themes ; a portfolio of reference articles ; a detailed plan of the course ; an index with the main concepts.
Teaching team : The course and the workshops will be given by a team of teachers who will share the interventions out among themselves according to their skills. Ideally, it should be an interdepartmental team (GERM, GLOR et ROM).
Online resources
DUFAYS Jean-Louis, LISSE Michel et MEUREE, Christophe, Théorie de la littérature. Une introduction, Louvain-la-Neuve, Academia-Bruylant, 2009 (Intellection), 208 p.
+ une bibliographie détaillée de plus de 300 titres est mise à la disposition des étudiants.
Faculty or entity

Programmes / formations proposant cette unité d'enseignement (UE)

Title of the programme
Bachelor in Ancient and Modern Languages and Literatures

Bachelor in French and Romance Languages and Literatures : General

Bachelor in Ancient Languages and Literatures : Classics

Bachelor in Modern Languages and Literatures: German, Dutch and English

Bachelor in Modern Languages and Literatures : General

Minor in French Studies

Minor in Literary Studies