Theory of Literature

lfial1550  2019-2020  Louvain-la-Neuve

Theory of Literature
Note from June 29, 2020
Although we do not yet know how long the social distancing related to the Covid-19 pandemic will last, and regardless of the changes that had to be made in the evaluation of the June 2020 session in relation to what is provided for in this learning unit description, new learnig unit evaluation methods may still be adopted by the teachers; details of these methods have been - or will be - communicated to the students by the teachers, as soon as possible.
5 credits
30.0 h + 7.5 h
Dufays Jean-Louis; Dufays Jean-Louis (compensates Lisse Michel); Lisse Michel;
Main themes
This course contains two sections which are linked to each other: a series of formal lectures (13 to 15 sessions of 2 hours) and sessions of practical exercises in small groups (4 sessions of 2 hours).
a) The formal lectures will start by comparing the main modern definitions of a text, reading, and literature. They will briefly review the history of the issue of literary genres. They will then analyse the component elements of dramatic, poetic and narrative texts. The emphasis will be on analysis: we will look in turn at the components of diegesis (plot, characters, space, time), narration (the narrator's stances, narration time) and the shaping of the text, narrative genres (epics, stories, novellas, novels etc.) and the different categories such as realism, magic realism, fantasy and detective stories.  Finally, using examples, we will look at the different ways an analysis can be made of the processes involved in reading literature. 
b) The practical exercise sessions, which will ideally be organised in subject groups (GERM / ROGE / CLAS / LAFR / ROM) of between 15 and 20 students, are designed to provide practice in reading texts on literary theory in depth, thus preparing students for the requirements of the examination. Grouping by subject will enable students to read written texts in their language speciality (i.e. French, English, Dutch, German, Greek or Latin) and to deal with issues that the lecturers in their subject wish to highlight. Texts will be chosen both to enhance the teaching material for the formal lectures and to complement and introduce them.

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

  • To be able to identify the relationship between literary output and the concept of genre by referring to the main definitions and approaches which have been put forward in criticism.
  • To be able to use the main components to analyse a poetic, narrative or dramatic text; and in this way to use the basic methodology to analyse works from different genres in future literature courses.
  • To use a methodology for reading texts 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 opposites several modern conceptions of the notion of literature and of the act of reading. On a second time, it introduces to the problematic of the literary genres. Finally, it analyses the constitutive elements of the dramatic text, of the poetic text and of the narrative text.
b) The exercises, which are organized in specialized groups (GERM, ROGE, GLOR-LAFR, ROM and minors), train the students to read with accuracy texts of literary theory, which are chosen in order to emphasize the contents of the magistral lessons, as a complement or as an opening related to these lessons.
Teaching methods
The formal lectures contain many examples and group analyses where active student participation is required. The practical exercises are designed to make students take an interactive approach to the reading of four theoretical texts, under the supervision of a teaching assistant. 
Evaluation methods
The examination is in written form and is in two parts : answers to questions requiring a knowledge and in-depth understanding of course material and practical exercises and the presentation of individual work. The latter should show how different theoretical texts chosen from the course bibliography enable the student to answer a problem question. This text, of around 10,000 characters, should be based on the reading of a minimum of a hundred pages from three different theoretical texts.
The written work is to be submitted to the ROM Secretariat by Friday 12 December 2018 before 12h (January session) or by Friday 16 August 2019 before 12h (September session). Undelivered or delayed work results in an overall score of 0 / 20 on the exam.
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 multidisciplinary team of teachers (Germanists, Classics, Romanists) who will share the interventions out among themselves according to their skills.
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 étudiant sur le site Moodle.
Teaching materials
  • DUFAYS Jean-Louis, LISSE Michel et MEUREE, Christophe, Théorie de la littérature. Une introduction, Louvain-la-Neuve, Academia-Bruylant, 2009 (Intellection), 208 p.
Faculty or entity

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

Title of the programme
Minor in French Studies

Minor in Literary Studies

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

Bachelor in Ancient and Modern Languages and Literatures

Bachelor in French and Romance Languages and Literatures : General

Bachelor in Modern Languages and Literatures : General