Academic year
2023/2024 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
LMH170 (AF:368617 AR:250784)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Master's Degree Programme (DM270)
Educational sector code
1st Semester
Course year
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The course “Theory of Literature” is part of the “characterizing [caratterizzanti]” educational activities of the “Literatures and Cultures” curriculum of the MA program in European, American and Postcolonial Language and Literature. Its objectives are to help students (2) improve their knowledge of literary theory and the methodological tools for textual analysis acquired during previous college education, and (2) become more familiar with the history of European and American literature and its link with cultural history from a comparative and an interdisciplinary perspective.
Knowledge and Understanding
(1) Knowledge and understanding of European literature both at expert level and from a comparative perspective
(2) Knowledge and understanding of the theoretical aspects of textual analysis covered during previous college education, and the terminology of literary theory and history in its connections with cultural history—with specific reference to the comparative history and theory of the novel
(3) Knowledge and understanding of European and American culture and literature in their historical contexts, and in relation to a literary form (the novel) and a field of theorerical research (empathy studies)

Applying Knowledge and Understanding
(1) Ability to take part in a scholarly debate on the theory and history of the novel in an expert way, speak in public, and defend a thesis
(2) Ability to act confidently in high-level professional situations and intercultural contexts requiring knowledge of European and American cultures and literatures, and ability to relate that knowledge to general and topical questions

Making Judgments
(1) Ability to develop intellectual independence with regard to the topics covered in the lectures

Communication Skills
(1) Ability to communicate orally and effectively the knowledge acquired using the correct terminology
(2) Ability to interact with peers and the teacher in a critical and respectful way both in person and in the virtual classroom

Learning Skills
(1) Ability to navigate critically the required readings and the bibliography they provide
Advanced knowledge of English and basic knowledge of the methods and problems of literary theory.
Empathy and the Novel
Empathy is one of the key-concepts referred to by scholars in order to understand the particular kind of cognitive, aesthetic, and social work of the novel. By reading two novels that are able to elicit strong and qualitatively different empathic responses, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and by retracing the theoretical debate on empathy from an interdisciplinary perspective (literary theory, aesthetics, psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience), the course will explore the connections between empathy and the novel, and reflect upon the importance of the idea of empathy for literary studies.
Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary: Provincial Manners. 1857. Trans. Margaret Mauldon. Intro. Malcolm Bowie. Nn. Mark Overstall. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Nabokov, Vladimir. The Annotated Lolita. 1955. Ed., intro., and nn. Alfred Appel Jr. New York: Vintage, 1991.

Maibom, Heidi L. Empathy. Londond and New York: Routledge, 2020.
Ercolino, Stefano. “Negative Empathy: History, Theory, Criticism,” Orbis Litterarum 73.3 (2018): 243-262.
Keen, Suzanne. Empathy and the Novel. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007 ("Preface" and Chapters 1, 2, 3)

Instead of Suzanne Keen’s Empathy and the Novel, students of the MA program in Environmental Humanities will read the following text:
Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2004.

For students who do not have the possibility to complete the preparation in the classroom by following the lessons, one of the following texts is required:
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Demons: A Novel in Three Parts. 1871-1872. Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. New York: Vintage, 1995.
Céline, Louis-Ferdinand. Journey to the End of the Night. 1932. Trans. Ralph Manheim. Fwd. John Banville. Intro. André Derval. Richmond: Alma Classics, 2014.
Littell, Jonathan. The Kindly Ones. 2006. Trans. Charlotte Mandell. London: Vintage, 2010.
Learning will be verified by means of an oral exam and, possibly, an optional final paper to be agreed upon with the teacher.

The oral exam will consist of two parts: the first part will ascertain the knowledge of the literary texts covered during classes; the second, instead, will verify the knowledge of the theoretical readings.
(1) Frontal lectures
(2) Online sharing of course materials
(3) In-class and online discussion

This subject deals with topics related to the macro-area "Human capital, health, education" and contributes to the achievement of one or more goals of U. N. Agenda for Sustainable Development

Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 19/03/2023