Academic year
2022/2023 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
LMJ440 (AF:391242 AR:208028)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Master's Degree Programme (DM270)
Educational sector code
2nd 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 1) to become more familiar with the history of European literature and its link with cultural history from a comparative and an interdisciplinary perspective, and 2) to improve their knowledge of literary theory and the methodological tools for textual analysis acquired during previous college education.
Knowledge and Understanding
1) Knowledge and understanding—also in the original language—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, the terminology of literary criticism, and literary 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 culture and literature in their historical context, and in relation to a literary form (the novel) and a field of theorerical research (genre theory)

Applying Knowledge and Understanding
1) Ability to take part in a scholarly debate on the history and theory 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 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.
Genre Theory: The Novel-Essay
The novel-essay features the encouter of two distinct forms, the novel and the essay, within a narrative. As a genre, it emerged in France, England, and Sweden in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and reached its highest formal complexity in Austria and Germany, during the interwar period. By reading novels such as Joris-Karl Huysmans's "Against Nature," Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray," and Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain," we will frame the development of the novel-essay within the ideological crisis, which fell upon the epistemological and symbolic apparatus of modernity in the last decades of the nineteenth century, and which culminated following the catastrophes of World War I and World War II. A crucial novelistic genre for a renewed understanding of European literary history and the variety of the morphological spectrum of modernism, we will look at the novel-essay as the last and decisive chapter of the European literary disourse on modernity.
Huysmans, Joris-Karl. Against Nature. 1884. Ed. Nicholas White. Trans. Margaret Mauldon. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. 1890. In Oscar Wilde, The Major Works. Ed. Isobel Murray. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Mann, Thomas. The Magic Mountain. 1924. Trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter. Intro. Adam Foulds. London: Vintage, 2011.

Jameson, Fredric. The Antinomies of Realism. London and New York: Verso, 2013. (Introduction; Part One: Chapters 1, 2 and 3)
Ercolino, Stefano. The Novel-Essay, 1884-1947. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. (Paperback edition 2016)
Ercolino, Stefano. “Realism and Dialectic: The Speculative Turn and the History of the Nineteenth-Century European Novel.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 53.2 (2020): 143–164.

Instead of Fredric Jameson’s The Antinomies of Realism, students of the MA program in Environmental Humanities will read the following text:
Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Non-attending students [non frequentanti] will also read this essay:
Harrison, Thomas. 1910: The Emancipation of Dissonance. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996.
Learning will be verified by means of an oral examination and an optional final paper.
1) Frontal lectures
2) Online sharing of course materials
3) In-class and online discussion
Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 26/08/2022