Introduction to Theory of Literature

  • Duration 21h 56m 38s
  • Total Enrolled 4
  • Last Update June 18, 2020


This is a survey of the main trends in twentieth-century literary theory. Lectures will provide background for the readings and explicate them where appropriate while attempting to develop a coherent overall context that incorporates philosophical and social perspectives on the recurrent questions: what is literature, how is it produced, how can it be understood, and what is its purpose?

Course Structure

This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring, 2009. The Open Yale Courses Series. For more information about Professor Fry’s book Theory of Literature, http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300180831.


Paul H. Fry, William Lampson Professor of English

About Professor Paul H. Fry

Paul H. Fry is the William Lampson Professor of English at Yale and specializes in British Romanticism, literary theory, and literature and the visual arts. He was educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard and has been teaching at Yale since 1971. His publications include The Poet’s Calling in the English Ode, for which he was awarded the Melville Cane Award; The Reach of Criticism: Method and Perception in Literary TheoryWilliam Empson: Prophet Against SacrificeA Defense of Poetry: Essays on the Occasion of Writing; and Wordsworth and the Poetry of What We Are.



Paul H. Fry, Introduction to Theory of Literature” by Open Yale Courses (Yale University), (Accessed June 14, 2020) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Topics for this course

26 Lessons21h 56m 38s


Lecture 1 – Introduction39:29

Introduction (cont.)

Ways In and Out of the Hermeneutic Circle

Configurative Reading

The Idea of the Autonomous Artwork

The New Criticism and Other Western Formalisms

Russian Formalism

Semiotics and Structuralism

Linguistics and Literature

Deconstruction I

Deconstruction II

Freud and Fiction

Jacques Lacan in Theory


The Postmodern Psyche

The Social Permeability of Reader and Text

The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory

The Political Unconscious

The New Historicism

The Classical Feminist Tradition

African-American Criticism

Post-Colonial Criticism

Queer Theory and Gender Performativity

The Institutional Construction of Literary Study

The End of Theory?; Neo-Pragmatism

Reflections; Who Doesn’t Hate Theory Now?

About the instructors

Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.
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Introduction to theory of literature

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Target Audience

  • People interested in Philosophy & Literature.


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