Guiding Themes

Guiding Themes, Methods, and Approaches

Providing a common, content-based structuring framework for the analysis of literature which is congruent with the program's goals, faculty choose from a number of given guiding themes and approaches the particular emphasis and methodology of the instruction in their sections of the courses. Ideally, a course explores several themes, acknowledges various approaches. and attempts to explore their relationships. The themes may be used in the discussion of the texts as well as in the preparation of topics for assignments and examinations. Though the following constitute currently used and accepted guiding themes and methodologies, they should not be interpreted as the only ways of analyzing the literature. In accordance with the principles of academic freedom, individual instructors are encouraged to pursue the lines of thought and interpretation which they find most useful and congruent with their training and intellectual disposition.

AESTHETICS AND LITERATURE. The nature and purposes of art as aesthetic object; definitions of beauty; concepts of the beautiful and the ugly, the sublime and the grotesque; relation between art, ideal beauty, and reality; utilitarian art and art for art's sake; the role of the writer as creator of beauty.

ART AND LITERATURE. Comparative analysis of literature and the other arts. Definitions of art and literature. The representation of art (painting, sculpture, music, other literary works, etc.) within literary works; specific comparisons/contrasts between literary and other art works; self-referentiality in art and literature; the use of the visual and other arts in the illustration, teaching, analysis, and interpretation of literature.

CRITICAL THEORY AND LITERATURE. A consideration of the contributions to the understanding of literature of various critical, intellectual, and interpretive movements within Modernism and Postmodernism (e.g. Formalism, New Criticism, Structuralism, Poststructuralism, Deconstruction, etc.).

CULTURAL STUDIES AND LITERATURE. A consideration and assessment of the cultural significance of literary works; character and purpose of literature as cultural artifact; contributions to the study of literature of the Cultural Studies movement (New Historicism, Cultural Materialism, Postcolonialism, etc.)

ECONOMICS AND LITERATURE. The representation of economic phenomena ane economic systems in literary works; exploitation and poverty, economic classes, class struggle, distribution of wealth; scarcity, and productivity, incentives; Marxist and capitalist economic theory and literary interpretation; greed, materialism, and acquisitiveness; money, banking, and financial markets; the exploitation of natural resources, the environment, and economic sustainability.

ETHICS AND LITERATURE. The characterization and portrayal of moral values and ethical systems in literary works; definitions of good and evil; the representation of the "good life"; human nature/character and ideal conduct; the moral/morality of stories and narratives; moral didacticism in literary works.

FATE AND FREE WILL IN LITERATURE. The representation of the links between human character/nature, human choices, and consequences; human control of or dependence on destiny; role of higher powers (God, Fate, Divine Providence) in the determination of human destiny; links between character, narrative, plot, and fate; prophecy and revelation and literary texts.

FEMINISM AND LITERATURE. The representation of women in literary works; issues of exploitation and violence against women; the textual constitution of the female subject; gender as biology and gender as cultural construct; literature by women; female characters portrayed by male authors; struggles and conflict between men and women; textual/sexual politics; homosexuality and heterosexuality; traditional roles, stereotypes, and ideals of femininity.

FORM AND MEANING IN LITERARY WORKS. The relations between literary forms, styles, genres and the messages/nature of literary works; the need/justification/purpose of form in the literary art; utilitarian art and art for art's sake; referentiality, self-referentiality, transcendence; figurality, rhetoric, structure and their role and significance in literature.

HERMENEUTICS AND LITERATURE. The history, techniques, and intellectual backgrounds of textual interpretation; ancient and modern hermeneutics; Biblical exegesis and literary interpretation; patristic exegesis: the four-fold method and transcendental meaning; philology and literature; phenomenology and interpretation; philosophy of history, historicism, and horizons of understanding; writers and readers, past and present, dialogue and dialectical change; Nietzsche, Heidegger, Gadamer, Jauss and their contributions to modern hermeneutics; existentialism.

HUMAN NATURE IN LITERATURE. The representation and portrayal of human nature in literary works; definitions of what is essentially human; human nature across time, space, and cultures; characterizations of human nature and its connections to the human condition; possibilities of change/evolution/transformation.

LAW AND LITERATURE. The representation of the law, legal systems, and the legal profession in literary works; just and unjust laws; the individual and the law; human law and divine law, legal hierarchies, conflicts of laws; common law and codified law; change and evolution in the law; power structures and legal systems; private property and the law; law and order; legal argumentation, rhetoric; legal and literary language.

LOVE AND DESIRE IN LITERATURE. The representation of the forces of desire and the problem of love in literary works; desire as root of all evil or as transformational force/redeeming impulse; love as giving and love as taking; caritas/agape vs. cupiditas/eros; romantic versus classical/rationalistic conceptions of love; marriage vs. romantic adventure.

MALENESS IN LITERATURE. The representation of masculinity in literary works; ideals of masculinity, virility, male virtue, and heroism; male chastity and paternity; male priesthood, saints, monks, and religious ideals; patriarchy and male-dominated societies; hunting, war, violence, territoriality, domination, and aggression; heterosexuality and homosexuality; men in interaction with women and with other men; male bonding and fraternity; maleness as biological gender and as culturally-determined category; male-liberation movements.

MEDICINE AND LITERATURE. The representation of the medical arts and sciences and the medical profession in literary works; healers and quacks; physical and spiritual healing; medicine and healing as metaphors; the writer as healer, the text as medicine (catharsis, pharmakon).

MEN AND WOMEN IN LITERATURE. The representation in literary works of the relations between men and women; differences/similarities in male and female nature and character; possibilities of conflict of interests between men and women; equality, subordination, oppression, manipulation, conflict, harmony, happiness, power struggles, submission, and rebellion in the relations between the sexes; love, marriage, family, traditional roles, maternity and paternity; economic aspects of gender interactions; ideals of the relationship between men and women; ideals of masculinity and femininity.

NATURE IN LITERATURE. The representation of nature in literary works; relations between human beings and the natural world; obligations of human beings toward nature; conflicts between ecological and human interests; proper and improper uses of nature; meaning and role of natural forces/phenomena in literature; objects of nature as symbols.

PHILOSOPHY AND LITERATURE. The representation of philosophical ideas and concepts in literary works; the nature of the universe and of being; the place and purpose of human beings in the cosmos; the concepts of good and evil; god as a philosophical concept; body and soul; fate and free will; mind and matter; being and non-being; order and chaos; evolution/change and permanence/stasis; subjectivity and objectivity; patterns of history; idealism, realism, materialism, empiricism, existentialism, nihilism, etc. and their representation in literary works.

PSYCHOANALYSIS AND LITERATURE. The use of concepts, terminology, and intellectual background of psychoanalysis in the study of literary works; the application of psychoanalytic theory in the analysis of the author's psyche, the creative process, the text, literary characters, and readers; psychopathology, repression, displacement, condensation and literary representation; ego, id and superego, conscious and unconscious; self and society; desire, social limits and taboos.

RACE RELATIONS AND LITERATURE. The representation of racial conflict and exploitation in literary works; slavery, oppression, violence; language and race; racial supremacy and racial equality; racial self and racial other; dependence, co-dependence, and power relations; miscegenation and racial ambiguity.

READERS AND LITERATURE. The role of the reader in the reception and interpretation of literary works; influence of audiences in the activity of authors; implied and actual readers; reception and reader-response theories.

RELIGION AND LITERATURE. The representation of God/gods in literary works; characterization of the nature of the divine; literary interpretation of religious concepts/imagery; relations between gods and human beings; God and the human soul; faith and salvation; religious origins of literature; common concerns in religion and literature.

RHETORIC AND LITERATURE. Consideration of literature as rhetorical practice; rhetorical analysis of literary works; effects and implications of literature as rhetorical endeavor.

SCIENCE AND LITERATURE. The representation of science and scientific thought and endeavors in literary texts; scientists as literary characters; science, fantasy, and science fiction; rhetorical analysis of science as a literary phenomenon; scientific analysis and discovery in literature; the writer as scientist, the scientist as writer.

SEXUALITY IN LITERATURE. The use of sexual imagery and situations in literary works; literal and symbolic significance of various sexual practices; sexual morality; sexual perversions and sexual normalcy; erotic love, incest, homosexuality, chastity, abstinence, marriage, procreation, etc and their roles and implications in literary narratives.

SOCIETY AND LITERATURE. The representation of the relations between the individual and society; systems of rights and obligations; balancing of individual and societal needs; possibilities of conflict between the individual and the collectivity; justified and unjustified violations of the social contract; human happiness and fulfillment in the context of social constraints and obligations; the state/government and the citizen/individual; oppression, repression, revolution, and rebellion; social evolution and change; the artist as social critic and/or defender of the social order. The literary work as expression of criticism/evaluation of social arrangements and practices: socioeconomic and sociopolitical systems, arrangements, and practices; power structures, social organization, social classes.