Literaturwissenschaften / Literary Studies

Literary studies are concerned with the history and the study of Anglophone literatures and literary genres as well as literary analysis and interpretation. The latter two are often headed under literary criticism or theory. In addition to British, Irish and American/ Canadian writings, we also work on English literature produced in the Caribbean and in African and Asian countries (e.g., India). American and British literatures are not as homogeneous as one might think – a lot of ethnic groups (e.g., Mexican-Americans, Indian-Americans and, above all, Native Americans) have produced interesting works that have found their way into our syllabus. As far as genres (Gattungen) are concerned, Landau offers courses on prose fiction, poetry, drama and non-fiction, but also classes on children’s literature, science fiction, crime fiction, Westerns, popular literature, and travel literature. In any given term, you may thus find classes on Shakespeare’s tragedies, Asian-American novelists, 19th-century fantasy and children’s literature (including Alice in Wonderland), 20th-century British Poetry, and Science Fiction (from Gulliver’s Travels through stories by E.A. Poe to William Gibson’s cyberpunk novels).

Literary theory focuses on the simple question: how can one interpret a literary text? The courses in the higher modules (starting with module 6) will show you that the answer to this question has less to do with the authors’ intention than with the readers (you, the students, for instance) and the socio-economic conditions in which they live, as you are introduced to Reader Response Criticism, New Historicism, Marxism, and Feminism, to name just a few important theories.

In the Bachelor and Master studies courses in Landau, students begin with the compulsory Introduction to Literature (part of module 1). The successful passing of this course is a precondition for taking classes from module 4 on. The focus in the literature courses in these modules is, on the one hand, on a historical survey of American and British literatures (e.g., British Literature from Shakespeare to Romanticism = 1600-1820) and, on the other hand, a detailed study of selected works typical of the periods in which they were produced. The courses in literature offered after module 4 are intended to provide occasions for detailed study, including literary theory, of particular genres (the short story in English, for instance) , authors (e.g., Samuel Beckett or Joseph Conrad) and works (James Joyce’s Ulysses, for example, or plays of the theatre of the absurd).

January 2015