Welcome to my over-stuffed unit on Literary Criticism Theory. This unit is designed to guide students in learning and applying several critical theory lenses to a novel. It includes PPTs on the theory, guided activities focusing on common high school literature, children’s books, advertisements, and poetry, plus flashcards, handouts, and a culminating essay assignment. My students found it insightful and engaging and truly enjoyed participating in the activities and analyses.
I taught this unit to honors level seniors as they were reading Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” but it can be taught with any number of novels. My students read TEWWG on their own; we dedicated one class a week to questions and discussion, but the focus of the unit was the application of a critical lens to the novel (or any novel).
The lenses included in this unit are Feminist/Gender, Marxist, Psychoanalytic (Freudian), and Archetypal. The teaching activities require students to review literature they have already read and apply the constructs of the critical theory. One activity uses Dr. Seuss and includes a link to an online reading of the story; others include “The Crucible,” and “Macbeth.” These are fully editable and are easily modified to reflect literature your students have read. There is no specific activity for Archetypal; my students quickly grasped this one based on the handouts alone.
Once they have mastered the critical theories, they analyze a poem and several print ads to apply the theory lenses. The culminating assessment is a Literary Criticism Paper on a novel.
Critical Theory PPT
Psychoanalytic activity (Cat in the Hat)
Archetypal Notes and Handouts
Theory Reference Flashcards
Applying the Lenses – Print Ads
Applying the Lenses - Poetry “On the Subway”
Critical Theory Paper Proposal Assignment – Generic
Critical Theory Paper Assignment and Rubric – Novel specific but editable
This unit was extremely well received in my 12 Honors English Class. It offered a new and interesting way to read and analyze literature, and provided fun, scaffolded instruction that led students in deep, rich critical thinking.
This unit does not provide instruction to the teacher on the critical lenses; it is assumed that you understand the theories. Be advised that Psychoanalytic involves discussion of Freudian concepts including Oedipus and Electra concepts, impulse, and phallic and feminine imagery. You could modify it to simply discuss Id, Ego, and SuperEgo, but my kids were able to maturely discuss the other concepts.
This unit is a compilation of documents and artifacts I have collected from many sources through several months of research and lesson planning. It is a very thorough introduction, explanation, and application practice for critical theory. One activity contains a direct link to ReadWriteThink. Most of the documents have been tweaked and modified. There are no answer keys, but there are guiding notes and thoughts on several of the exercises.