Scheda programma d'esame
Anno accademico2022/23
PeriodoPrimo semestre

Obiettivi di apprendimento
Learning outcomes

Click on the British flag for course description.



This course introduces to concepts and practices that underpin the interpretation of literary texts. The student who completes the course will have a general knowledge of critical methodologies and literary theories (e.g. classical and post-classical narratology, hermeneutics, stylistics, bio-politics, gender and affect studies) and a specific knowledge of how canonical and extra-canonical literary texts can be interpreted according to normative and non-normative poetics. The course aims at improving the student’s understanding of literature and literary theory and at fostering the abilities needed to analyze literary texts and write a University thesis on English literature.



Assessment criteria of knowledge

The final examination will assess the ability to produce coherent and insightful readings of literary texts and the skills needed to discuss theoretical, critical and literary topics.


Students will develop their capacity to

  • elaborate independent thought and judgement;
  • improve self-direction and independent learning;
  • critically examine diverse forms of discourse, including literature, drama, literary theory and criticism, translation both linguistic and between cultures;
  • compare and evaluate different interpretive perspectives;
  • use their oral communication effectively;
  • write coherent and well-structured papers;
  • write historically and theoretically informed analyses of literary texts.


Assessment criteria of skills

The main assessment criteria will be clarity, coherence and effectiveness of argumentation.



Students will practise their argumentative and interpretive skills in class activities and assignments. Independent study will help them develop the ability to retrieve relevant information from different sources and elaborate their own ideas when they try their hands at the analysis of literary texts. They will improve their writing skills by completing in-course papers (recommended activity) and will showcase the skills acquired during the course in a final independently-researched essay (mandatory work). During seminars and the oral exam, they will exercise critical reasoning and apply the core skills that are needed to effectively read and contextualize literary texts.

Assessment criteria of behaviors

Positive behaviors include active cooperation in group work, the ability to apply previous feedback, and the creative elaboration of ideas and projects.


A general knowledge of English literature and an adequate ability to read and discuss literary and critical texts in English.

Teaching methods

Lecture. Seminar. Pair and group work. Written assignment. If requested by health safety provisions, “blended" teaching methods (face-to-face and asynchronous remote teaching) will be implemented. The course language is English.


Literary texts from the 17th century to present day, with a focus on the contemporary scene. Keynotes in contemporary cultural and literary theory.


The Creative Field


Henry James, The Figure in the Carpet

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad, “The Secret Sharer”, from ’Twixt Land and Sea

James Joyce, “Eveline”

Zadie Smith, “Kelso Deconstructed”, “Escape from New York”, from Grand Union



Ben Jonson, On My First Son

John Donne, The Ecstasy

Jonathan Swift, A Description of the Morning

S.T. Coleridge, Christabel

Philip Larkin, Going, Mr Bleaney

Ted Hughes, Crow Tyrannosaurus, Hill-stone was content

Sylvia Plath, Daddy

Seamus Heaney, Digging

Carol Ann Duffy, The Virgin Punishing the Infant



Samuel Beckett, Endgame

Mark Ravenhill, Shopping and Fucking


Texts must be read in the original language. No specific edition is recommended. All texts will be available from Biblioteca LM2, Via S. Maria 57. Poems are available on Poetry Foundation and similar websites.


The Theoretical Debate

Students are required to familiarize with some key notions on literary and cultural theory that are expounded in these texts (see course webpage for page references):

Harold Bloom, [On Death and the Canon], from The Western Canon

Rosi Braidotti, [On Posthuman and Specific Theory], from The Posthuman

Laurence Buell, [On Rhetoric and Greenspeak], from The Future of Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination,

Judith Butler, [On Gender Identity as Expression and Performance], from Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity

Michel Foucault, [On Statement and Discourse] from The Archaeology of Knowledge

Hans-Georg Gadamer, [On Understanding as Historically Effected Event], from Truth and Method

Donna Haraway, [On Situatedness] from “The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective”

Patrick Colm Hogan, [On Affect Studies and Literary Criticism (Ben Jonson’s On My First Son)], from Oxford Research Encyclopedia

Jeffrey T. Nealon, [On Postmodernism], from “Postmodernism”

Peter Sloterdjik, [On the Anthropocene], from What Happened in the 20th Century?

Peter Stockwell, [On Figure and Ground: Foregrounding, attractors, defamiliarization, the dominant (Ted Hughes’ Hill-Stone Was Content)], from Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction


The Critical Space

Stanley Cavell, "Ending the Waiting Game: A Reading of Beckett's Endgame", in Must we Mean What We Say?, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1969, pp. 115–162.

Fausto Ciompi, Mondo e dizione. La poesia in Gran Bretagna e Irlanda dal 1945 a oggi, Pisa, ETS, 2007, pp. 128-140, 313-332, 431-440.*

Fausto Ciompi, “S.T. Coleridge: eros demoniaco e processo iracondo. Per l’interpretazione tipologica di Christabel”, in Ticontre. Teoria Testo Traduzione, XII, 2019, pp. 197-227.*

Fausto Ciompi, “Joyce, Eveline, le madri: nuovi sondaggi verbali e infraverbali”, in L’amorosa inchiesta. Studi di letteratura per Sergio Zatti, a cura di Stefano Brugnolo, Ida Campeggiani e Luca Danti, Firenze, Franco Cesati editore, 2020, pp. 607-624.*

Thomas Horan, "Myth and Narrative in Mark Ravenhill’s Shopping and Fucking”, in Modern Drama, 5, 22, 2011, pp. 251-266.

Wolfgang Iser, “Henry James, The Figure in the Carpet: In Place of an Introduction”, in The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response, Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.

Leo Spitzer, "Three Poems on Ecstasy", in A Method of Interpreting Literature, Northampton, Mass.: Smith College, 1949, pp. 5-21. Tzvetan Todorov, “Heart of Darkness”, in Genres of Discourse, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 103-112.

Cedric Watts, “The Mirror-Tale: An Ethico-Structural Analysis of Conrad’s ‘The Secret Sharer’”, in Critical Quarterly, 19, 1977, pp. 25-37.


*IHP and visiting students who do not meet the language requirements for reading these essays should read:

Hans Osterwalder, “Metonymic Ways of Sympathizing with the Underdog: Philip Larkin's ‘Mr Bleaney’ and Anthony Thwaite's ‘Mr Cooper'”, in English Studies: A Journal of English Language and Literature, 65, 5, 1984, pp. 426-433.

Jahan Ramazani, "‘Daddy, I Have Had to Kill You’: Plath, Rage, and the Modern Elegy”, in PMLA, 108, 5, 1993, pp. 1142-1156.

Robert Scholes, “Semiotic Approaches to a Fictional Text: Joyce's ‘Eveline’", in James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1-2, Fall, 1978-Winter, 1979, pp. 65-80.

William Andrew Ulmer, “Christabel and the Origin of Evil”, in Studies in Philology, 104, 3, 2007, pp. 376-407.

Non-attending students info

Non-attending students are required to read two chapters of their choice from The Cambridge Companion to Narrative, ed. David Herman, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007, “PART IV. Further Contexts for Narrative Study”, pp. 189-273.

They must submit the required written assignment at least 15 days before the examination date or at the latest 10 days afterwards (see above, under “Assessment methods”, for paper length and description). 

Assessment methods

The Final exam is divided into three parts:

  1. a 2000-word independently-researched essay, written in either English or Italian, on a self-selected text or a topic chosen among those taught during the course. An approach taking into consideration two or more texts is also possible. The assignment is due in at least 15 days before the oral examination date or at the latest 10 days afterwards. The assignment must be submitted to the course lecturer ( in a PDF file.

Students can find useful critical material for their researches through onesearch (

     2. the oral presentation in English of a topic concerning literary theory or the analysis and commentary of one or more literary texts chosen by the student among those included in the reading list (the selected topic must be different from the one covered in the written assignment);

     3. a brief discussion, either in English or in Italian according to the student’s choice, of texts and issues analyzed during the course.

Both the written assignment and the oral exam must be completed with a score of 18 or better. The overall mark is determined by combining scores for the written assessment (40 percent of the final mark) and those for the oral exam (60 percent of the final mark).

Resits will be assessed by the same methodology.

Students who have successfully completed the written assignment and fail the oral exam do no not have to take the written test again.


Classes start on 19 September 2022

Lecturer name and email address: Fausto Ciompi.

Venues: Monday, 12-13.30, Curini D1; Tuesday, 16-17.30, Curini A4; Thursday, 12-13.30, Curini D1.

Taught: Semester 1.

Course language: English.

Examination Board: Fausto Ciompi, Biancamaria Rizzardi, Simona Beccone, Laura Giovannelli (substitute), Giovanni Bassi (substitute).

Office hours: Thursdays, 10.15-11.45, Palazzo Scala, Via S. Maria 67. Face-to-face or online meetings must be arranged by emailing 


Ultimo aggiornamento 01/08/2022 13:01