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CODE 66410
SEMESTER 2° Semester


«We always need a theory. All the tools to work on data depend on a theory: if there is no theory, it will inevitably be replaced by commonplaces circulating in the air. And with those, you don't go far»,Franco Moretti, Falso movimento



The main purpose of the discipline consists in leading students to critically reflect on the main theoretical paradigms developed to interrogate, define, classify the literary phenomenon, in its complexity, with particular attention to twentieth-century methodologies and analytical practices. The specific dimension of literary texts with respect to other documents of a culture implies a consideration of the crucial importance of their formal, stylistic, and linguistic aspects. Theory can offer appropriate taxonomy models and effective tools for morphological comparison. In this perspective, literary theoretical research aims to found texts’ hermeneutic experiences in their specific concreteness.


At the end of the course students will be able to


• know and reciprocally compare the main theoretical concepts regarding the status of the literary phenomenon in its complex richness and elaborate models of possible relationships (historical, ideological and morphological) between literary texts of different origins, languages ​​and poetics, also in comparison with other semiotic systems (iconic and musical)

• apply the different theoretical positions to the concrete practice of literary analysis, knowing how to evaluate the congruence of her/his choice, in relation to the class of texts to which it is decided to apply it

• critically master the literary theory categories, increasing their abilities for abstract reflection and argumentative skills, sensitive to contexts

• demonstrate the historical awareness of the different theoretical positions and the ability to conceive their possible interpretative function ​​ relatively to contemporary literary phenomena


The Theory of Literature Course engages in dialogue with the Comparative Literature course, of which it develops and deepens, according to a different methodological angle, the formative objectives.


In its 60 hours of lessons, the course will provide for a close and continuous interconnection between frontal lessons (presenting analytical methodologies and synoptic historiographic frameworks) and participatory activity of students (collectively discussing  theoretical models, and analysing literary texts). Active participation in lessons is therefore very important for the full achievement of the learning objectives.


«Enthusiasm is sublime, harmony is beautiful». The Art, the Limit, the Passion: does (still) exist a Sublime Literature?

In one of his world-aphorisms, Friedrich Schegel distinguished beauty from sublime as the contrast between what is harmonic and what is exciting. He followed a complex speculative adventure – from the pseudo Longinus to some of the most visionary forms of the romantic imaginary via Kantian critical reflection –. The course will question some of the most significant critical theories dedicated to the conception of the sublime, in order to verify their value in reflecting on some contemporary literary (cinematographic and artistic) practices.


The bibliography, indicative of the critical and literary texts to be analyzed in the course, will be integrated in relation to the participating students’ interests. Each student will prepare a general introductory manual, familiarizing with the main comparative methodologies of the twentieth century (1), a main critical text to be studied carefully (2a), in relation to the analysis of at least one text literary (3).

1. General handbooks

Stefania Sini, Franca Sinopoli, Percorsi di teoria e comparatistica letteraria, Pearson 2021

Laura Neri, Giuseppe Carrara, Teoria della letteratura. Campi, problemi, strumenti, Carocci 2022


2. Theoretical and Critical Texts

Sul sublime, a cura di Stephen Halliwell, Fondazione Valla, Mondadori 2021

Edward Burke,  Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful [ed. it. Inchiesta sul bello e sul sublime, a cura di Giuseppe Sertoli, Aesthetica 2019]

Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft  [ed. it.:  Critica del Giudizio, a cura di Massimo Marassi, Bompiani 2015]

Friedrich Schiller, Das Erhabene, [ed. it. Del Sublime, Abscondita 2018]

Susan Sontag, Notes on camp, Penguin 2018

Harold Bloom, The Sublime, BLC 2010

 3. Fictional Texts:  

Omero, Odissey 

John Milton, Paradise Lost, Penguin 2008 

William Wordsworth, The Prelude, Penguin 1996 

Johann Wofgang Goethe, Faust [ed. it. di Franco Fortini, Mondadori 2016]

Arno Schmidt, Zettels Traum, 1970

Joseph McElroy, Women and men, Dalkey 1993 

Roberto Bolaño, 2666 [ed. it. di Ilide Carmignani, Adelphi 2009]

Antonio Moresco, Canti del caos, Mondadori 2018



Exam Board





Lessons will begin on Mon February 13th

Class schedule




The exam consists of a written (a) and an oral (b) part.

(a) redaction of an essay of a length appropriate to the chosen topic, previously agreed and discussed with the teacher, presented in its final form at least one week before the exam. In the paper, one of the methodological approaches addressed during the course (to be chosen from the theoretical texts of section 2 of the Bibliography) must be applied, in a critical and personal way, to detect, describe and interpret the salient features of at least one (for the 6 credits) or at least two (for the 9 credits) literary texts (section 3 of the Bibliography). It will be possible to define different presentation / argumentative methods connected to specific students’ professional training interests (educational projects, journalistic reviews, editorial materials, ...)

(b) critically discussion of the written paper, placing the chosen methodological approach in the context of the main literary theories of the twentieth century (explored with the help of one of the manuals indicated in section 1 of the Bibliography).


The evaluation of the paper (a) will consider:

• the terminological property of the analysis [elocutio]

• the understanding of the critical model and the ability to personal re-elaboration of the studied contents [inventio]

• the reflection on the formal organization [dispositio] in the presentation of the research results

• the effectiveness of the analytical model application n to the text reading

The evaluation of the oral discussion (b) will consider:

• the general knowledge of the discipline contents o

• the degree of the contents’ personal critical re-elaboration

• the ability for abstract reflection and argumentative ability, sensitive to the contexts of discourse

• the awareness of the essential historical relationships between texts and theories

Exam schedule

Data appello Orario Luogo Degree type Note
16/01/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
10/02/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
12/05/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
22/05/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
09/06/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
10/07/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
15/09/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale


Non attending students should contact the teacher (+39 345 455 8112)  in order to define a personal program related to her/his interests and curriculum.