Free Online Literary Theory Courses: Where Can I Find Them?

Online Literary Theory Courses for Credit

Free courses involving literary theory can be explored online, though they do not provide academic credit. If you're a student trying to earn credit for college, the courses found on as a comparatively cost-effective option. These courses come with engaging video lessons that are paired with lesson transcripts and self-assessment quizzes, allowing you to test yourself on a topic-by-topic basis.

Students interested in literary theory can check out English 101: English Literature, which includes relevant chapters such as:

  • Literary Terms and Analysis - Lessons in this chapter cover literary periods and movements, major critics and movements within literary theory, and step-by-step instructions for analyzing a literary passage.
  • Analyzing English literature - Learn about the role of the narrator in British novels, plot techniques in British literature, and how to identify forms in English poetry.
  • Nonfiction in English Literature - Explore figures such as Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart Mill, as well as the politics and theories they held. You'll also cover Victorian thought and criticism.

Free Online Course Info and Requirements

Although rare, a couple of schools offer OpenCourseWare versions of literary theory courses. Downloadable course materials, like lectures, syllabi and reading lists are typically available on the course websites without the need for students to register. These courses do not carry credit and are not applicable to most degree or certificate programs.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Introduction to Literary Theory traces the history of literary theory, applies theories to texts and explores the limits of different critical approaches. The reading list includes works by Freud, Foucault, Bronte and Fish. The course is divided into sections that cover new criticism, structuralism, deconstruction and psychoanalysis. You may also access exams and download course assignments to test your knowledge of the material covered.

Yale University

  • Introduction to Theory of Literature includes course materials available for download through the Yale course homepage, with lectures able to be streamed from YouTube and iTunes. Course materials also include a syllabus and a list of assignments, for which students may wish to purchase the assigned texts. Books used in the course are available for purchase through a link on the course's homepage. This 20th century survey course examines modern trends in critical theory. The course covers topics such as configurative reading, semiotics, structuralism, deconstruction, the feminist tradition, African-American criticism, post-Colonial criticism, queer theory and neo-pragmatism.
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