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Online Literature Courses and Classes: Distance Learning Options

A number of online literature classes are available to students interested in studying plays, poetry, fiction and even film. Students may be able to take courses individually, or they could be part of an undergraduate or graduate degree program.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

Online Courses in Literature

The following courses are typically available through distance learning.

  • Introduction to Literary Theory: This online course teaches students about the various ways people read and interpret literature. In addition to modern theories, professors also chart the development of literary theory and criticism throughout history. Students apply these learned literary theories to a large number of written works and films.
  • American Literature: Covering the works of American literary masters, the course in American literature introduces students to authors such as Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and Toni Morrison. This online literature class incorporates historical developments from various stages of American history, such as the colonial era, the Civil War and the post-World War II period.
  • Fiction of the 20th Century: Combining the study of literature with current events from the 20th century, this online course has students learn about recurring themes, major authors and how the emergence of film affected modern literature. This online course introduces students to the works of world-famous writers, including Vladimir Nabokov, Ford Maddox Ford and William Faulkner.
  • Introduction to Drama: Students in this online course study the evolution of drama and the performing arts throughout history. Required readings in this beginning online drama class usually include Greek comedies, Shakespearean tragedies and modern plays. Along with written works, students enrolled in this online drama course will often watch filmed stage productions.
  • Modern World Literature: Many online courses in contemporary literature often focus on works produced from a specific country. This course concentrates on the literary production of a specific region, and students study that area's development of literature and major authors. Some online modern world literature courses cover authors from countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia.
  • Contemporary Short Stories: Students in this course focus on key authors of contemporary short fiction and their work, in addition to using the short story form to study narrative intention and style. Critical reading and analysis will be a main focus of this course.
  • Children's Literature: These courses allows students to explore an important area of literature for young learners. Some course topics include picture books, fantasy, myths and folktales.
  • Workshops: Literature students may take part in writing workshops through their selected degree programs, and in some cases, students can participate in workshops online. Depending on the school, workshop options may include playwriting, poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

Program Information

A number of schools, including community colleges, public four-year institutions and private schools, offer distance learning literature classes. These courses are conducive to online delivery because they usually involve a high level of independent reading and writing assignments. Some colleges offer online courses in literature free of charge, but courses such as these generally don't count toward college credit.

Literature courses can be found in English, communications, humanities, teacher education or library science bachelor's or master's programs. Prospective students may not have to meet all strict degree admissions requirements if they seek only to take an individual course online. However, students usually must have a bachelor's degree to enroll in any graduate-level coursework.

Online courses use various technologies, like interactive tutorials and streaming video, to engage students in the study of literature. Students view lectures, get reading lists and complete assignments within the virtual classrooms available through their school's websites.

Many literature courses offered online are available through undergraduate and graduate programs. Interested students can find coursework in areas like modern literature, literary theory, drama and children's books. Some schools even offer online writing workshops.


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