General Introduction to the Site
For a related talk that discusses the site in detail, and which was presented as part of my Center for Undergraduate Instructional Excellence fellowship, click here.
THERE CAN BE NO DENYING that critical theory has now begun to affect undergraduate and graduate education in various disciplines at the nations educational institutions. And yet, surprisingly few of the courses dedicated to critical theory pair the theory being discussed with specific texts, allowing students to attempt initial interpretations within the parameters of a specific approach, nor does there exist an easily accessible source to guide undergraduate and graduate students who may seek help with the often-difficult ideas being discussed in their courses. My goal here has been to provide a resource for both undergraduate and graduate students who are beginning to learn critical theory, including guides to terms. The site includes sample applications, annotated links to existing web sites, and also more-in-depth modules on specific authors. Through the consistent use of HTML frames, I have attempted to move away from traditional textbooks by continually having individual terms only a mouse click away, thus allowing students to become familiar with individual terms at their own pace. The web allows definitions to stand side by side with interpretations, with introductions, with modules, or even with other definitions, allowing students always to stay grounded despite the difficulty of grasping some of the more abstruse concepts. I have also attempted to make this site of use to teachers at various levels who might be seeking interesting ways to introduce theory to their undergraduate or high-school students. (Check out the Lesson Plans link in each section.)
If you find this site useful, feel free to download or quote it; I do ask, however, that you acknowledge my authorship. The proper way to cite the web page you are currently viewing (for example) is as follows:
Felluga, Dino. "General Introduction to the Site." Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. Date of last update/revision, which you can find on the home page. Purdue University. Date you accessed the site. <www.purdue.edu/guidetotheory/introduction/>.
In order to ensure that students are always clear about proper citation of this web material, I provide a proper MLA citation on each page of the site. (Click here for guidance on proper MLA citation of web material.) The web design is also copyrighted by me (unless otherwise noted) and should only be reproduced with permission.
I am always interested to hear your thoughts about the site, both negative and positive. My e-mail address is email@example.com. Given the scope of the project, there will also surely be errors of various sorts scattered throughout, especially in the initial year of construction (January 2002-February 2004). If you discover an error of any sort, I would be most appreciative if you let me know about it so I can quickly make the correction.
Once you learn the ideas behind these theories, you will discover that you probably already think about approaching texts from at least one of these analytical approaches at various moments in the reading process. The hardest part of understanding and working with critical theory is grasping and using the new vocabulary, but, as with all languages, the new vocabulary will empower you and enhance your exposition of already existing thoughts and ideas. In order to help you in the process of learning these terms, I have used frames consistently throughout the site so that any time an important or difficult term appears, it will be highlighted as a link; if you click on the term, the definition will appear in the bottom frame of your browser window. As I explain in the Guide to the Guide, your browser window should ideally use all your available screen space to ensure you make the most of the frame design (especially if you have a 15" or 17" monitor). Note that the number of terms defined will continue to increase over the course of the 2002-2003 school year.
The site can be used either as a quick reference resource or as a more in-depth introduction to the individual theorists of the given schools. If you are more interested in the former use, the Guide to Terms, Links, and General Introduction in each section will likely be of most interest to you; if, however, you would like to get to know the theories more fully, I suggest that you walk through the Modules provided in each section of the Guide. The Modules are designed to give you a more nuanced understanding of the individual schools, which are themselves often split among opposing (or at least differing) camps. (The Modules will be under continual construction until December 2004.) The Applications link in each section offers initial interpretations that make use of the concepts and terminology of each critical school.
I have attempted to make this site of use to teachers at various levels who might be seeking interesting ways to introduce theory to their undergraduate or high-school students. The Lesson Plans link in each section is designed to give teachers some idea of how to make theory accessible to students who are only just beginning to grasp the concepts discussed in each section. Throughout, I have attempted, when possible, to draw from my own experiences teaching students the various theoretical approaches I discuss. In other words, the lesson plans are tried and true, representing the most successful exercises I have attempted in the undergraduate classroom. Each lesson plan includes information about the resources required and a link to the original class syllabus (so teachers can see how the exercises can fit within the context of an entire course). If you have a course home page, you might wish to include a link to the site home page: <http://www.purdue.edu/guidetotheory>. You can, of course, also link directly to various pages within the site. If you have a course site of your own that employs my Guide to Theory, I also ask that you let me know about it, so I can have a look and, possibly, provide a link from my own. You can reach me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This site began rather modestly when I was a graduate student at the U of California, Santa Barbara. While teaching as a T.A. under Prof. Richard Corum, I expanded a hand-out put together by graduate students, in which some of the terms discussed in the course were briefly defined. I expanded the definitions and provided a sample reading of two Spenser sonnets as an introduction to the four theories being discussed in Prof. Corum's class (specifically, Cultural Materialism, New Historicism, Feminism, and Psychoanalysis). While at Stanford University on a postdoctoral fellowship, I decided to expand that guide and to make it available on the World Wide Web. That original site was quite limited in scope, and yet over its first eight years in existence was consistently employed by teachers around the United States (and a number of other countries too). When I added a web counter, I was surprised to find the site receiving approximately 35,000 hits a year. The dearth of analogous sites led me to seek funding to expand the scope and complexity of the original. Thanks to generous funding from the Center for Undergraduate Instructional Excellence at Purdue, the Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System (IHETS), and the Indiana Partnership for Statewide Education (IPSE), as well as a Teaching for Tomorrow grant from Purdue, I was finally able to acquire the hardware, software and wherewithall to undertake the project. Since the expanded site went online July 17, 2002, its use has dramatically increased. The site now receives a daily average of 750 unique visitors with approximately 3,000 page views per day, with a yearly average of about 1,000,000 hits.
I plan for there to be a number of stages to the project. During the first stage (January-September 2002), I will expand the previously-existing Guide by explaining more definitions, introducing more theoretical schools,providing more applications, annotating the best sites on the individual theories, adding a new Lesson Plans section designed for teachers of undergraduate and high-school students, and (what is often most time-consuming) figuring out the layout, design, and presentation of the expanded site. During the second stage (summer 2002-December 2003), which is funded by IHETS/IPSE, I will create stand-alone, asynchronous learning modules, which walk students through the major concepts and theorists of the individual schools. During the third stage (January 2004-April 2004), I plan to create a text-based introduction to the theories, a project that has been funded by the Purdue Research Foundation.
|Click here for my CUIE talk introducing this site.|