Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Melody Graulich


Melody Graulich


Lynne S. McNeill


Kerrin Holt


Up through the 1980s, literary criticism scholarship had been primarily defined by New Criticism, an ideology which suggests that the approach to literary studies should be objective, focused solely on the text itself, and should not take into consideration authorial intent or readers’ response. While this approach to literary studies seems practical in undergraduate literature courses in which students are still learning how to read literature, excluding different approaches to reading, understanding, and writing about literature can and does have inadvertent consequences. Although literary scholarship has been increasingly welcoming of alternative forms of literary criticism since the 1980s, including cultural context analysis and reader-response, many undergraduate instructors’ teaching is still heavily influenced by New Criticism. With declining numbers of students majoring in English (and especially literature) each year, the exigency to make literature studies more meaningful to students is evident.

In this essay I contend that a more inclusive literature pedagogy, which takes into consideration personal experience and reader response as essential factors in learning, can work to revive and legitimate literary studies. I use my own experiences with “autobiographical literary criticism”—a hybrid genre which incorporates personal narrative, reader response, and textual analysis—to demonstrate the ways in which literature can cultivate, reflect, and create positive changes within our lives. I examine my experiences, which are explicated in my essay (included here in chapter 2) titled “It’s All Relative: My Journey with Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine,” through the lens of Transformative Learning Theory, demonstrating how and why the transformative process of learning can be enacted through a personal relationship with literature.