This course aims at providing an exposure to some of the main discourses of contemporary literary theory by focusing on three important writers who have marked last century's theory, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin and Julia Kristeva. We will start with Barthes's approach to popular culture in Mythologies, and explore the new concept of writing he defined before launching engaging structuralist semiotics. We will move on to Barthes's later work and read his book on photography. We will then link this different approach with Walter Benjamin's theses on mechanical reproduction and read systematically the two collections of essays, Illuminations and Reflections. Finally we will see how the work of Julia Kristeva renews the critical debate by pushing it beyond formalism and structuralism. We will then read most of the essays in the Portable Kristeva. Requirements: Four short papers, one research paper, one oral report. No final exam. Bibliography: The Roland Barthes Reader ed. S. Sontag; Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations and Reflections. The Portable Julia Kristeva.