Beyond Literary Landscapes—Symbolism

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column focuses on symbolism as a literary device.  Symbolism can be defined as “a selective use of words and images to evoke tenuous moods and meanings.”  In particular, it “is a literary device that uses symbols, be they words, people, marks, locations, or abstract ideas to represent something beyond the literal meaning.”  Symbolism is often subdivided into three categories, namely religious symbolism, romantic symbolism, and emotional symbolism.


Some examples of symbolism in literature includes The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

Other examples include The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, Animal Farm by George Orwell, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.


These novels take place in diverse geographical locations, including the eastern United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Imperial Russia, Morocco, and Spain.


These particular works span several centuries from the 18th to current day.


These texts could be of interest to AU learners who enjoy deciphering symbolism, archetypes, and metaphors in literature, as well as PSYC students who are interested in the creation of symbols by the human mind.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to symbolism as a literary device are available in a variety of disciplines, including some that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in ENGL 341: World Literature, a senior-level, six-credit course, which “introduces students to literature from around the world.”  (Please note that this course requires ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays as prerequisites).

Students may also consider PYSC 375: History of Psychology, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “examines the history of psychology from the time of the early Greeks until the present.”  (This course requires the completion of a 200-level psychology course.  It is also recommended that students be in the third or fourth year of their degree).  Happy reading!