Literary Theory: An Introduction (Online) | Oxford University Department for Continuing Education
Other Links Described below are nine common critical approaches to the literature. Hence, it often affords a practical method by which readers can better critic must be careful not to take the biographical facts of a writer's life too far in how sexual identity influences the creation and reception of literary works. This course aims to demystify literary theory, showing how it illuminates literary texts on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here. Formalist; A practical approach to literary texts; Reading like a New Critic Women's writing; Gender and language; Reading like a feminist critic. The art of telling stories precedes literary theory as the chicken precedes the egg. gives critics tools for peering behind the scenes for insight into a writer's creative . Ethical theorists often do little or nothing in the way of practical ethics, and.
Reading was no longer viewed solely as educational or as a sacred source of religion; it was a form of entertainment. Many works of Jonathan Swift were criticized including his book Gulliver's Travels, which one critic described as "the detestable story of the Yahoos".
German Romanticismwhich followed closely after the late development of German classicismemphasized an aesthetic of fragmentation that can appear startlingly modern to the reader of English literature, and valued Witz — that is, "wit" or "humor" of a certain sort — more highly than the serious Anglophone Romanticism. The late nineteenth century brought renown to authors known more for their literary criticism than for their own literary work, such as Matthew Arnold.
The New Criticism[ edit ] However important all of these aesthetic movements were as antecedents, current ideas about literary criticism derive almost entirely from the new direction taken in the early twentieth century. Early in the century the school of criticism known as Russian Formalismand slightly later the New Criticism in Britain and in the United States, came to dominate the study and discussion of literature, in the English-speaking world.
Both schools emphasized the close reading of texts, elevating it far above generalizing discussion and speculation about either authorial intention to say nothing of the author's psychology or biography, which became almost taboo subjects or reader response.
This emphasis on form and precise attention to "the words themselves" has persisted, after the decline of these critical doctrines themselves. In his works Frye noted that some critics tend to embrace an ideologyand to judge literary pieces on the basis of their adherence to such ideology.
This has been a highly influential viewpoint among modern conservative thinkers. Michael Jonesfor example, argues in his Degenerate Moderns that Stanley Fish was influenced by his adulterous affairs to reject classic literature that condemned adultery.
In the British and American literary establishment, the New Criticism was more or less dominant until the late s.
Literary Theory: An Introduction (Online)
Around that time Anglo-American university literature departments began to witness a rise of a more explicitly philosophical literary theoryinfluenced by structuralismthen post-structuralismand other kinds of Continental philosophy. It continued until the mids, when interest in "theory" peaked. Many later critics, though undoubtedly still influenced by theoretical work, have been comfortable simply interpreting literature rather than writing explicitly about methodology and philosophical presumptions.
History of the book[ edit ] Related to other forms of literary criticism, the history of the book is a field of interdisciplinary inquiry drawing on the methods of bibliographycultural historyhistory of literatureand media theory. Barthes applies these currents of thought in his famous declaration of the "death" of the Author: Foucault played a critical role in the development of the postmodern perspective that knowledge is constructed in concrete historical situations in the form of discourse; knowledge is not communicated by discourse but is discourse itself, can only be encountered textually.
Following Nietzsche, Foucault performs what he calls "genealogies," attempts at deconstructing the unacknowledged operation of power and knowledge to reveal the ideologies that make domination of one group by another seem "natural. New Historicism and Cultural Materialism "New Historicism," a term coined by Stephen Greenblatt, designates a body of theoretical and interpretive practices that began largely with the study of early modern literature in the United States. According to "New Historicism," the circulation of literary and non-literary texts produces relations of social power within a culture.
New Historicist thought differs from traditional historicism in literary studies in several crucial ways.
Rejecting traditional historicism's premise of neutral inquiry, "New Historicism" accepts the necessity of making historical value judgments. According to "New Historicism," we can only know the textual history of the past because it is "embedded," a key term, in the textuality of the present and its concerns.
Text and context are less clearly distinct in New Historicist practice. Traditional separations of literary and non-literary texts, "great" literature and popular literature, are also fundamentally challenged. For the "New Historicist," all acts of expression are embedded in the material conditions of a culture. Texts are examined with an eye for how they reveal the economic and social realities, especially as they produce ideology and represent power or subversion.
Louis Montrose, another major innovator and exponent of "New Historicism," describes a fundamental axiom of the movement as an intellectual belief in "the textuality of history and the historicity of texts. The translation of the work of Mikhail Bakhtin on carnival coincided with the rise of the "New Historicism" and "Cultural Materialism" and left a legacy in work of other theorists of influence like Peter Stallybrass and Jonathan Dollimore. In its period of ascendancy during the s, "New Historicism" drew criticism from the political left for its depiction of counter-cultural expression as always co-opted by the dominant discourses.
However, "New Historicism" continues to exercise a major influence in the humanities and in the extended conception of literary studies. Ethnic Studies and Postcolonial Criticism "Ethnic Studies," sometimes referred to as "Minority Studies," has an obvious historical relationship with "Postcolonial Criticism" in that Euro-American imperialism and colonization in the last four centuries, whether external empire or internal slavery has been directed at recognizable ethnic groups: Though the two fields are increasingly finding points of intersection—the work of bell hooks, for example—and are both activist intellectual enterprises, "Ethnic Studies and "Postcolonial Criticism" have significant differences in their history and ideas.
Dubois, we find an early attempt to theorize the position of African-Americans within dominant white culture through his concept of "double consciousness," a dual identity including both "American" and "Negro. Afro-Caribbean and African writers—Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, Chinua Achebe—have made significant early contributions to the theory and practice of ethnic criticism that explores the traditions, sometimes suppressed or underground, of ethnic literary activity while providing a critique of representations of ethnic identity as found within the majority culture.Professor Catherine Belsey discusses the Importance of Critical Theory
Ethnic and minority literary theory emphasizes the relationship of cultural identity to individual identity in historical circumstances of overt racial oppression. More recently, scholars and writers such as Henry Louis Gates, Toni Morrison, and Kwame Anthony Appiah have brought attention to the problems inherent in applying theoretical models derived from Euro-centric paradigms that is, structures of thought to minority works of literature while at the same time exploring new interpretive strategies for understanding the vernacular common speech traditions of racial groups that have been historically marginalized by dominant cultures.
Though not the first writer to explore the historical condition of postcolonialism, the Palestinian literary theorist Edward Said's book Orientalism is generally regarded as having inaugurated the field of explicitly "Postcolonial Criticism" in the West. Said argues that the concept of "the Orient" was produced by the "imaginative geography" of Western scholarship and has been instrumental in the colonization and domination of non-Western societies.
Moreover, theorists like Homi K. The work of Gayatri C. Spivak has focused attention on the question of who speaks for the colonial "Other" and the relation of the ownership of discourse and representation to the development of the postcolonial subjectivity. Like feminist and ethnic theory, "Postcolonial Criticism" pursues not merely the inclusion of the marginalized literature of colonial peoples into the dominant canon and discourse.
In this respect, "Postcolonial Criticism" is activist and adversarial in its basic aims. Postcolonial theory has brought fresh perspectives to the role of colonial peoples—their wealth, labor, and culture—in the development of modern European nation states. While "Postcolonial Criticism" emerged in the historical moment following the collapse of the modern colonial empires, the increasing globalization of culture, including the neo-colonialism of multinational capitalism, suggests a continued relevance for this field of inquiry.
Gender Studies and Queer Theory Gender theory came to the forefront of the theoretical scene first as feminist theory but has subsequently come to include the investigation of all gender and sexual categories and identities. Feminist gender theory followed slightly behind the reemergence of political feminism in the United States and Western Europe during the s. Political feminism of the so-called "second wave" had as its emphasis practical concerns with the rights of women in contemporary societies, women's identity, and the representation of women in media and culture.
These causes converged with early literary feminist practice, characterized by Elaine Showalter as "gynocriticism," which emphasized the study and canonical inclusion of works by female authors as well as the depiction of women in male-authored canonical texts. Feminist gender theory is postmodern in that it challenges the paradigms and intellectual premises of western thought, but also takes an activist stance by proposing frequent interventions and alternative epistemological positions meant to change the social order.
In the context of postmodernism, gender theorists, led by the work of Judith Butler, initially viewed the category of "gender" as a human construct enacted by a vast repetition of social performance.
The biological distinction between man and woman eventually came under the same scrutiny by theorists who reached a similar conclusion: Gender theory achieved a wide readership and acquired much its initial theoretical rigor through the work of a group of French feminist theorists that included Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, and Julia Kristeva, who while Bulgarian rather than French, made her mark writing in French.
French feminist thought is based on the assumption that the Western philosophical tradition represses the experience of women in the structure of its ideas. As an important consequence of this systematic intellectual repression and exclusion, women's lives and bodies in historical societies are subject to repression as well.
Their work beyond the descriptive stage becomes an intervention in the history of theoretical discourse, an attempt to alter the existing categories and systems of thought that found Western rationality. French feminism, and perhaps all feminism after Beauvoir, has been in conversation with the psychoanalytic revision of Freud in the work of Jacques Lacan. Two concepts from Kristeva—the "semiotic" and "abjection"—have had a significant influence on literary theory.
Masculine gender theory as a separate enterprise has focused largely on social, literary, and historical accounts of the construction of male gender identities. Such work generally lacks feminisms' activist stance and tends to serve primarily as an indictment rather than a validation of male gender practices and masculinity.
Having long served as the de facto "subject" of Western thought, male identity and masculine gender theory awaits serious investigation as a particular, and no longer universally representative, field of inquiry. Much of what theoretical energy of masculine gender theory currently possesses comes from its ambiguous relationship with the field of "Queer theory.
To "queer" becomes an act by which stable boundaries of sexual identity are transgressed, reversed, mimicked, or otherwise critiqued. Michel Foucault's work on sexuality anticipates and informs the Queer theoretical movement in a role similar to the way his writing on power and discourse prepared the ground for "New Historicism. Eve Sedgwick is another pioneering theorist of "Queer theory," and like Butler, Sedgwick maintains that the dominance of heterosexual culture conceals the extensive presence of homosocial relations.
For Sedgwick, the standard histories of western societies are presented in exclusively in terms of heterosexual identity: Cultural Studies Much of the intellectual legacy of "New Historicism" and "Cultural Materialism" can now be felt in the "Cultural Studies" movement in departments of literature, a movement not identifiable in terms of a single theoretical school, but one that embraces a wide array of perspectives—media studies, social criticism, anthropology, and literary theory—as they apply to the general study of culture.
Stuart Hall, Meaghan Morris, Tony Bennett and Simon During are some of the important advocates of a "Cultural Studies" that seeks to displace the traditional model of literary studies. References and Further Reading a. General Works on Theory Culler, Jonathan.
Literary Theory | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, The Cultural Studies Reader. University of Minnesota Press, After the New Criticism. University of Chicago Press, Addison, Wesley, Longman, Rice, Philip and Waugh, Patricia.
Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Michael.
Literary and Cultural Theory Adorno, Theodor. Selected Essays on Mass Culture. Monthly Review Press, The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Princeton University Press, Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. University of Texas Press, Hill and Wang, The Pleasure of the Text.
Studies in the Structure of Poetry. The Souls of Black Folk: Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities. Harvard University Press, The History of Sexuality. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. South End Press,