Literary Theory | Internet encyclopedia of philosophy (2023)

The "literary theory" is the set of ideas and methods that we use in the practical reading of literature. By literary theory we do not understand the meaning of a literary work, but the theories that reveal what literature can mean. Literary theory is a description of the underlying principles, one might say the tools, with which we try to understand literature. All literary interpretation rests on a theoretical basis, but it can serve as a justification for very different kinds of critical activity. It is literary theory that formulates the relationship between author and work; Literary theory develops the meaning of race, class and gender for literary studies, both from the perspective of authorial biography and from the analysis of its thematic presence in the texts. Literary theory offers different approaches to understand the role of historical context in interpretation, as well as the relevance of linguistic and unconscious elements of the text. Literary theorists trace the history and development of the various genres (narrative, dramatic, lyrical) and the more recent emergence of the novel and short story, while examining the importance of formal elements in literary structure. Finally, in recent years literary theory has tried to explain to what extent the text is the product of a culture and not of a single author, and how these texts contribute in turn to the creation of culture.

table of Contents

  1. What is literary theory?
  2. traditional literary criticism
  3. Formalism and new critique
  4. Marxism and critical theory
  5. structuralism and poststructuralism
  6. New Historicism and Cultural Materialism
  7. Ethnic studies and postcolonial criticism
  8. Gender Studies and Queer Theory
  9. cultural studies
  10. References and further reading
    1. General work on theory.
    2. literary and cultural theory

1. What is literary theory?

'Literary theory', sometimes called 'critical theory' or 'theory' and now becoming 'cultural theory' within the discipline of literary studies, can be understood as the set of intellectual concepts and assumptions about which the work of the scholar is based. It is based on explaining or interpreting literary texts. Literary theory refers to any principle derived from internal analysis of literary texts or from knowledge external to the text that can be applied in multiple interpretive situations. All critical practice in relation to literature depends on an underlying structure of ideas in at least two respects: the theory provides a justification for what constitutes the object of criticism - "the literary" - and the specific goals of critical practice - the act of interpretation e.g. speaking of "unity".oedipus the kingrefers expressly to Aristotle's theoretical statements on poetics. Arguing like Chinua Achebe that Joseph ConradsHeart of Darknessdoes not grant full humanity to Africans is a perspective informed by a postcolonial literary theory that presupposes a history of exploitation and racism. Critics explaining the climactic drowning of Edna PontellierThe awakeningas suicide they generally invoke a supporting architecture of feminist and gender theory. The structure of ideas that allows for a critique of a literary work may or may not be recognized by the critic, and the status of literary theory within the academic discipline of literary studies is evolving.

Literary theory and the formal practice of literary interpretation parallel, but less well known, the history of philosophy and have been recognizable in the historical record at least since Plato.The Cratyluscontains a meditation by Plato on the relationship between words and the things to which they refer. Plato's skepticism about meaning, i. h that words bear no etymological relationship to their meaning but are arbitrarily "imposed" becomes a central concern of both "structuralism" and "post-structuralism" in the 20th century. However, a stubborn belief in "reference," the idea that words and images refer to an objective reality, has supported epistemological (i.e., related theories of knowledge) theories of literary representation throughout. throughout most of western history. Until the 19th century, art "held up a mirror of nature," in Shakespeare's words, faithfully recording an objectively real world independent of the viewer.

In the course of the 19th century, modern literary theory gradually emerged in Europe. In one of the first developments of literary theory, the German High Criticism subjected the biblical texts to a radical historicization that broke with the traditional interpretation of the Scriptures. "Higher criticism" or "source criticism" analyzed Biblical narratives in the light of comparable narratives from other cultures, an approach that anticipated some of the method and spirit of twentieth-century theory, particularly "structuralism" and "new historicism". In France, the important literary critic Charles Augustin Saint Beuve claimed that a literary work could be fully explained in terms of biography, while the novelist Marcel Proust devoted his life to refuting Saint Beuve in a mass narrative in which he claimed that the details of the artist's life in the Historia were changed by complete works of art. . (This dispute was taken up by the French theorist Roland Barthes in his famous explanation of the "death of the author." See "Structuralism" and "Poststructuralism.") Perhaps the greatest nineteenth-century influence on literary theory came from the profound epistemology of Frederick Nietzsche suspects: Facts are only facts when they are interpreted. Nietzsche's epistemological critique profoundly influenced literary studies and helped usher in an era of intense literary theorizing that is yet to come.

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Attention to the etymology of the term "theory" from the Greek "theoria" alerts us to the biased nature of theoretical approaches to literature. "Theoria" denotes a view or perspective of the Greek scene. This is precisely what literary theory offers, with certain theories often claiming to represent a complete system for understanding literature. The current state of the theory is such that there are many overlapping spheres of influence and the older schools of theory, although they no longer enjoy their former prominence, continue to exert an influence on the whole. The once widespread belief (an implicit theory) that literature is a repository of all that is meaningful and uplifting in human experience, a view espoused by the Leavis School in Britain, may no longer be recognized by name. , remains an important justification for the current structure of American universities and liberal arts curricula. The moment of 'deconstruction' may be over, but its emphasis on the vagueness of signs (that we cannot exclusively determine what a word means in a given situation) and therefore of texts is still significant. Many critics may not accept the "feminist" label, but the premise that gender is a social construction, one of the theoretical feminisms that differentiate ideas, is now an axiom in various theoretical perspectives.

While literary theory has always implied or directly expressed a notion of the world outside of the text, three movements—the "Marxist theory" of the Frankfurt School, "feminism," and "postmodernism"—opened up the field of literary studies. in the 20th century. in a larger study area. Marxist approaches to literature require an understanding of the primary economic and social foundations of culture, since Marxist aesthetic theory views the artwork as a direct or indirect product of the basic structure of society. Feminist thought and action analyzes literary production and literary representation within the framework that encompasses all social and cultural formations related to the role of women in history. Postmodern thought consists of both aesthetic and epistemological threads. Postmodernism in art has included a move toward non-referential, non-linear abstract forms; a higher level of self-referentiality; and the collapse of categories and conventions that had traditionally defined art. Postmodern thought has led to a serious questioning of the so-called metanarratives of history, science, philosophy, and economic and sexual reproduction. In postmodernism, all knowledge is considered "constructed" within independent, historical systems of understanding. Marxist, feminist, and postmodern thought have led to all human discourses (ie, intertwined domains of language and knowledge) being included as objects of analysis by the literary theorist. Employing the various poststructuralist and postmodernist theories, which often draw on disciplines other than literary (linguistics, anthropological, psychoanalytic, and philosophical) for their main ideas, literary theory has become an interdisciplinary body of cultural theory. Starting from the premise that human societies and knowledge are constituted by texts in one way or another, cultural theory is now applied (for better or worse) to the variety of texts in an ambitious attempt to become the model for excellence of the study of the condition to become human.

Literary theory is a place of theories: some theories like “Queer Theory” are “in”; other literary theories such as "deconstruction" are "out" but continue to exert an influence on the field. "Traditional literary criticism", "new criticism", and "structuralism" are similar in that they adhered to the view that the study of literature has an objective body of knowledge under its examination. To varying degrees, the other schools of literary theory represent a postmodern view of language and reality that seriously challenges the objective benchmark of literary studies. The following categories are certainly not exhaustive or mutually exclusive, but they do represent the major trends in literary theory of this century.

2. Traditional literary criticism

Academic literary criticism before the rise of "New Criticism" in the United States tended to practice traditional literary history: tracing influences, establishing the canon of great writers in literary eras, and clarifying historical contexts and allusions within the text. The literary biography was and is an important method of interpretation inside and outside the academy; Versions of moral criticism, similar to the Leavis school in Britain, and aesthetic criticism (for example, gender studies) were also generally influential literary practices. Perhaps the central unifying feature of traditional literary criticism was the consensus within the academy both about the literary canon (that is, the books that all educated people should read) and about the aims and purposes of literature. What literature was and why we read literature and what we read are questions that will arise in later movements in literary theory.

3. Formalism and new criticism

'Formalism', as its name suggests, is an interpretive approach that emphasizes literary form and the study of literary devices within the text. The work of the formalists had a general influence on later developments of "structuralism" and other narrative theories. Both "formalism" and "structuralism" attempted to place the study of literature on an academic footing through objective analysis of the motives, means, techniques, and other "functions" that make up the literary work. The formalists placed great emphasis on the literacy of texts, those qualities that distinguished literary writing from other types of writing. Neither the author nor the context were essential to the formalists; it was the narrative that spoke, the "hero function," for example, that had meaning. The form was the content. How a plot device or narrative strategy works has been studied and compared to how it works in other literary works. Of the critics of Russian formalism, Roman Jakobson and Viktor Shklovsky are probably the best known.

The formalist adage that the purpose of literature is to "make stones harder" beautifully expresses his idea of ​​literacy. "Formalism" is perhaps best known for Shklovsky's concept of "alienation". The routine of ordinary experience, Shklovsky claimed, made the uniqueness and specificity of the objects of existence invisible. Literary language, in part by drawing attention to itself as language, took the reader away from the familiar and refreshed the experience of everyday life.

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The "New Criticism," the so-called break with traditional methods, was a product of the American university in the 1930s and 1940s. The "New Criticism" emphasized careful reading of the text itself, similar to the French pedagogical imperative "explanation du text". As a reading strategy, the New Criticism viewed the literary work as an aesthetic object independent of historical context and as a unified whole that reflected the unified sensibility of the artist. TS Although Eliot was not explicitly associated with the movement, he expressed a similar aesthetic-critical philosophy in his essays on John Donne and the metaphysical poets, writers whom Eliot believed experienced a total integration of thought and feeling. New critics like Cleanth Brooks, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, and W.K. Wimsatt placed a similar emphasis on metaphysical poets and poetry in general, a genre well suited to New Critical practice. The "New Criticism" sought to bring greater intellectual rigor to literary studies by limiting itself to a careful examination of the text alone and of the formal structures of paradox, ambiguity, irony, and metaphor, among others. "New Criticism" was inspired by the conviction that his poetry readings would have a humanizing effect on the reader and thus counter the alienating tendencies of modern industrial life. In this sense, "New Criticism" has an affinity with the southern agrarian movement, whose manifestoI take my position, contained essays by two new critics, Ransom and Warren. Perhaps the enduring legacy of "New Criticism" is found in the college classroom, where the verbal texture of the poem on the page remains a major subject of literary study.

4. Marxism and Critical Theory

Marxist theories of literature tend to focus on describing class conflict, as well as reinforcing class differences through literature. Marxist theorists employ traditional techniques of literary analysis, but subordinate aesthetic concerns to the ultimate social and political meanings of literature. Marxist theorists often defend authors who are sympathetic to the working class and authors whose work challenges the economic equality found in capitalist societies. In keeping with the totalizing spirit of Marxism, the literary theories that have emerged from the Marxist paradigm have sought new ways of understanding the relationship not only between economic production and literature, but also cultural production as a whole. Marxist analyzes of society and history have had a profound influence on literary theory and practical criticism, especially on the development of "new historicism" and "cultural materialism".

The Hungarian theorist Georg Lukacs contributed to the understanding of the relationship between historical materialism and literary form, particularly realism and the historical novel. Walter Benjamin broke new ground in his work related to aesthetics and the reproduction of works of art. The Frankfurt philosophers, notably Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse, played a key role in introducing Marxist cultural assessments into mainstream American academic life after immigrating to the United States. These thinkers were associated with the so-called "Critical Theory", part of which was a critique of the instrumental use of reason in advanced capitalist culture. "Critical theory" maintained a distinction between the high cultural heritage of Europe and the mass culture produced by capitalist societies as an instrument of domination. "Critical theory" sees in the structure of the forms of mass culture - jazz, Hollywood movies, advertising - a replica of the structure of the factory and the workplace. Creativity and cultural production in advanced capitalist societies have always been engulfed by the entertainment needs of an economic system that requires sensory stimulation and recognizable clichés, and suppresses the tendency toward sustained reflection.

The main Marxist influences on literary theory since the Frankfurt School have been Raymond Williams and Terry Eagleton in Britain and Frank Lentricchia and Fredric Jameson in the United States. Williams is associated with the New Left political movement in Britain and the development of 'Cultural Materialism' and the Cultural Studies Movement, which originated from the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham in the 1960s. Eagleton is known both as a Marxist theorist and as a popularizer of the theory through his widely read overview.literary theory. Lentricchia also became influential for his description of trends in theory,After the new review. Jameson is a multifaceted theorist, known both for his influence on Marxist theories of culture and for his position as one of the leading figures in theoretical postmodernism. Jameson's work on consumer culture, architecture, film, literature, and other fields typifies the collapse of disciplinary boundaries in the field of Marxist and postmodern cultural theory. Jameson's work examines how the structural features of late capitalism, in particular the commodification of all culture, are deeply embedded in all our modes of communication today.

5. Structuralism and post-structuralism

Like the "New Criticism", "structuralism" tried to give literary studies a set of objective analytical criteria and a new intellectual rigor. 'Structuralism' can be seen as an extension of 'formalism' in that both 'structuralism' and 'formalism' paid attention to issues of literary form (i.e. structure) rather than social or historical content; and that both lines of thought aimed to place the study of literature on a scientific and objective basis. "Structuralism" was initially based on the ideas of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. Like Plato, Saussure considered the signifier (words, signs, symbols) as something arbitrary and independent of the concept, the signified, to which he referred. Within the way in which a given society used language and signs, meaning was constituted by a system of "differences" between language units. Certain meanings were less interesting than the underlying meaning structures that made the meaning itself possible, often expressed as an emphasis on 'langue' rather than 'parole'. "Structuralism" claimed to be a metalanguage, a language about languages, used to decipher actual languages ​​or systems of meaning. The work of "formalist" Roman Jakobson contributed to "structuralist" thought, and better-known structuralists included Claude Levi-Strauss in Anthropologie, Tzvetan Todorov, A.J. Greimas, Gerard Genette, and Barthes.

The philosopher Roland Barthes emerged as a key figure in bridging the gap between "structuralism" and "post-structuralism". "Poststructuralism" is less unified as a theoretical movement than its predecessor; In fact, the work of its promoters, known as "deconstruction", questions the possibility of the coherence of discourse or the communicative capacity of language. "Deconstruction", Semiotic Theory (an investigation of signs with close connections to "Structuralism"), "Reader Response Theory" in America ("Reception Theory" in Europe) and "Gender Theory" " are informed by the psychoanalysts Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva. grouped under the catchphrase "post-structuralism." This loss of reference causes endless change in meaning, a system of differences between language units that has no resting place or ultimate signifier that allows the other signifiers to maintain their meaning. Deconstruction", Jacques Derrida, has asserted: "There is no exit from the text", suggesting a kind of meaning-free game in which a fixed and stable meaning is not possible originally identified with a group of scholars at Yale, the School of Yale "Deconstruction": J Hillis Miller, Geoffrey Hartmann, and Paul de Man. Other trends in the post-"deconstruction" moment that share some of the intellectual trends of "post-structuralism" would be "reader response" theories. by Stanley Fish, Jane Tompkins and Wolfgang Iser.

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Lacanian psychoanalysis, an update on the work of Sigmund Freud, extends "posturalism" to the human subject, with additional implications for literary theory. According to Lacan, the fixed and stable self is a romantic fiction; like the Deconstruction text, the self is a decentered mass of traces left by our encounters with signs, visual symbols, language, etc. For Lacan, the self is constituted by language, a language that is never one's own but always that of another, always already in use. Barthes applies these currents of thought in his famous explanation of the "death" of the author: "Writing is the destruction of all voice, of all origin," while applying a similar "post-structuralist" view of the reader: "the reader It is without history, biography, psychology; he is just thatsomeonethat brings together in a single field all the traces that make up the written text”.

Michel Foucault is another philosopher like Barthes whose ideas influence much of post-structuralist literary theory. Foucault played a crucial role in developing the postmodern perspective that knowledge is constructed in concrete historical situations in the form of discourses; knowledge is not transmitted discursively, but is itself a discourse, it can only be experienced through texts. Following Nietzsche, Foucault carries out what he calls "genealogies," attempts to deconstruct the unrecognized workings of power and knowledge in order to discover the ideologies that make the domination of one group by another seem "natural." Foucauldian studies of discourse and power would provide much of the intellectual impetus for a new way of looking at history and studying texts that became known as "New Historicism."

6. New historicism and cultural materialism

"New Historicism", a term coined by Stephen Greenblatt, describes a body of theoretical and interpretive practices that largely began with the study of early modern literature in the United States. The "new historicism" in America had been somewhat anticipated by the "cultural materialism" theorists in Britain, who, in the words of its chief proponent Raymond Williams, "required the analysis of all forms of meaning, including the rather center, within the real means and conditions of its production.” Both "New Historicism" and "Cultural Materialism" attempt to understand literary texts historically and reject the formalizing influence of earlier literary studies, including "New Criticism," "Structuralism," and "Deconstruction," all of which they represent the text of literary privilege in different ways and attach only secondary importance to the historical and social context. According to "New Historicism", the distribution of literary and non-literary texts produces social power relations within a culture. Neohistorical thought differs of traditional historicism in literary studies in several crucial respects. "New Historicism" rejects traditional historicism's premise of neutral inquiry and accepts the need to make historical value judgments. According to "New Historicism," we can only know history textual of the past because it is "embedded", a key concept, in the textuality of the present and its concerns. Text and context are less separated in neohistorical practice. The traditional divisions between 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. The texts are examined in terms of how they reveal economic and social realities, particularly when they produce ideology and describe power or subversion. Like much of the emerging European social history of the 1980s, “new historicism” is particularly interested in depictions of marginalized/marginalized groups and non-normative behaviors (witchcraft, cross-dressing, peasant uprisings, and exorcisms) as examples of the need to of power, subversive alternatives to represent the other, to legitimize oneself.

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". "New Historicism" is based on the work of Lévi-Strauss, particularly his conception of culture as a "self-regulating system". Foucal's premise that power is ubiquitous and cannot be equated with state or economic power, and Gramsci's concept of “hegemony”, i. h that domination is often achieved through culturally orchestrated consent rather than violence are crucial pillars of the “neohistoricist” perspective. The translation of Mikhail Bakhtin's work on carnival coincided with the rise of 'New Historicism' and 'Cultural Materialism' and left a legacy in the work of other influence theorists such as Peter Stallybrass and Jonathan Dollimore. During its heyday in the 1980s, “new historicism” drew criticism from the political left for portraying counterculture expression as always co-opted into mainstream discourses. Similarly, "new historicism's" de-emphasis on "literacy" and formal literary concerns drew scorn from traditional literary scholars. However, "New Historicism" continues to exert a great influence on the humanities and on the broader conception of literary studies.

7. Ethnic Studies and Postcolonial Criticism

Ethnic studies, sometimes referred to as minority studies, has an obvious historical relationship to postcolonial critique, as Euro-American imperialism and colonization over the past four centuries, whether external (empire) or internal (slavery), is directed at identifiable ethnic groups: African and African American, Chinese, the subaltern peoples of India, Irish, Latino, Amerindian and Filipino, among others. Ethnic studies is generally concerned with art and literature produced by identifiable ethnic groups that are marginalized or subservient to a dominant culture. Postcolonial critique examines the relationship between colonizers and colonized in the postcolonial period. Although the two fields are increasingly crossing points, like the work of Bell Hooks, and both are activist intellectual endeavors, "Ethnic Studies" and "Postcolonial Criticism" have significant differences in their history and ideas.

Ethnic studies have had a significant impact on literary studies in the United States and Great Britain. In the web. In Dubois, we find an early attempt to theorize the position of African Americans within mainstream white culture through his concept of "double consciousness," a dual identity that encompasses both "American" and "Negro." Dubois and the theorists after him seek to understand how this dual experience creates identity and reveals itself in culture. Afro-Caribbean and African writers (Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, Chinua Achebe) made important early contributions to the theory and practice of ethnic criticism, which examines the sometimes repressed or underground traditions of ethnic literary activity while offering critical of representations of ethnic literary activity. of ethnic identity as found in the majority culture. Ethnic and minority literary theory emphasizes the relationship between cultural identity and 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 drawn attention to the problems associated with applying theoretical models derived from Eurocentric paradigms (ie, structures of thought) to minority literary works. At the same time, new interpretive strategies are explored to understand the native traditions (common language) of racial groups historically marginalized by dominant cultures.

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Although not the first author to address the historical conditions of postcolonialism, the book is by Palestinian literary theorist Edward Said.Orientalismhe is generally regarded as the founder of the field of explicit "postcolonial critique" in the West. Said argues that the concept of the "East" was generated by the "imaginative geography" of Western scholarship and was instrumental in the colonization and domination of non-Western societies. “Postcolonial” theory reverses the core/periphery historical direction of cultural inquiry: the critique of the metropolis and capital now emanates from the former colonies. In addition, theorists such as Homi K. Bhabha have questioned the binary thinking that produces the center/fringe, white/black, and colonizer/colonized dichotomies by which colonial practices are justified. Gayatri C. Spivak's work has drawn attention to the question of who speaks for the colonial "other" and the relationship of representational discourse and ownership to the development of postcolonial subjectivity. Like feminist and ethnic theory, “Postcolonial Critique” does not only pursue the inclusion of the marginalized literature of colonial peoples into the dominant canon and discourse. Postcolonial Criticism offers a fundamental critique of the ideology of colonial rule while attempting to unravel the "imaginative geography" of Orientalist thought that has produced both conceptual and economic divisions between West and East, civilized and uncivilized, First and Third World. In this sense, "Postcolonial Criticism" is activist and contrary in its basic concerns. Postcolonial theory has provided new perspectives on the role of colonial peoples - their wealth, labor and culture - in the development of modern European nation-states. Although “postcolonial critique” arose in the historical moment after the collapse of modern colonial empires, the increasing globalization of culture, including the neocolonialism of multinational capitalism, suggests an ongoing relevance to this field of inquiry.

8. Gender studies and queer theory

Gender theory first appeared on the theoretical stage as a feminist theory, but later it encompassed the study of all sexual and gender categories and identities. Feminist gender theory lagged slightly behind the revival of political feminism in the United States and Western Europe in the 1960s. So-called "second wave" political feminism focused on practical concerns of women's rights. in contemporary societies, women's identity and the representation of women in media and culture. These causes converged with early feminist literary practice, termed "gynocriticism" by Elaine Showalter, which emphasized the study and canonical incorporation of female authors' works, as well as the representation of women in canonical texts written by men.

Feminist gender theory is postmodern in the sense that it challenges the paradigms and intellectual premises of Western thought, but it also takes an activist stance by proposing frequent interventions and alternative epistemological positions aimed at transforming the social order. In the context of postmodernism, gender theorists, led by Judith Butler, initially viewed the category "gender" as a human construct enacted through enormous repetition of social performance. The biological distinction between male and female eventually came under the same scrutiny by theorists, who came to a similar conclusion: sexual categories are products of culture and, as such, help create social reality rather than simply reflect it. . Gender theory reached a wide readership and gained much of its early theoretical rigor through the work of a group of French feminist theorists including Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, and Julia Kristeva, who, though more Bulgarian than French, she has made a name for herself as a writer in French. French feminist thought is based on the premise that the Western philosophical tradition displaces the experience of women in the structure of its ideas. As an important consequence of this systematic intellectual oppression and exclusion, women's lives and bodies are also subject to oppression in historical societies. In Cixous's creative-critical work we find the history of Western thought presented as binary opposites: 'language/writing; Nature/Art, Nature/History, Nature/Mind, Passion/Action.” For Cixous, and also for Irigaray, these double images are less a function of an objective reality they describe than the male-dominated discourse of the Western tradition that produced them has. Her work beyond the descriptive stage becomes an intervention in the history of theoretical discourse, an attempt to change the existing categories and systems of thought that underpin Western rationality. French feminism, and perhaps all of post-Beauvoir feminism, was in dialogue with the psychoanalytic revision of Freud in the work of Jacques Lacan. Kristeva's work draws heavily on Lacan. Two of Kristeva's concepts, "semiotics" and "rejection", have had a great impact on literary theory. Kristeva's 'semiotics' refers to the gaps, stillness, spaces and bodily presence within the linguistic/symbolic system of a culture where there might be a space for women's language of a distinct nature from male-dominated discourse. .

The theory of the masculine gender as an entity in its own right has largely focused on the social, literary, and historical accounts of the construction of masculine gender identities. Such work generally lacks the activist stance of feminism and serves as an indictment rather than an affirmation of masculine gender practices and masculinity. The so-called “men's movement”, inspired by the work of Robert Bly, among others, was more practical than theoretical and had limited impact on gender discourse. The impetus for the "men's movement" came largely in response to critiques of masculinity and male dominance running through feminism and the turmoil of the 1960s, a time of crisis in American social ideology that called for a reconsideration of gender roles. Masculine identity and masculine gender theory, which have long served as the de facto "theme" of Western thought, await serious investigation as a particular rather than a universally representative field of inquiry.

Much of the theoretical energy that masculine gender theory currently possesses stems from its ambiguous relationship to the field of 'queer theory'. Queer theory is not synonymous with gender theory, or even with the overlapping fields of gay and lesbian studies, but it shares many of its concerns with normative definitions of masculine, feminine, and sexuality. Queer Theory questions the fixed categories of sexual identity and the cognitive paradigms generated by the normative sexual ideology (that is, considered “normal”). “Queer” becomes an act through which the stable boundaries of sexual identity are crossed, reversed, imitated or criticized. "Queering" can also be presented as representing all non-normative identities and sexualities, everything that the prevailing cultural paradigms perceive as strange, foreign, unknown, transgressive, strange, in short: queer. Michel Foucault's work on sexuality anticipates and informs the queer theoretical movement in a similar role to his writings on power and discourse that laid the foundations for "New Historicism." Judith Butler argues that heterosexual identity, long thought to be the normative basis for sexuality, is in fact generated through the suppression of homoerotic possibilities. Eve Sedgwick is another pioneering "queer theory" theorist, and like Butler, Sedgwick argues that the dominance of heterosexual culture obscures the pervasive presence of homosocial relationships. For Sedgwick, the standard histories of Western societies are presented solely in terms of heterosexual identity: 'heredity, marriage, dynasty, family, domesticity, population', and therefore conceptualizing homosexual identity within this framework is already problematic.

9. Cultural Studies

Much of the intellectual legacy of "New Historicism" and "Cultural Materialism" can be felt in today's literary departments in the "Cultural Studies" movement, a movement that cannot be identified as a single theoretical school, but rather covers a spread spectrum. of perspectives - media studies, social criticism, anthropology and literary theory - with respect to general cultural studies. "Cultural studies" arose quite confidently in the 1980s to provide a means of analyzing the rapidly expanding global cultural industries, spanning entertainment, advertising, publishing, television, film, computers, and the Internet. Cultural Studies examines not only these various categories of culture, and not only the diminishing distinctions between these spheres of expression, but also, just as important, the politics and ideology that make contemporary culture possible. "Cultural studies" became notorious in the 1990s for its emphasis on pop music icons and music videos rather than canonical literature, and it expands on Frankfurt School ideas about genuinely transitioning culture. popular to mass culture in late capitalist societies, emphasizing the importance of patterns. consumption of cultural goods. "Cultural Studies" was interdisciplinary, even anti-disciplinary, from the beginning; In fact, "cultural studies" can be understood as a set of methods and approaches, sometimes contradictory, applied to an interrogation of contemporary cultural categories. Stuart Hall, Meaghan Morris, Tony Bennett, and Simon While are among the leading proponents of a "cultural studies" that seeks to displace the traditional model of literary studies.

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10. References and further reading

A. General work on theory

  • Culler, Jonathan.Literary Theory: A Very Brief Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Meanwhile, Simon. ed.The Cultural Studies Reader. Londres: Routledge, 1999.
  • Eagleton, Terry.literary theory. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
  • Lentrichia, Frank.After the new review. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.
  • Moore-Gilbert, Bart, Stanton, Gareth and Maley, Willy. editionpostcolonial critique. Nueva York: Addison, Wesley, Longman, 1997.
  • Reis, Philip and Waugh, Patricia. editionModern Literary Theory: A Reader. 4heedition.
  • Richter, David H.Ed.The critical tradition: classic and contemporary texts trends. 2North Dakotaed. Bedford Books: Boston, 1998.
  • Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Michael. editionLiterary Theory: An Anthology. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1998.

B. Literary and cultural theory

  • Adornment, Theodore.The cultural industry: selected essays on mass culture. ed. J. M. Bernstein. Londres: Routledge, 2001.
  • Althusser, Luis.Lenin and philosophy: and other essays.Trans. Ben Brewster. Nueva York: Monthly Review Press, 1971.
  • Auerbach, Erich.Mimesis: the representation of reality in western literature.Trans.
  • Willard R. Trask. Princeton, Nueva Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1953.
  • Battin, Michael.dialogic imagination.Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1981.
  • Barthes, Rolando.Image – Music – Text.Trad. Stefan Heide. Nueva York: Hill y Wang, 1994.
  • Barthes, Rolando.die lust in text. Trans.Richard Muller. Nueva York: Hill y Wang, 1975.
  • Beauvoir, Simone de.the second sex. . . . Tr. HM. parsley New York: Button, 1953.
  • Benjamin, Walter.Turning on.ed. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Harry Zohn. New York: Schoken, 1988.
  • Bache, Cleanth.The well worked urn: studies on the structure of poetry.Nueva York: Harcourt, 1947.
  • Derrida, Jacques.of grammatology. Trans. Gayatri C. Spivak. Baltimore: John Hopkins, 1976.
  • Dubois, W.E.B.The Souls of Negroes: Essays and Sketches.Chicago: AC McClurg & Co., 1903.
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Information about the author

Vince Brewton
University of North Alabama


What are the 4 major theories in literature? ›

There are four major critical theories in literature which are Mimetic theory, Pragmatic theory, Expressive theory and finally Objective theory. All of these critical theories are different in their own ways.

What are the four categories of literary theory as per Abrams? ›

He identifies four elements that constitute the natural environment in which literature is produced and read: an author, a reader, a shared world, and a text. Abrams argues that all literary theories can be classified by the relative emphasis they place on one of these four elements.

What are the 4 types of literary criticism? ›

There are many types of literary criticism. Some of the more common are traditional criticism, sociological criticism, new criticism, reader-response criticism, Feminist criticism, Marxist criticism, and media criticism.

What is the difference between literary theory and literary criticism PDF? ›

Literary criticism is the study, evaluation and interpretation of literature whereas literary theory is the different frameworks used to evaluate and interpret a particular work. This is the main difference between literary criticism and literary theory.

What is basic literary theory? ›

Literary theory refers to any principles derived from internal analysis of literary texts or from knowledge external to the text that can be applied in multiple interpretive situations.

What are the five 5 major learning theories? ›

At a glance. There are five primary educational learning theories: behaviorism, cognitive, constructivism, humanism, and connectivism.

What are the 6 literary approaches? ›

Approaches to Literary Criticism
  • Formalistic or Literary Approach. Literature is viewed intrinsically independent of the author, age, or any other extrinsic factor. ...
  • Moral or Humanistic Approach. ...
  • Historical Approach. ...
  • Sociological Approach. ...
  • Cultural Approach. ...
  • Psychological Approach. ...
  • Impressionistic Approach. ...
  • Gender Approach.
Nov 13, 2013

How many literary theories are there? ›

Literary Theory helps a reader derive meaning. There are many lenses through which a reader can analyze literature and this lesson addresses seven: Traditional, Formalism/New Criticism, Structuralism/Post-structuralism, New Historicism, Marxism, Post-Colonialism, and Gender Studies/Queer Theory.

What are the six basic elements of literary analysis? ›

The elements to be analyzed are plot, setting, characters, point of view, figurative language, and style.

What are the 5 techniques of literary? ›

Literary Techniques
  • Similes and metaphors.
  • Repetition.
  • Onomatopoeia.
  • Hyperbole.
  • Sentence length.

What are the 5 basic literary elements in literature? ›

When you analyze a literary text, you will deal with basic elements of literature, like plot, theme, character, point of view, and setting.

What are the 5 approaches in literary criticism? ›

The moral approach: literature and moral ideas -- The psychological approach: literature and psychological theory -- The sociological approach: literature and social ideas -- The formalistic approach: literature as aesthetic structure -- The archetypal approach: literature in the light of myth.

What is an example of literary theory? ›

Similar to literary theory, which provides a broader philosophical framework for how to analyze literature, literary criticism offers readers new ways to understand an author's work. Examples of literary theories include new historicism, queer theory, critical theory, and post-colonial theory.

Is literary theory and criticism same? ›

Literary criticism (or literary studies) is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of literature's goals and methods.

What is the oldest literary theory? ›

Literary theory has been around for almost as long as there has been literature. The earliest known work of literary criticism is largely thought to be Aristotle's Poetics, which developed much of the foundations that are still studied today.

What is literary theory and why is it important? ›

Literary theory consists of various principles, beliefs and underlying ideas that are used to understand and analyze different pieces of texts in literature. An interesting way to view literary theory is by considering theories as tools.

Who is the father of literary theory? ›

John Dryden is rightly considered as “the father of English Criticism”. He was the first to teach the English people to determine the merit of composition upon principles. With Dryden, a new era of criticism began. Before, Dryden, there were only occasional utterances on the critical art.

What is the most popular learning theory? ›

1. Behaviorist Learning Theory. Behaviorism is one of the classic learning theories; it predates cognitivism and most of the other theories we'll explore in this post. Behaviorism suggests that the learner is a 'blank slate' and that all human behavior can be caused or explained by external stimuli.

What is Vygotsky's theory? ›

Vygotsky's social development theory asserts that a child's cognitive development and learning ability can be guided and mediated by their social interactions. His theory (also called Vygotsky's Sociocultural theory) states that learning is a crucially social process as opposed to an independent journey of discovery.

What are the 7 literary periods? ›

World Literature Periods
  • ROMANTIC PERIOD (c. 1790-1830)
  • VICTORIAN PERIOD And The 19th Century (c. 1832-1901)
  • MODERN PERIOD (c. 1914-1945)
  • POSTMODERN PERIOD (c. 1945 onward)
  • ROMANTICISM (1800-1840)
  • REALISM (1865-1915)

What are the 7 literary periods in order? ›

Periods of American Literature
  • The Colonial and Early National Period (17th century to 1830) ...
  • The Romantic Period (1830 to 1870) ...
  • Realism and Naturalism (1870 to 1910) ...
  • The Modernist Period (1910 to 1945) ...
  • The Contemporary Period (1945 to present)

What are the 7 literary standards explain each? ›

The seven literary standards are: artistry , suggestiveness , intellectual value, spiritual value, permanence, universality and style. These are a set of characteristics to determine whether or not a work is literary. The criteria was developed by writer William J.

What are the 8 major periods of literature? ›

The most important 8 periods of English Literature are:
  • Old English (Anglo-Saxon Period): 450–1066.
  • Middle English Period: 1066-1500.
  • The Renaissance: 1500-1600.
  • The Neoclassical Period: 1600-1785.
  • The Romantic Period: 1785-1832.
  • The Victorian Age: 1832-1901.
  • The Edwardian Period: 1901-1914.
  • The Georgian Period: 1910-1936.

What are the 3 main literary elements? ›

A literary element, or narrative element, or element of literature is an essential characteristic of all works of written and spoken narrative fiction. Literary elements include plot, theme, character and tone.

What are the first 4 steps of a literary analysis? ›

Follow these five steps to create a thorough and relevant literary analysis:
  • Examine the literary work. The first step should be to read the piece carefully, ideally more than once. ...
  • Gather arguments for your thesis. ...
  • Create a rough outline. ...
  • Formulate a thesis. ...
  • Write the analysis.
Nov 5, 2020

What are the three key features of a literary analysis? ›

Theme – The message/es explored throughout a work of literature. Motifs -- Repeated patterns in the story, particularly the symbolic. Plot – The arrangement of events; consider chronol- ogy or use of flashback/flashforward.

What is the 10 literary device? ›

10 most common literary devices used in creative writing
  • Simile.
  • Metaphor.
  • Personification.
  • Hyperbole.
  • Imagery.
  • Symbolism.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Foreshadowing.
Nov 8, 2020

What are all the literary elements? ›

A literary element refers to components of a literary work (character, setting, plot, theme, frame, exposition, ending/denouement, motif, titling, narrative point-‐of-‐view).

How many literary terms are there? ›

22 Different Types of Literary Devices and How to Use Them. Writers use a wide variety of literary devices across different genres. Each literary device serves a specific purpose. Understanding how to correctly wield these devices can significantly improve your own writing.

What are the 9 major elements of a story? ›

So, keep in mind that you need a main theme, characters, setting, tension, climax, resolution, plot, purpose and chronology for a powerful story.

What are the 12 literary pieces that influence the world? ›

Terms in this set (12)
  • The bible or sacred writings. Became the basis of christianity originating from palestine and greece.
  • Koran. The muslim bible from Arabia.
  • Iliad and the odyssey. Have been the source of MYTHS and LEGENDS of GREECE. ...
  • Mahab-harata. ...
  • Canterbury tale. ...
  • Uncle tom's cabin. ...
  • Divine comedy. ...
  • El cid compeador.

What are the 7 literary criticism? ›

Such analysis may be based on a variety of critical approaches or movements, e.g. archetypal criticism, cultural criticism, feminist criticism, psychoanalytic criticism, Marxist Criticism, New Criticism (formalism/structuralism), New Historicism, post-structuralism, and reader-response criticism.

What are the 3 literary models? ›

As discussed above, the three models for teaching literature—the language model, the cultural model, and the personal growth model—differ in terms of their focus on texts.

What is the best way to study theory? ›

Visualize along with Reading

We simply read the questions and their answers. Reading is the first step of understanding the theory subjects. To ensure that we understand what we are reading, we should take a pause, and visualize it in our head.

How can I learn theory easily? ›

Step 1: Read and Recall every hour: Take a theory subject you want to prepare, read it for an hour or so and then ask yourself what you can recall from last one hour reading. Initially it will take more time to recall but as you practice this method, it will become easier. So, don't worry and keep trying.

What is the characteristics of literary theory? ›

- concerned with structure in the text, emphasis on meaning, & grammatical structure. -unity, bi-nary dydads, arbitrary, relational, and constitutive.

What is the origin of literary theory? ›

The theory and criticism of literature are tied to the history of literature. However, the modern sense of "literary theory" only dates to approximately the 1950s when the structuralist linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure began to strongly influence English language literary criticism.

Is Marxist criticism a literary theory? ›

Marxist criticism is an approach to theory and literary commentary that questions society and culture. One of its most famous foundational texts is the book by Karl Marx (and Friedrich Engels), The Communist Manifesto.

What are the different categories of critical theories that Abrams demonstrates in the orientation of critical theories? ›

Literary theory, Abrams holds, can be divided into four categories:
  • 1) Mimetic Theory - which focus on the relationship between text and universe (by. ...
  • 2) Pragmatic theory- which are interested in the relationship between text and. ...
  • 4) Objective theory - the most recent classification, which focus on analysis of the text.
Apr 13, 2016

What is Abrams objective theory? ›

In The Mirror and The Lamp, M. H. Abrams proposes that we can divide any work up into four areas of study: The relationship between the universe as a whole and the work itself, between the audience and the work, between the author and the work, or relationships within the work itself.

What is mimetic theory in literature by Abrams? ›

Literary theory, Abrams holds, can be divided into four categories: 1) Mimetic Theory - which focus on the relationship between text and universe (by "universe" he means all things of the world apart from audience, text and author) 2) Pragmatic theory- which are interested in the relationship between text and audience.

What is pragmatic theory in literature? ›

Pragmatics analysis fills the gap between reader and writer or teacher and student with the greater understanding of ideas. It is as an approach focuses on language use, the intentions of writer/speaker and reader /hearer and mainly on contexts in the text.

What is Foucault critical theory? ›

Foucault's theories primarily address the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions. Though often cited as a structuralist and postmodernist, Foucault rejected these labels.

What is critical theory by Herbert Marcuse? ›

Marcuse's critical theory ccmbined features of eudaemonism with the hedonistic protest against the repression of sensuality. He argued that some needs are better satisfied than others and that individual happiness cannot be separated from the creation of a rational society.

What is objective literary theory? ›

Objective approach describes the literary product as a self-sufficient and autonomous object, or else as a world-in-itself, which is to be contemplated as its own end, and to be analyzed and judged by intrinsic criteria: such as its complexity, coherence, equilibrium, integrity, and the interrelations of its component ...

What is expressive theory by MH Abraham? ›

Expressive theories defines a literary work as the overflow, utterance, or projection of the thought and feelings of the author or in other words, the work itself modifies and synthesizes the images, thoughts, and feelings of the author (Abrams, 1979: 21-22).

What is pragmatic criticism Abrams? ›

Abrams terms these theories as pragmatic theories. Pragmatic theories view the arts as a means of achieving an end and judges the value of art based upon its success in achieving that end. For pragmatic critics poetry is a means to achieve certain responses from its readers.

What is Girardian theory? ›

Under Girard's interpretation, there is a twofold sense of original sin: 1) human beings are born with the propensity to imitate each other and, eventually, be led to violence; 2) human culture was laid upon the foundations of violence.

What is Aristotle's objection to the theory of mimesis? ›

Aristotle's Objection to the Theory of Mimesis

Aristotle believes that there is natural pleasure in imitation which is an in-born instinct in men. It is this pleasure in imitation that enables the child to learn his earliest lessons in speech and conduct from those around him, because there is a pleasure in doing so.

What is Aristotle's theory of mimesis? ›

Mimesis, as Aristotle takes it, is an active aesthetic process. He argues that 'imitation is given us by nature and men are endowed with these gifts, gradually develop them and finally create the art of poetry'23. The poet does not imitate reality but brings reality into existence through 'mimesis'.


1. What is the Difference Between Literary Theory and Literary Criticism?| English studies| Lit Studies
(Dr. Masood Raja)
2. What is Knowledge? (Philosophical Definitions)
3. In-depth tutorial of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (REP)
(Taylor & Francis Books)
4. The Map Of Philosophy
5. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
6. Louis Althusser | Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(Dank Audio Stash)


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