Misconceptions about theory:
Theory is difficult
What is difficult however is the language because most of the theorists are French 2.
theory is meaningless, pretentious jargon
that we are intellectually incapable of coping with it(i.e we are at fault) 4.
We take everything as gospel truth; We should question
What is literary theory?
Theory is a coherent set of conceptual hypothetical and pragmatic principles forming the general frame of reference for a discipline.
Literary Theory: the systematic account of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing it. (Culler pg 1)
Theoretical developments frequently take their colour from the speculations of an earlier time on a multidisciplinary scale. I.e. philosophy, ethics, science, religion etc.
Ideas often of a general nature are advanced as scholars strive to take cognizance of general or particular phenomena.
Through time, scholars from a multiplicity of disciplines subject these ideas to their own understanding within the requirements of particular disciplines.
Within disciplinary boundaries, theory concerns itself with the discipline’s origin, nature and function.
Most theories are advanced from previous theories which scholars develop or react to in a radically new way, giving rise to an alternative theory. E.g Post-colonial theories arose in third world countries, former colonies of Europe which the proponents see as a means of self liberation from domination by Europe and America theories. With particular regard to literature, theory has been ostensibly a facilitator of literary criticism which aims at interpreting and synthesizing ideas and concepts expressed within an aesthetic mode. Like in other disciplines literary theory begins with the question; what is literature?
A theory must be more than a hypothesis: it can’t be obvious , it involves complex relations of a systematic kind among a number of factors; and it is not easily confirmed or disproved 2.
Theory is interdisciplinary: Succeed in challenging and reorienting thinking in fields other than those to which they apparently belong. They have effects beyond their original field. Writings from outside the field of literary studies have been taken up by people in literary studies because their analyses of language or mind or history, or culture, offer new and persuasive accounts of textual and cultural matters. 3.
Theory is analytical and speculative.
Theory is a critique of common sense, of concepts taken as natural; As a critique of common sense and exploration of alternative conceptions, theory involves a questioning of the most basic premises or assumptions of literary study; i.e. the unsettling of anything that might have been taken for granted.
What is meaning?
What is an author?
What is it to read?
What is the “I” or the subject who writes, reads or acts? •
How do texts relate to the circumstances in which they are produced? •
What is a text?
Theory is reflexive, “thinking about thinking” i.e. enquiries in to the categories we use in making sense of things in Literature and in other discursive practice. 6.
Theory is endless; it is not something that you could ever master, not a particular group of texts you could learn so as know theory.
SIGNIFICANCE OF LITERARY THEORY IN THE STUDY AND APPRECIATION OF LITERATURE Literary theory or rather theories can offer various ways of defining literature or at least thinking about what the issues might be in attempting any kind of definition. The term ‘literature’ and ‘literary’ do not have stable and singular meanings, but rather complex and plural ones. Further to this literature both as a body of writing and the moral and the aesthetic qualities generally associated with it, can be seen as sites of struggle where meanings are contested rather than possessing timeless and universal values and truths as often assumed. Two fundamental points relating to the study of...
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