Questions tagged [theory]

Questions related to literary theory, i.e. the body of frameworks, ideas and methods about how to interpret literature. This tag can be used for questions about literary terms and theories of literature, including the history of such concepts. For questions about existing interpretations and evaluations, use the [literary-criticism] tag.

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Examples of “canonical questions” in different cultures [closed]

This question will be rather odd. I have been thinking about this topic for a while, and this is the type of question that really cannot be answered without hearing people from different backgrounds. ...
Haldot's user avatar
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Is a space within a work of fiction rendered 'off the page' (referred to but unseen/non-existent) part of the work's paratext?

For example, in A Streetcar named Desire Blanche and Stella's family's plantation 'Belle Reve' figures as an important space within the text, but isn't rendered directly in it - it is 'off the page', ...
ohmyfuckingglob's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
664 views

What is an inciting incident?

I've been struggling to find a clear definition of what exactly an inciting incident is. According to Masterclass, an inciting incident is: The inciting incident of a story is the event that sets the ...
Jude Zambarakji's user avatar
2 votes
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What is the strongest theoretical epistemology about literary (or cultural) “periods”?

Discussions of periods like “Romanticism” and general claims about what people were motivated by or what traits distinguished art in that time strike me as requiring a rigorous justification. If we ...
Julius Hamilton's user avatar
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2 answers
158 views

What is “high literature”? [duplicate]

It is extremely common to hear people talk about “high art”, in the context of “literature”, to distinguish it from, say, “popular fiction”, and so on. What justifies the idea that there is something “...
Julius Hamilton's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
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Poet who asserted that poets lack personality and collect objects to give them one

In about the mid-90s I read part of a book of literary criticism by a poet (so focused mainly on poetry and poetic theory) where he said that poets lack a personality and often collect trinkets to ...
user254694's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
390 views

Does Stanley Fish's essay How to Recognize a Poem When You See One devalue the interpretation of poetry?

Literary theorist Stanley Fish once wrote a famous essay about found poetry entitled How to Recognize a Poem When You See One. You can read it online here. In short, Fish taught a class on linguistics ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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What is the history of Kant and the concept of autonomous art in literature?

If you read around literary theory, you'll frequently come across the concept of autonomy in art, the idea that an artwork is a thing unto itself, independent from the artist. As far as I understand ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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3 votes
4 answers
520 views

How do people learn to analyze literature?

How do students of English learn to analyze literature? How do they come up with new things to say about texts that everyone doesn't already know? The essence of the question is given above, but ...
Senil Barre's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
413 views

Marxist reading of Gogol's "The Overcoat"?

The Wikipedia page about Gogol's short story "The Overcoat" is full of [citation needed] notices. The following sentence in particular caught my eye: A Marxist reading of the text would ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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What aspects of Roman Ingarden's theory of literature does Stanisław Lem criticise and how?

According to the Wikipedia article on Stanisław Lem's The Philosophy of Chance, Lem criticizes the contemporary literary theory, in particular, Roman Ingarden's Literary Work of Art, and proceeds ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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6 votes
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Is this an accurate explanation of Jakobson's definition of the "true hallmark of poetry"?

The Wikipedia on Roman Jakobson says The true hallmark of poetry is according to Jakobson "the projection of the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection to the axis of combination&...
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How well does the musical "Hamilton" conform to Aristotle's concept of mimesis?

How does the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda reveal Aristotle's concept of mimesis (or imitation, from The Poetics), especially since it is a musical (which isn't very realistic at all?)
Joelvanf's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
343 views

Why is the 1820 Indicator version of La Belle Dame Sans Merci seen as more "politically correct"?

In his textbook Theory of Literature, Paul Fry writes at length about Jerome McGann's critique of Keats. As part of this he has this to say about the comparison between the 1819/1848 and the 1820 ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
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Where did Jacques Derrida (or Roland Barthes) conclude that the entire premise of structuralism was hollow?

Roland Barthes (1915–1980) was an important French literary theorist and critic. The Wikipedia article about him provides a summary of his ideas, include his ideas about structuralism and its limits (...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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3 votes
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Evidence that "What is an author?" and "The death of the author" had a bombshell effect?

The French Wikipedia article about Roland Barthes has a section on the literary critic's essay "The death of the author" containing the following statement: Conjugué à la conférence de ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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4 votes
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Whatever happened to Barthes' "science of literature"?

In Criticism and Truth (Critique et Vérité, 1966), Roland Barthes puts forward what we might call a manifesto for both a science of literature on the one hand, and of literary criticism on the other: ...
Daneel Olivaw's user avatar
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Was de Staël's On Literature Considered in Its Relations with Social Institutions influenced by late-18th-century German romantics?

In an answer to the question Can formal essays be considered as a literature in strict sense?, I wrote that our current definition of literature reflects a concept of literature that originated in ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
283 views

Why is the separation between literary criticism and literary theory controversial?

Wikipedia notes Whether or not literary criticism should be considered a separate field of inquiry from literary theory, or conversely from book reviewing, is a matter of some controversy. For ...
J.G.'s user avatar
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3 answers
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Under what circumstances could you make a promise without intending to?

Jonathan Culler's Literary Theory: a Very Short Introduction contains the following slightly puzzling quote in chapter 7: In principle at least, the performative [utterance] breaks the link between ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
203 views

Is Jonathan Culler saying that theory is the study of the background we bring to the text?

Follow-up to: Is Jonathan Culler saying that literary theory is effectively the same subject as cultural studies? From chapter 3 of the second edition of Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction by ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
4 votes
0 answers
108 views

How did Culler define the relationship between literary studies and cultural studies after ‘Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction’?

Yesterday, EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica asked Is Jonathan Culler saying that literary theory is effectively the same subject as cultural studies? The question was based on the second edition of Culler'...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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Is Jonathan Culler saying that literary theory is effectively the same subject as cultural studies?

In chapter 3 of the second edition of Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, we find the following paragraph: Theory has enormously enriched and invigorated the study of literary works, but... ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
775 views

"Tragic" vs "Tragedy"

According Owl Purdue's page on structuralism and semiotics, tragics falls under historical criticism and tragedies fall under archetypal criticism. What is the difference between a tragic and a ...
Taf04k's user avatar
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Does Jonathan Culler view literary theory itself as a historical construction?

Literary Theory: a Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Culler has the following quote in it (in chapter 1 of the 2nd edition): Theory is often a pugnacious critique of common-sense notations, and ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
152 views

Why did Eagleton omit to explain "literary theory" in "Literary Theory: An Introduction"?

In Terry Eagleton’s preface to the first (1983) edition of Literary Theory: An Introduction he writes: This book sets out to provide a reasonably comprehensive account of modern literary theory for ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
3 votes
3 answers
915 views

What is literature?

Since this site is called Literature Stack Exchange, one of the most basic questions we could ask here is how scholars of literature define literature. We have an older question on the ways academics ...
North Læraðr's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
1k views

How is psychoanalysis relevant to the study of literature?

I've recently seen the term "psychoanalysis" used a few times here on Literature Stack Exchange. Looking it up, I learned that it seems to be more a branch of psychology or philosophy than ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
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How did the Frankfurt School's Critical Theory influence literary theory?

The Frankfurt School is a school of social theory and philosophy associated with the University of Frankfurt's Institute for Social Research (German: Institut für Sozialforschung, IfS). It is known ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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3 votes
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Where did Derrida say that Jonathan Culler's On Deconstruction is a good introduction to his work?

The works of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930 – 2004) had a significant impact on literary theory, leading to the development of a method of analysis known as deconstruction. (Derrida said ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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4 votes
0 answers
230 views

Where did Derrida say that he deliberately made his works difficult?

In a comment below the question How does Derrida's Signifying obfuscate his writing?, DJohnson wrote, Just for the record Derrida has been quoted as stating that he deliberately made his ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
991 views

What do literary critics mean when they say a text is overdetermined?

In literary criticism one can sometimes read statements such as the following: "Helena’s love therefore is overdetermined to a degree unusual even in Shakespeare" (Michael Delahoyde quoting ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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2 votes
2 answers
330 views

Did Harold Bloom ever criticise New Historicism for reducing literature to a footnote of history?

New Historicism is a form of literary theory that focuses on the relation between literature and history (and which is more complex than I wish to explain here). It was developed by scholars such as ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
144 views

Meaning of vision du monde in Lucien Goldmann's genetic structuralism

In the 1960s the French philosopher, sociologist and literary theorist Lucien Goldmann developed a theory known as "genetic criticism" (e.g. in Sciences humaines et philosophie. Suivi de ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
2k views

What is the difference between horizon of expectation and expectation?

I'm studying reader-response theory and wonder what is the difference between horizon of expectation and a simple expectation. In my understanding, the horizon of expectation is just expectation. It ...
Ooker's user avatar
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12 votes
1 answer
368 views

What evidence is there for the "recession of accent" theory?

In the late 19th and early 20th century, there was a theory that certain oddities in the rhythms of Shakespeare and other early modern English poets could best be explained by recession of accent. ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
0 votes
2 answers
182 views

What does it mean to say "the future of the English language is grand but as far as its literature is concerned it seems bleak"?

An English professor commented that "the future of the English language is grand but as far as its literature is concerned it seems bleak". How can this sentence be interpreted? What exactly is the ...
Jvlnarasimharao's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
385 views

What is the difference between spatial and temporal paratext?

According to Gérard Genette, the paratext is what is beyond a text, e.g.: the cover, the title, the interviews about a novel... Paratext can be devided into two categories: spatial and temporal. The ...
Machiavelli's user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
1k views

What is the meaning of 'myopia' in literature studies?

Does the term myopia have a special meaning in the context of literature? Myopia is in its most direct meaning a healthcare condition: relating to, or exhibiting myopia : NEARSIGHTED Myopia or ...
MOLAP's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
91 views

Is Paul Fry correct in saying that modern hermeneutic approaches largely developed due to the Protestant Reformation?

In lecture 3 of his Introduction to the Theory of Literature Yale Open Course, Prof. Paul Fry makes the following claim: ... the notion of hermeneutics arises primarily in religion first, ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
2k views

What is the difference between emotions and feelings in Eliot's essay Tradition and the Individual Talent?

In his most famous essay, "Traditional and the Individual Talent", T. S. Eliot appears to make a distinction between emotions and feelings. Read especially the following passage (emphasis mine): ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
224 views

What does this line about Foucault's job being to "historicize discourse and textualize history" mean?

I found a line in my book which says something like this: Michael Foucault's main job is to historicize discourse and textualize history. The context of this quote is the following (from a course ...
yubraj's user avatar
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11 votes
1 answer
274 views

What is the history of the universe/canon/word-of-god approach to literature?

Over on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange, some participants apply the following theoretical approach to the interpretation of fiction: The role of fiction is to describe a fictional ‘...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
69 views

What's the meaning of 'English studies of empirical studies' to be antihumanist?

Prof. Brooks Landon, U. Iowa, Ph.D. U. Texas at Austin. Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read (Great Courses) (2013). pp. 245-246.       &...
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1 vote
1 answer
149 views

Is Hejinian saying that there is no one privileged way of reading any text?

You can read about the so called l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e poet's rejection of closure here (it's short). Is she saying that an open reading, which is what the text is about, theorizes on, does not privilege ...
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3 votes
0 answers
261 views

Is Roland Barthes' s/z structuralist or post-structuralist?

In S/Z (1970) the French literary theorist Roland Barthes analysed Balzac's story Sarassine. Is his method of analysis structuralist or post-structuralist?
Amin's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
219 views

"Literary theory": Genre or field?

I vaguely remember learning that "literary theory," according to some, is theory through which society and other artificial constructs are analyzed as though works of literature or art. I recall ...
SAH's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
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What is the difference between emotions and feelings in Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads?

In the Preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800), Wordsworth famously wrote that all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: (...). He later adds (my emphasis): ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
191 views

Academic who abandoned literary criticism and started writing novels?

A number of years ago, I read about an American academic who had been publishing about literary criticism and theory but then at some point (in the 1990s or the early 2000s) decided to move away from ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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7 votes
1 answer
2k views

Method for comparing two works of literature

I study French literature and I want to carry out a research in comparative literature which compares two books written by soldiers of the World War (one of them by a French soldier and the other one ...
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