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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Why are Freud and Lacan still seen as important to literary criticism when their theories are discredited?

Literary theory talks broadly about three sources of text: texts themselves, the social context and the author's psyche. In the latter aspect, the ideas of psychiatrists Sigmund Freud and Jacques ...
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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 (...
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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 ...
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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: ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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'...
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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... ...
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"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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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. ...
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How can enjambment be used to enhance rhythm in a poem?

I was wondering how enjambment can be used to improve the rhythm in poetry. I have seen some innovative uses of it by e.e. cummings, such as by breaking a word and writing the ending on the next line....
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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 ...
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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 ...
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2 votes
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Forms of foregrounding: are recurrence / equivalence the same?

I'm struggling to grasp the difference between the literary devices of recurrence and equivalence. I'm preparing for an exam where we are asked to define these terms. In German, they are referred to ...
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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 ...
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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, ...
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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): ...
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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 ...
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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 ‘...
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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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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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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?
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"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 ...
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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): ...
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5 votes
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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 ...
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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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2 votes
1 answer
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What is the function of comedy for Frye?

I have come across this quote from Northrop Frye's book Anatomy of Criticism: the social judgment against the absurd is closer to the comic norm than the moral judgment against the wicked. What is ...
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How can readers ascertain that they have identified the author's intent?

We currently have several questions about auhorial-intent, for example, How much weight is given to authors' intentions in literary analysis? and How much weight should we give authors' declarations ...
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Why did New Historicism and Cultural Materialism develop such an intense interest in Shakespeare and his contemporaries?

In the 1980s and 1990s, New Historicism and Cultural Materialism were two related and very influential schools of literary theory. Below are a few influential titles: Radical Tragedy: Religion, ...
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Has Antonin Scalia's version of textualism influenced literary theory or hermeneutics?

The late U. S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia famously advocated a form of textualism, interpreting legal texts as reasonable readers at the time of the law's writing would've understood it. (...
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6 votes
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Anthology of literary theory that illustrates each theory by applying it to the same works

For people who are interested in literary theory, there are many introductions and many anthologies. What I am looking for is slightly different: an anthology of literary theory that illustrates each ...
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Was authorial intent ever taken seriously in academic literary theory?

What does the author mean? and What does the author want to say/convey/express/...? are questions we heard countless times during literature classes at school. In other words, it is a common didactic ...
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Is there such a thing as an unbiased text?

A few months ago, I participated in a debate, where the topic to be debated upon was "An unbiased text is a myth", which is to say that all texts have their share of bias. I was on the "against" side ...
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2 answers
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Meaning of homology 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 ...
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6 votes
2 answers
728 views

What exactly is canon?

I've seen the word canon used occasionally on this site. I've also seen it used quite extensively on Stack Exchange's science fiction and fantasy site. I'm pretty sure I know what the word means, ...
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1 answer
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Is it common to reveal suspense in epilogue?

According to the dictionary epilogue means a speech or piece of text that is added to the end of a play or book, often giving a short statement about what happens to the characters after the ...
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8 votes
1 answer
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How can poetry be defined?

I've been trying to figure this out recently, but I can't. My logic it this: 1) A lot of people think that poetry must rhyme. But the list of poets who broke with that tradition when it suited them ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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Why don't modern critics like archetypes?

According to The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (pg 24), archetypal criticism has had a falling out with modern critics: More recently, critics have been wary of the reductionism involved in ...
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