After receiving a Rhodes scholarship , he attended St. Phil now M. Phil in comparative literature and a D. Phil in modern languages He is a past president of the Semiotic Society of America It has been translated into 26 languages, including Kurdish, Latvian, and Albanian.

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Shelves: litcrit La Rochefoucault said that no one would ever have thought of being in love if they hadnt read about it in books. I dont believe that, do you? Not true at all. But thats not what were here to discuss. What is it good for? Absolutely nuthin. Theory is a body of thinking and writing whose limits are exceedingly hard to define.

Theory is works that succeed in challenging and reorienting thinking in fields other than those to which they apparently belong Theory is an unbounded group of writings about everything under the sun. But then - what is literature? Why is it worth studying any more than soap opera? So the idea is that these various often French theorists, who were writing about all kinds of issues, psychotherapy, semiology, linguistics, sexuality, prisons, Aids, wrestlers, whatever, began to be used to create a new trendy edgy academic subject called Cultural Studies which sprang up in the s and took hold in universities in the s.

Like Steerpike in the castle of Gormenghast, cultural studies decided it was the right discipline to rule the liberal arts and so began to make a subtle, insidious take-over of the English departments, by smuggling cultural-studies ideas into the curriculum, where their ivy tendrils grew wildly and began to choke the host.

Pity the appalled English professor as sturdy vines of Derrida begin to twine round his calves. The idea of studying literature is not old. The faculty of English literature at Oxford University was only established in There is a theory, to which I subscribe, that literature, at that time, had become imbued with a special significance.

They figured these values were to be found in literature. Liberal humanist values could be celebrated and transmitted to the generations through the study of the best writers. A national literature helped to form a national consciousness and a set of values which could then be broadcast to the subjects of the Empire. Terry Eagleton summed this line of thinking up by saying that this was throwing a few novels to the workers to stop them throwing up a few barricades.

So this is the giant enterprise that the theorists have come to interrogate. And they treat it like the scene of a crime. Theorist Sarah Lund : So, we have the results from the laboratory.

Theorist Jan Meyer : Did you get all of it? Lund : Yes, we bagged everything. It took all Wednesday and most of Thursday. Meyer: What, all of Western literature? All of it? Lund : Well, I think we did. You can go and check again. There was a lot of it. We had to get a truck.

Meyer : So what do they say? Meyer: Was anything left after all these tests? Lund : The Little Prince. That one was okay. Some of these theorists as usual like to come up with jawbreaking neologisms like the hyper-protected cooperative principle p26 - actually, they all do, — and some of these ideas are fairly straightforward when you get hold of them, e.

The idea is that novels are actually about other previous novels, films are about other films and the act of film-making, poems are about poetry and poems. At first this does sound like one of those awful critical life-denying ideas — what? Novels are about novels? But I want them to be about life, love, politics, the world, stuff! Not other bloody novels! But you know, as well as being about stuff, novels etc are about — i.

So yes, intertextuality is TRUE. Oh yes, many. This is a rocking little introduction to a formidable subject. Recommended to SOME of you!


Jonathan Culler



Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction




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