Literary Theory Website

I’ve been doing a lot of research on literary theory in the past year or so. I even created this website.

It is possible that I will use this website when presenting at the NYSEC conference in mid-November; therefore, since we’re reading Appleman right now, I figured I could ask you what you think about the site.

So, let me know what you think. What should I add? What should I take out? Where do I need more clarification? Any comments or suggestions are encouraged. Please be brutally honest… I can take it!

I want this site to be concise but informative.

Thanks

Ray H.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Literary Theory Website

  1. jmdegan

    Ray,

    If there was an area I’d change, it is the page defining literary theory. Here’s a couple of points to consider:

    1) I’m not sure what you mean about “theory” not being popular in the 1990’s. This was the era in which literary criticism responded to post-structuralist movements (such as deconstruction and New Historicism). This decade saw the expansion of postcolonial theory, gender and queer theory, and critical race theory, all growing out of the work of theorists like Derrida and Foucault. There have been movements against this expansion, pockets of resistance that still insist that the text is the ultimate arbiter of its own meaning, but all in all, the post-structural approaches have all developed in the past twenty-five to thirty years.

    2) I’m not sure how I would change your definition of literary theory, which is why I would caution against giving one. It’s such an amorphous field (encompassing writers of anthropology, philosophy, linguistics, cognative science, sociology, historiography, and many other disciplines) that it almost defies definition. If I were to hazard a definition, I would be tempted to say something like: Literary theory provides an intellectual framework for encountering texts. But I’m even uncomfortable with that definition. For one, it doesn’t acknowledge the different kinds of questions that theory asks about texts. It also doesn’t describe the nature of the encounter (where is meaning found), which also varies based on the theoretical approach one takes. You can see why this is such a difficult thing to describe: it’s almost too big for one general definition to cover.

    3) This is just a criticism of Appleman in general that I want you to think about. Appleman thinks of different schools of criticism as in competition, but assumes also that each of those schools has a unified process of making meaning. It’s too neat a way of thinking about a complex process. While it’s true generally that a feminist asks questions about the way in which patriarchal ideologies emerge in works of art, there isn’t a single “feminist reading” that can be discerned by putting on proverbial rose colored glasses (which, a feminist would recognize, is a euphamism that renders idealism as a feminine trait, thus foolish and undesireable in our culture, which values masculine traits). I just want to put it out there that theoretical approaches aren’t as neat as Appleman suggests- they are modes of inquiry where various practitioners ask similar (but rarely the same) questions. In other words, be careful with “theory worksheets” and “theory relays.” Students should be aware that there are several ways of approaching texts, but they should approach reading (as professional critics do) by asking the questions of texts that lead to the answers they are looking for, then thinking about the modes of inquiry that best provide those answers. I hope that makes sense.

    It’s great work, Ray. If you’ve got questions, we can talk tomorrow.

    J. Degan

  2. rayhedrick

    Yes, we will talk later tonight.

    I guess I should just clarify that when I said that theory wasn’t popular in the ’90’s, I was talking about theory in high school classrooms.

    You’re right, though. It’s so hard to define “theory.” I was having a hard time creating this page; however, I felt it was necessary if I were to use this in my own classroom some day.

    Thanks for your advice. I think it is very valuable. We should talk more in class.

  3. sunyprof

    Ray, thanks for posting. Jerry is right on all points here. Appleman oversimplifies intentionally for a high school teacher audience. That’s good and, obviously, bad. I’m glad Jerry points that out. KES

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