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I can't remember any formal classes, just the stuff I've picked up along the way and in my own personal reading since. Which is why I've started to slowly pick my way through Literary Theory a Guide for the Perplexed to fill in the gaps.
What has your experience with theory been?
...wow, enough parentheses there? ;)
We also read works along the way to help illustrate each theory.
Another class on narrative theory covered Todorov, Propp, Bakhtin, more Barthes & a bit more Levi Strauss.
Also an independent study class that went over some of the above along with Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Deleuze & Guattari.
Supplemented that with an elective from the Philosophy department (philosophy of languague...I think, I vaguely remember something about Searle and speech acts), & another on film theory.
But yeah, none of those were core requirements, so you could have totally avoided them if that wasn't what you were into.
Oddly enough, no Baudrillard.
I get now why 'close reading' was such a big deal in the 1950s with Leavis et al, attempting to make literature a serious weighty subject worthy of academic study.
I disliked the indea that only the 'words on the page' matter - I do feel that literature has to be a product of its own socio-economic and culturally political period. Nothing remain unaffected by its own history. However, I feel now that the focus has shifted so much onto these socio-cultural areas of meaning that we sometimes forget about the text that we are analysing. No wonder Derrida concluded that there was no longer any meaning if he constantly deferred the idea and got bogged down in the gradual disintegration of the sign/ signifier relationship due to their abundance.
Perhaps there comes a point when one should stop looking at literature through the post-modern eyes of someone unable to find any 'true' meaning due to the spead of parody and self-parody, and actually analyse the words on the page syntactically a little more. Whist also retaining their original context of course ;)
I have one question:
What is literary theory?
Is it anything like quantum theory?
Or creationist theory?
Or is it more like spinach?
And because I started with Lacan's Ecrits, I hated theory for a time. Until I read Terry Eagleton (can't remember if it was Literary Theory: An Introduction or his article "Two Approaches in the Sociology of Literature"). He asserted, and I agreed, that literary theory is a way of reading and interpreting a text, and if that is theory's function, then it's nothing to be resisted or derided because everyone practices it. I read from a cultural studies bent, Eagleton from a Marxist one, Gilbert & Gubar from a feminist one, I.A. Richards from a textual one, Lacan from a psychoanalytic/linguistic one, Greenblatt from a self- and culturally-aware historical one, etc. I can't imagine why this would be considered a bad thing--unless one group tries to claim dominance over all the others. The way I see it (and yes, this smacks of a "can't-we-all-just-get-along" naivety, but I don't care anymore), all of these interpretations are pieces of an always-unfinished puzzle. A work of "literature" (whatever that is) should be able to bear the weight of all of these readings, the ones listed by mrsradcliffe, and any others we can come up with. Theory is a toolbox as far as I'm concerned: it can open up new ways of reading for you, but it can close off others if you're not careful.
And, no. I haven't had a "theory" class yet (I'm a 2nd-year PhD student who's already gotten an MA). I've just picked up what I thought I needed along the way in writing papers and my thesis.
The thesis itself was focused on the Grendelkin in "Beowulf." I argued that their status as monsters is not an ontological category but a culturally-created one--because their breaking of cultural rules is much more important in their monsterization than the vocabulary of the text or their physical descriptions.
I wish I'd gotten a dose or two of theory as an undergrad; I was really upset when I got into grad school. It felt like a sucker punch.
as an author, i can guarantee you that i have goals in mind as i write whatever; whether it's about the anti-war movement in Florida, memoirs of growing up in the Adirondacks, the life of a recovered alcoholic, a collection of short stories, or my current project about getting rich in the drug trade in the Everglades, i hope to both "entertain and elucidate." Mailer told me in a rare sober moment years ago that is what he tries to do.
I think literary theory, whatever it may be, has surfaced as part of the cirriculum vitae in the past 20 years, n'est-ce pas? It didn't exist in the Florida universities in 1990. (unless it was known under the name of "literary criticism!) HM. that may be.
Nope, much of the seminal writing in the field was done in the late 60s (Barthes' Elements of Semiology '67, Derrida's Structure, Sign, and Play in the Human Sciences '66). Saussure's original bit on signifier/signified goes back to 1916.
It's maybe escaped your notice by falling under the labels of sociology, psychology, philosophy, cultural theory, linguistics, anthropology, semiotics/semiology, etc. but there's really not much difference or if there is, the lines are very, very blurred.
Maybe you don't place emphasis on theory because so much of the post-structuralist theory doesn't place any emphasis on you? It's hard to expect an author to support theorists that declare him dead or less important than both the critic and the reader...