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Book Title: تئوری ادبی|
The author of the book: Jonathan Culler
Date of issue: 2011
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The size of the: 29.22 MB
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La Rochefoucault said that no one would ever have thought of being in love if they hadn’t read about it in books. I don’t believe that, do you?
No. Not true at all.
But that’s not what we’re here to discuss.
So -, it’s been said before and I’ll say it again
LITERARY THEORY – huuuagh! 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.
Theory disputes the notion of “common sense”. It’s engaged in the unsettling of anything that might have been taken for granted, it’s reflexive, thinking about thinking, an enquiry into the categories we use in making sense of things
Theory is intimidating (p15)
One of the most dismaying features of theory today is that it is endless. It is not something you could ever master
Typical conversational gambit suggested by Jonathan Culler:
“How can you write about the Victorian novel without using Foucault’s account of the deployment of sexuality and the hysterization of women’s bodies and Gayatri Spivak’s demonstration of the role of colonialism in the construction of the metropolitan subject?”
Don’t say –“Oh, you’re so right – I’ve been such a fool.”
Instead, try – “Spivak? But haven’t you read Benita Parry’s demolition of her categories and her fundamentally flawed response?”
A good deal of the hostility to theory no doubt comes from the fact that to admit the importance of theory is to make an open-ended commitment… Theory makes you desire mastery…but theory makes mastery impossible…because theory is itself the questioning of presumed results and the assumptions on which they are based.
This is notably strange in an introduction to an academic subject (although I have seen stranger) since :
1) The author is admitting that there is quite a bit of hostility expressed by some towards his discipline
2) He’s admitting that his discipline is impossibly large and forbiddingly arcane
3) What he’s describing is “theory” and not “literary theory. It doesn’t become “literary” until it’s applied to literature. But then - what is literature? who says so? Why is it worth studying any more than soap opera? (Answer to this last – many think that it isn’t.)
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 1970s and took hold in universities in the 1980s. 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 1894. There is a theory, to which I subscribe, that literature, at that time, had become imbued with a special significance. The precipitous decline of Christian belief amongst the English middle class in the 19th century, at the very time the Empire was reaching its apogee, inspired some academics to reach out for a substitute religion, some system whereby the cultural values which made Britain “great” could be located. 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. I don’t think the department will like the expenses but it can’t be helped.
Meyer : So what do they say?
Lund (reading from computer print out) : 78% sexism of which 49% overt; 68% racist of which 17% overt; 39% homophobic, all overt; pretty much all of it was contaminated one way or another.
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.g.
INTERTEXTUALITY (AARGH, NO, GET OFF ME!)
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! Reality! Not other bloody novels! But you know, as well as being about stuff, novels etc are about – i.e. are in response to, bounce off, react strongly to, are in opposition to, are a love letter to previous novels just as
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun
is Shakespeare sending up previous platitudinous clichéd love poems, and
a bumper-sticker – is pretty meaningless unless you know your previous bumper stickers, like SAVE THE WHALE, NO NUKES and GAY JESUS SAVES.
So yes, intertextuality is TRUE. Grr. That's just one example - amongs many. Oh yes, many.
This is a rocking little introduction to a formidable subject. Recommended to SOME of you!
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Read information about the authorCuller's Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics and the Study of Literature won the James Russell Lowell Prize from the Modern Language Association of America in 1976 for an outstanding book of criticism. Structuralist Poetics was one of the first introductions to the French structuralist movement available in English.
Culler’s contribution to the Very Short Introductions series, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, received praise for its innovative technique of organization. Instead of chapters to schools and their methods, the book's eight chapters address issues and problems of literary theory.
In The Literary in Theory (2007) Culler discusses the notion of Theory and literary history’s role in the larger realm of literary and cultural theory. He defines Theory as an interdisciplinary body of work including structuralist linguistics, anthropology, Marxism, semiotics, psychoanalysis, and literary criticism.
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