Introduction to literary theory in English (2015)Apunte Inglés
Introduction to literary theory and criticism in English. Definition of terms, author, reader relation, characteristic themes in all literature, critical tenets etc.
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LITERARY CRITICISM &THEORY
We should know:
- Studying literature is not about reading but also reading what other people say
about it (The beginning of the book and the notes at the back).
- We must connect with what other people say. This is called CRITICISM (Literary criticism).
Literary criticism engages with the stylistic features of the text, its structure etc.
We also discuss: - Literary theory (Though it0s different to literary criticism!!) Literary theory has developed a lot in the last 30 years. Now it’s unthinkable to teach literature without teaching literary theory. It also is the biggest philosophic topic nowadays in Western Europe.
The best way to study it is by knowing that it’s a compound theory.
- - Why do we tell stories? To teach, to escape from reality, to entertain us, to live other lives apart from ours, to reflect (to take a step back and think about things that happened), to tell personal experiences… HEGEMONIC adj. for “hegemony”.
C.S Lewis: He said that we tell stories t oknow that we are not alone. It always implies a speaker and a receipient (receiver) of the message.
But we also tell stories to us.
We tell stories to try and control chaos: To put control in chaos.
Every character, person has multiple experiences and so multiple stories to tell.
What’s literature about? - Literary theory tries to engage us into what literature is about. By literature we mean a body of written stories produced in a certain period of time by a very well known author. It also means: newspapers, songs, TV, the metro ticket… By stories we mean: Canonical series of texts distinguished from non-fiction texts.
Literature is about different ideas in the form if literary ymbols.
Is there anything common in all the literature we read? Yes, human experience.
Literature, whether good or badm is written by people with a political situation, from a particular geographic region, a particular period of time… So, what’s common in all these people? That they all live and die.
COMMON THEMES IN ALL LITERATURE 1. DEATH: Characteristic of all literature. Though they may not call it “death”, all books and stories talk about death.
2. LOVE: Also called “eros”, from Greek “iros”.
3. POWER: A fundamental element of literature: How they obtain it, how they loose it… 4. IDENTITY: It has lots of ramnifications. Ex: Gender identity: male / female/ homosexual… Geographic identity (place).
APPROACHES TO LITERARY THEORY - Before theory Structuralism Post-structuralism Psycho analysis Feminist theory: Fundamentalist because women have been historically marginalised from the hegemony.
New historicism Marxism Post-colonialism Cultural Studies (We’ll see them in the next sessions).
CRITICAL TENETS A principal idea Time is not a constraint COMMON SENSE: The author is the person who knows most about a book BUT! In literary theory, the reader is the one who knows most about the story. The author knows nothing.
TRAGEDY: The inability to resolve a problem, the opposite of comedy.
In literary theory, the parameters are DIFFERENT to “normal” life, or common sense.
In literary theory, who wrote Oliver Twist? The reader.
“The implicit reader” (most complex term). It’s the person who wrote the book. The author in literary theory scribes a poem, a play etc. which literatlly means he’s like a secretary. So the story comes from the Work implied reader (implicit reader). And the “implicit reader” comes from the writer’s mind, formed from the culture… of that time.
Author / poet / playwright (most important) Valid until the 1960’s (except when you don’t know who the author is).
(less important) Reader Text – Reader (Same importance) Author TEXT – READER:Constant interplay between text and reader. And everytime we read it, we create another version.
AUTHOR: Even if the reader isn’t dead, he’s dead (in theoretical purposes).
WORK vs TEXT Text: Professional jargon.
In literary theory (post-modern times), we prefer TEXT (not work).TEXT similar to Cat. Word “teixit” A text can be penetrated by the reader by interaction and interpretation.
So the word “text” is used because of an etymological reasin (teixit): Can be penetrated, you can make a hole in it if you touch it a lot.
INTENTION vs INTERPRETATION The author knows most. For ex. J,K Rowling is always giving interviews… Literary theory doesn’t matter. (below) INTENTIONAL FALLACY and INTERPRETATION (CORRESPONDENCE).
The author is irrelevant. So what the author intends is an intentional fallacy.
- - The readers reinvent the text everytime they read it. EX: Pride and prejudice (1830) coud have been on French Revolution (1789). It occurred before. But not about the Russian Revolution (1916/7).
We can reinvent the text but it doesn’t mean that any interpretation can be valid. This is called CORRESPONDENCE. It must connect with all the elements in the text and be chronological.
THE CANON vs CANONICITY (adj. canonical) Ex. Canonical author: William Shakespeare Canonical genres: Comedy, tragedy, drama.
- What do we mean by a text is canonical? It establishes a model. The readers, the literary critics like it.
- Who created CANONS? Texts which a particular “sect” from a particular culture consider them to be culturally important.
Heterosexual white men, in a Christian community. They are extremely traditional.: Literary theory challenges the canon.
Example: 17th century authors: Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, Daniel Dafoe, Sheridan… No women were writing? Absolutely false.
- Countless of women were writing. They were marginalised. They didn’t fit in the canon.
POINT OF ALL THIS: Challenge, question some of the basic ideas. Questions about interpretation, authors, readers… ...