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Modern Literary Theory: A Reader

This book covers the key theoretical approches in modern literary theory, and includes essays and texts that are essential reading for any student of critical theory. It includes sections on Formalism and Structuralism, Feminism, Marxism, Postmodernism, and Postcolonialism, and for the first time, includes works by authors such as de Beauvoir and Freud, who although not focusing specifically on literature, make a significant contribution to the landscape of literary theory.

Modern Literary Theory: A Reader


There is no denying that there are several literary theories, which paid some attention to a specific role of a reader in interpreting the meaning of a piece of literary work. However, reader-response criticism, as modern literary philosophy emerged between the 1960s and 80s, particularly in German and the US. The clearly dominated the work of Roland Barthes, Norman Holland, Wolfgang Iser, Stanley Fish, and many others.

Reader Response Criticism emerged in Germany and the United States in the late 1960s. Reader Response Criticism does not refer to a specific theory or to a unified critical school, but to literary criticism that takes a reader-based approach to textual analysis.

The literary critic Judith Fetterley found the concept of the implied reader problematic and came up with the concept of a 'resisting reader', who refuses to fulfill the role of the implied reader - who refuses to read the text how it was "supposed to be read".

We often think of literature and the performing arts as very different subjects. Performance is lively and dynamic, and reading is a quiet, serious activity. Some Reader Response Critics think that the literary text can actually be viewed as a performing art, with different readers creating different performances of texts.

Many important works of recent literary criticism have taken a reader response approach. For example, Roland Barthes' famous essay, The Death of the Author (1967), which disregards the author as the authority of a text's meaning; the author's interpretation of their own work is just as important as any readers'.

Reader response criticism seeks to put the reader at the forefront of the textual analysis. Previous approaches to literary criticism assumed that texts had objective meanings and that it was the reader's job to discover the right meaning. The Reader Response approach argues that the meaning of a text is only activated when a reader reads it and responds to it.

* Disclaimer: When theories are explained briefly, a necessary reduction in their complexity and richness occurs. The information below is meant merely as a guide or introduction to modern literary theories and trends. Please note: Site is in the process of being updated and expanded - January 2006.

Though often used interchangeably with post-structuralism, postmodernism is a much broader term and encompasses theories of art, literature, culture, architecture, and so forth. In relation to literary study, the term postmodernism has been articulately defined by Ihab Hassan. In Hassan's formulation postmodernism differs from modernism in several ways:

Implied reader - a term developed by Wolfgang Iser; the implied reader [somewhat akin to an "ideal reader"] is "a hypothetical reader of a text. The implied reader [according to Iser] "embodies all those predispositions necessary for a literary work to exercise its effect -- predispositions laid down, not by an empirical outside reality, but by the text itself. Consequently, the implied reader as a concept has his roots firmly planted in the structure of the text; he is a construct and in no way to be identified with any real reader" (Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown - Glossary of Literary Theory).

Content: An introduction to main concepts central to aesthetics, literary theory, and comparative literature (e.g., hermeneutics, narratology). An overview of the history of reader response research, the empirical study of literature, and cognitive poetics.

Despite the persistent importance of the Arabic literary tradition in the region in the 20th century, modern Arabic literature started to look very different from its classical heritage. With the drastic changes in the political and literary landscapes the Middle East witnessed in modern times, the focus of Arabic literary theory shifted to new concerns, not least of which was the question of how to negotiate the relationship with its rich literary tradition while seeking to modernize.87

Another approach that has shaped modern scholarship on Arabic literary theory has been the tendency to separate the strands or clusters of classical theory. Thus, iʿjāz is often studied in isolation as its own phenomenon, as is the Aristotelian tradition. While the technical terminology and goals of each strand differ, there is much overlap and more consistency in their conceptions of the poetic than these differences let on.

The way we construct meaning from literature is, of course, determined by all sorts of factors that extend well beyond the personal. This is something we may have always known, in one way or another, but recent literary theory has helped us to understand more precisely the important role that culture, history, and the nature of language play in the way readers of literary texts produce "meaning." Theorists like Foucault (1979) and Fish (1980), for example, have demonstrated that we cannot regard literary texts as we once did--as monolithic, objective containers of "truth," with a single, fixed, and perhaps even "correct" meaning, put there by an author who was deemed to be almost God-like in his or her insight and wisdom. We now regard the process of creating meaning as a kind of collaboration between the author, the reader, the culture or "interpretive community" the author and reader inhabit, and the language with which the text is constructed. In Barthes' famous language, this change marked the "death" of the "Author-God" (1972, p. 257).

Foucault, Fish, and other modern literary theorists are often difficult for students to read and understand, and asking high school or even undergraduate college students to read through original work by writers like this is often not practical. But there are accessible and engaging ways that we can bring these critics' important ideas about reading literature into our classrooms. I believe that the best way to do this is to show these ideas in action: by using "reception moments" in the history of a literary text to show how the estimation of a text's value can change dramatically. Reception moments provide students with the opportunity to actually see literary value in the process of being constructed. Literary history is full of such moments, and even a cursory discussion of criticism devoted to a literary text like Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1988) or Chopin's The Awakening (1994) or Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (1990) presents students with significant challenges to traditional simplistic conceptions of how literary "value" is determined. This approach provides students with the unique opportunity to watch a culture work at defining itself, its...

The title of this book sums up its remit exactly. To understandmodern critical theory, one has to understand its philosophical underpinningsin the aesthetic and philosophical debates between Hegel, Nietzsche and Kant.It is their respective disciples who reformulated and reworked themaster's discourse into critical theories such as the New Criticism,Russian Formalism, Czech Structuralism, Reader-Response Criticism, Marxistcriticism, Postmodernism, Semiotics, and Deconstruction. The final chapterargues that the dialogic debates of all of these, because they are rooted insome version of aesthetics, are none the less not sufficient to cover allcategories of the literary, namely cultural studies, postcolonialism, NewHistoricism, and Feminism. Because the particular politico-cultural contextis paramount in each of these, they take literature out of philosophy andinto socio-historical domains.

Oct 17/ Feminist literary theory and the development of modern literary theory. Fair academic conduct. Literary cannon, representation of women in literature. Feminine, feminist and female writing.

Philosopher, novelist, literary critic, and political journalist, Maurice Blanchot is one of the most remarkable and controversial figures in the whole of twentieth-century literature and thought. His epoch-making writings, which are now widely available in translation, have had a decisive impact on contemporary philosophy, literature, and literary theory. His texts on Sade, Kafka, Hölderlin, Mallarmé, Rilke, or Beckett show him to be one of modern literature's most acute and influential commentators. But Blanchot is equally important as a challenging and incisive reader of philosophical texts, from Hegel and Nietzsche to Bataille, Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida, Foucault, and Nancy.

Author: Hanna Herzig. The materials also include a translation of Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, by P. Barry (Manchester UP, 1995); two readers containing expanded reviews of five approaches to literary theory; and critical articles which analyze literary works using the methods of the various approaches.

The course deals with modern literary theory from the 1920s to the present day. The early approaches, which were revolutionary for their time, held that the literary text is autonomous. Since then various and conflicting theories have appeared and in recent decades, theory has cultural, social and political aspects the implications of which affect not only the arts, but also such fields as history, philosophy, communications, linguistics, and sociology.

This course introduces students to the study of English by exploring the dynamic relationship between author, reader and text in a series of classic works of fiction and poetry. It covers a broad historical range (from Folk Tales and ballads to 21st century postmodernity) and offers a basic grounding in key elements of literary theory, literary history and the varieties of literary form. 041b061a72


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