LITERARY THEORY

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					     LITERARY                         EMPHASES/ CLASSROOM PRACTICE                                  CONTEXTS/
      THEORY                                                                                        BEGINNINGS
Religious                 Text as sacred & source of eternal truth, emphasis on allegory,          Medieval
                          Medieval symbol, parable, present day understood through proper
                          interpretation of omniscient text; priest/teacher as translator and
                          interpreter
Philological              Linguistic and literary traditions define ethnic nationhood, emphasis    17th to 19th C
                          on mythology, national epics, ancient popular folklore, legends;         Enlightenment
                          teacher as preserver of national culture                                 Nationalism/
                                                                                                   Racialism
Historical/Biographical   Emphasis on life of great artists; teacher presents writers as role      19th C
                          models                                                                   Individualism
Marxist/Socialist         Literature as part of class struggle, emphasis on social inequality,     19th to 20th C
                          social justice, working class literature; teacher inspires students to   Russian Rev,
                          social change                                                            1930’s
Literary Tradition        Literary periods and movements, relation of authors to each other,       1920’s discipline
                          emphasis on “representative” works; teacher prepares students for        develops in the
                          graduate study in the field                                              academy
Formalism                 Emphasis on formal elements of the text such as structure, plot,         1920’s to 1930’s
                          characterization, themes, language, setting. Teachers emphasize          standardization of
                          artistry of text                                                         curriculum
New Criticism             Literariness, organic unity of literary work, figurative language,       1940’s & 50’s
                          irony, author’s life and history not important, emphasis on canonical    Cold War, anti-
                          “complex” literary forms, poetry; teacher helps students discover        Communist,
                          artistry of writers                                                      university
                                                                                                   expansion
Structuralism             Understanding that all meaning derives from a set of symbols (i.e.       1950’s & 60’s
                          letters & words) with specific referents, and structured meanings.       Cold War
                          Emphasis on meanings of individual words and phrases
Freudian/Jungian          Psychological aspects of the text, use of Freud’s model of “dream        1950’s & 1960’s
                          work” and Jung’s archetypes to determine deeper meaning of               psychology of
                          symbols                                                                  nation examined
Reader Response           Meaning created in negotiation between reader and text, emphasis         1970’s relativism
                          on personal response to literature; literary works that inspire the
                          responses of students, teacher helps students develop their own
                          responses as readers
Popular Culture           Media studies, popular literature & whole range of cultural artifacts;   1960’s Pop culture
                          teacher helps students analyze pop culture, mass media                   movement
Feminist                  Literature, experience, perspective of women needed to address           1970’s women’s
                          history of discrimination and exclusion, later social construction of    movement
                          gender, orientation; teacher helps students explore gender roles and
                          equity
Multicultural             Literature, experience, perspective of marginalized ethnic groups        1980’s
                          needed to address history of discrimination, rethink “canon,”            civil rights
                          traditions, emphasis on biography, philology; teacher helps students     movement
                          explore cultures and equity                                              demographic
                                                                                                   changes
Postcolonial              Literature of formerly colonized peoples in Africa, Asia, and the        1980’s
                          Americas, examination of colonial literary traditions of European        globalism &
                          powers, “Third World” literature; teacher helps students locate          decolonization of
                          themselves globally                                                      Africa, Asia, and
                                                                                                   India
Poststructuralist         Consciousness resides in language and is social, not uniquely            1980’s – 90’s
                          individual or divinely given. No escape from the “stereotype,”           linguistic &
                          forms include postmodenism, deconstruction, post-marxism;                cultural theory,
                          English courses address the “discourses” that shape identity             “information age”
                          (subjectivity, subject positions

				
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