Joe Culpepper | “Births, Deaths and Reincarnations of Reception Theory”

24.1 Theory Today

Abstract

After an overview of reader response theory’s major disciplinary permutations, I discuss its current role in the work of Marvin Carlson, Susan Bennette, Richard Schechner, and scholars in the field known as performance studies. I undertake this experimental mapping of a theory today of yesterday and its current status today to expose the cyclic nature of literary theories, which breach and break disciplinary boundaries through a series of deaths and rebirths. As a young cultural critic, I see part of my task as understanding how reading methodologies generated within our various disciplines continue to be reincarnated within other fields.

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May 11th, 2014

Martin Zeilinger | “Open for Business: Literary Theory in the Age of ‘Knowledge Mobilization’”

24.1 Theory Today

Abstract

As a variation on the Frame editors’ question of how useful ‘non-literary’ discourses are for the study of literature today, in this essay I explore the following question: How useful is literary theory for the study of everything else? In doing so, I elaborate on two ways in which this question is today commonly understood and distinguish between the critical usefulness or productiveness of literary and cultural theory, on the one hand, and its economic usefulness on the other. This allows me to comment on systems of ‘knowledge mobilization’ and related models that today’s corporatized universities often impose on humanities scholars in order to raise the efficiency with which they produce critical thought.

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May 11th, 2014

Asja Szafraniec | “Between Romanticism and Theory: The Future of Literary Studies”

24.1 Theory Today

Abstract

The future of literary studies seems to oscillate between an intensified commitment to theory (whether cultural, critical or literary) and the theory’s total rejection in favour of a renewed attention to the literary works themselves. The analysis of those two possible developments shows that their outcome may be almost the same: both the intensified engagement with theory and the Romantic reaction against it may lead to the increased appeal to the individual (and to the sphere of the private) as the major standard of judgement. One development testifying to this turn is the renewed attention in the Humanities to the domain of emotions and affects.

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May 11th, 2014

Peter Brooks | Law and its Other in Literary Theory

24.1 Theory Today

Abstract

This article looks at the links between literature and the law. Since the 1970’s the legal domain has been “infiltrated” by literary-critical thinking, as the law has become subject of the same interprative practices as literary texts. It therefore argues for a more active dialogue between law and the humanities. When we recognize law as a discursive practice, with its own language and its own rituals, we have to be able to hold it accountable outside of its domain, outside of its discourse. This is where literature arises as law’s other, as its narrative structures are very much present in legal texts as well.

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May 11th, 2014

Peter Lamarque | Prolegomena to Any Future Philosophy of Literature

24.1 Theory Today

Abstract

This paper lays out some basic constraints for an approach to literary theory ‘After Theory,’ grounded in analytical philosophy. The presupposition that literature, in the relevant sense, is one of the arts, suggest that a philosophy of literature can take a distinctive place within an analytical philosophy of art. The paper explores in outline what such a location might entail and briefly addresses some possible points of contention, relating to the very conception of literature and its involvement with meaning, truth and value.

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May 11th, 2014

J. Hillis Miller | The Act of Reading Literature as Disconfirmation of Theory

24.1 Theory Today

Abstract

Literary theory is ancillary to literature. Its value is its testable ability to account for meaning and form in specific literary texts. Literary theory, like scientific hypotheses, must be capable of disproof. An example is the claim made by many scolars that certain distinctive features charactarize postmodern literary works. Juxtaposed reading of Pynchon’s “The Secret Integration and Cervante’s “The Dogs’ Colloqoy” show that all the features said to be distinctive of postmodern literature are already present in Cervantes’s story. This disproves claims that postmodern literature is distinctive in theme and form, at least in the ways proposed.

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May 11th, 2014

Birgit Mara Kaiser | Theory Today; or, how are we to read that?

24.1 Theory Today

Abstract

The Article proposes to reconsider, with Paul de Man, Gayarity Ch. Spivak and Emily Apter, reading as one of the fundamental practices of literary studies. The question of the status of theory today and implicitly after the uses of theory today need to be productively inflected toward a discussion and sharpening of our practices, and those are, first and foremost, those of reading. Students of literary studies are trained as readers, which means they learn to see into the multiple layers and shades of languages and narratives, and acquire the competence to read statements, questions or cultural constellations on that basis. On a small scale, this can be practices on the basis of tropes, which abound in any poetic and prosaic use of language. On the basis of such skilled literacy, literary studies can contribute to draw, from an undecidable phenomenon such as a text, a respons-ability, which, if carried to its higher powers can amount to reading the medial, ideological and narrative orchestration of the myths of our present.

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April 28th, 2014