Literary Theory Today
a. Theory=a miscellaneous genre: works that succeed in challenging and reorienting thinking in fields other than those to which they apparently belong; especially writings from outside the field of literary studies that are taken up because their analyses of language, or mind, or history, or culture, offering new and persuasive accounts of textual and cultural matter.
ii. Literature has been undertheorized before.
c. New chapter to his VSI Literary Theory book
i. Ethics and Aesthetics.
d. Theory also = thinking about thinking, reflection on presuppositions of modes of study or analysis.
e. Theory is driven by the impossible desire to step outside one's thought, to understand it, and also by a desire - a possible desire - to make one's own thought more capacious, more self-reflecting. So there will always be new developments in the realm of theory.
a. Revival of Narratology (Two new strands)
i. Links with cognitive science (rather than derives a universal grammar)
ii. Focus on wider historical range of narratives
1) Giving place both to oral stories and to broader historical narratives.
iii. Focus on stories people tell each other.
1) Monika Fludernik, Towards A "Natural" Narratology 1996, groundbreaking
2) Introduction to Narratology Routledge 2009
3) David Herman, Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative 2002
4) Basic Elements of Narrative (Wiley- Blackwell,2009)
5) Rick Altman, Theory of Narrative (Columbia 2008). Outstanding; less technical language. Film given neraly euqal weight. "Following"
a) Focusing not on plot, but on "Following". Different following patterns.
b. Less Foucault and Lacan, more Derrida
J. Hillis Miller's For Derrida (Fordham, 2009)
A collection of very clear and pedagogical essays about various aspects of Derrida's work
K. Martin Hagglund, Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life (Stanford, 2009)
1) Outstanding. Against the religious/ ethical recuperation of Derrida; a compelling account of his theory of temporality and value.
c. "Ethical turn" (?)
A. Certainly theory had encouraged a turn Against moralizing approaches to literature,
B. But literature has always encouraged ethical reflection.
C. What IS new are some critical movements with strong ethical / political underpinnings:
D. Best seen as a Continuation of the critique of hierarchizing oppositions: e.g. male/female, white/black, heterosexual/ homosexual.
d. Animal Studies (Or "Human-Animal Studies"): exploration of the opposition human/animal
§ Early work, now being reread as theory : Vicki Hearne, Adam's Task (Knopf, 1986).
§ Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I am Fordham, 2008).
§ Laura Brown, Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Ape (Cornell, 2010)
□ The role of literature in thinking about human/animals.
e. More "Animal Studies"
A. Matthew Carlaco, Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida (Columbia, 2008)
B. Cary Wolfe, Animal Rites: American culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (Chicago, 2003)
C. Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal, ed. Cary Wolfe (Minnesota, 2003).
D. Donna Haraway, When Species Meet (Minnesota, 2007).
A. Broad movement with no particular method; rather a shift of focus, concern for the environment, critique of human-centered perspective.
B. Patricia Yeager, 'Sea Trash, Dark Pools, and the Tragedy of the Commons,' PMLA 225 (May 2010).
C. Greg Garrard, Ecocrticissm (Routledge 2004) a short, accessible introduction.
D. Ursula Heise, Sense of Place, Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (Oxford, 2008). Good example
g. The "Posthuman"
A. Critical of opposition man/machine
B. Related to critique of the autonomous human subject. We are embedded in complex mechanisms: "distributed cognition,"
C. Emphasis on continuities between man and machine, breakdown of the distinction between controller and controlled
D. Donna Haraway, "A Cybord Manifesto," Simians, Cyborgs and Women (Routledge, 1991)
N. Hatherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman (Chicago, 1999)
O. Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism? (Minnesota, 2010)
h. Return to Aesthetics
A. In the days of high theory, aesthetics (theory of art in general) was seen as elitist, ideological, however much artistic practices were celebrated.
B. Since 2000, renewed interest in form and in conventions that make art possible. "New Formalism," "new aestheticism.
C. Jacques Ranciere: without aesthetics, there is no art.
1) Aesthetics and its Discontents (Polity), 2009)
2) Majorie Levinson, 'What is New Formalism' PMLA 122.2 (March 2007)
3) Jonathan Loesberg, A Return to Aesthetics (Stanford, 2005)
1) The "representative regime" of art, based on genres, and rules about what could be represented in what medium, replaced after the French Revolution with the "Aesthetic regime," (Ranciere) in which anything can be a subject of art (hence a need for framing it as art).
2) This a democratizing revolution, breaking with an aristocratic regime, promiting museums, aesthetic education.
i. New media, Their effects for literature theory??
N. Katherine Hayles, My Mother was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts (Chicago, 2005)
O. Performance Studies, see Richard Schechner, Performance Studies: An Introduction (Routledge, 2006)
j. In Sum: miscellaneous developments
A. Revival of Narratology
B. Less Lacan and Foucault, more Derrida
C. Animal-Human Studies
E. The "Post-Human"
F. Return to Aesthetics
A. A Western notion, but there are theories across the globe, including ancient theories of literature.
B. Global Theory??
a. Rewriting Literary History
b. Narratology, New Trends
ii. Oral Narrative
§ Generally Focusing on the form, rather than asking aesthetic questions.
i. World Literature
d. Contemporary French Thinkers
i. Rancier is worthy of being read
ii. Badiou not so much.