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p. 11. What is theory?locked

  • Jonathan Culler

Abstract

Since the 1960s, writings from outside the field of literary studies have been taken up by people in literary studies because their analyses of language, mind, history or culture offer new and persuasive accounts of textual and cultural matters. ‘What is theory?’ suggests that theory is often a pugnacious critique of common-sense notions, and an attempt to show that what we assume is ‘common sense’ is actually an historical construction. Using examples from Foucault and Derrida, it shows that theory involves questioning the most basic assumptions of literary study. Theory is interdisciplinary; it is analytical and speculative; it is a critique of common sense and it is reflexive.

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