Literary Theory and Criticism, and Its Relevance Today

5 May 2017

Literary Theory and Criticism and Its Relevance Today Literary criticism is primarily the evaluation of the importance of a particular work or body of work on such grounds as: the personal and/or cultural importance of the themes and the uses of language of a text; the insights and impact of a text; and the aesthetic creation (or, performance) of the text; mainly as these areas are seen to be reciprocally dependent, supportive or inflective.

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The word ‘criticism’ has ordinary-use negative connotations, and to an extent that is right: for literary criticism is part of he disciplining of dialogue generally and of what is considered literature in particular. One patrols the confines of good writing, admitting or excluding, determining what should be thought about a text, and why, what personal and cultural value should be placed on it. Judgments of significance are not simple, however. They require that one consider what constitutes importance, what the personal and social importance of literature is what the significance of ‘the aesthetic’ is.

And they require that one interpret the text. As texts Judged to be of high literary significance tend to be marked by complexity and even ambiguity, and to yield various interpretations, Judgment may eventually require a theory of interpretation, or at least careful consideration to the question of what constitutes, guides, and legitimates interpretation. Theory is the route of understanding what the character of literature is, what functions it has, what the relation of text is to author, to reader, to language, to society, to history. It is not Judgment but understanding of the frames of Judgment.

Literary Theory is part of a prevalent movement in the culture which has affected a number of disciplines, occasioning similar disputes in some, a movement which has explored and elucidated the complexities of meaning, textuality and understanding. Literary Theory is not a single venture but a set of interrelated concepts and practices ” most significantly deconstruction, post-Althusserian ideological or ‘political’ criticism, post-Lacanian psychoanalytic criticism, New Historicist or ‘cultural’ criticism, some reader-response criticism and much feminist criticism.

The aim of this essay is to identify the issues that ground these contemporary literary theories. There have always been literary theories ” about how literature works, what connotation is, what it is to be an author and so forth. The essential interpretive practices in force and in power in the academy which are being challenged by Theory were themselves ground-breaking, theory-based practices which became the norm.

The two main crucial practices in the mid portion of the century have been the formalist tradition, or ‘New Criticism’, which sees a text as a omparatively self-enclosed meaning-production system which develops gigantic signifying power through its formal properties and through its conflicts, ambiguities and complexities, and the Arnoldian humanist tradition exemplified most clearly in the work of F. R. Leavis and his followers, which concentrates evaluatively on the capability of the author to represent moral experience concretely and engagingly. Many readers have in practice combined the principles and methodologies of these

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