9.167 literary theory

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Mon, 18 Sep 1995 18:49:21 -0400 (EDT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 167.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: ATLHMV@puknet.puk.ac.za (24)
Subject: Re: What is literary theory?

On Friday, 16 September Jean Jonassaint asked

>"What is literay theory for you?". It is certainly a naive question, but
I >am interested to know what is literary theory for you and others
>(humanist) perhaps.

My short (perhaps equally naive) answer to a very complex question is
that literary theory (l.t.) is a body of (more or less coherent)
assumptions about what literature is, how and why to read and study it.
These very general theoretical postulates can then be applied to/on
different levels of the study of literature.

Looking at it in practical terms, literary theory more or less tries to
theorize and systematize the conceptual frameworks shared by different
(Western) literatures, like "poetic language", "poetry", "sonnet",
"novel", "stream of consciousness", "metre", "character", "Modernism",
"literary period", "literary history", "interpretation", etc.

What our course is designed to teach are some general concepts like
literature as a mirror (mimesis) or as a weapon (an AK47, popular in our
country), but mainly so-called descriptive or analytical theories
(theories that can be used to analyse and interpret a text), like
(Genettian) narratology (e.g. fable/sujet, temporal relations,
focalization, perspective, etc.). We also aim to include an analytical
model for poetry, mostly stylistically orientated, and a kind of semiotic
analytical model for drama.

Hein Viljoen Department of Linguistics and Literary Theory,
Potchefstroom University for CHE, Potchefstroom, 2520 South Africa
tel 27-148-299-1501 fax 27-148-299-1562 email atlhmv@puknet.puk.ac.za