Theory of Literature (The Open Yale Courses Series)
Paul H. Fry
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Bringing his perennially popular course to the page, Yale University Professor Paul H. Fry offers in this welcome book a guided tour of the main trends in twentieth-century literary theory. At the core of the book's discussion is a series of underlying questions: What is literature, how is it produced, how can it be understood, and what is its purpose?
Fry engages with the major themes and strands in twentieth-century literary theory, among them hermeneutics, modes of formalism, semiotics and Structuralism, deconstruction, psychoanalytic approaches, Marxist and historicist approaches, theories of social identity, Neo-pragmatism and theory. By incorporating philosophical and social perspectives to connect these many trends, the author offers readers a coherent overall context for a deeper and richer reading of literature.
Balzac in his letters to disciples. Lukács champions the novels of Sir Walter Scott, a political reactionary like Balzac, whose grand dialectical balances between Highland and Lowland, feudal and mercantile, Scotland and England, the old social order and the new Lukács took to be perfect instances of seeing class relations as they really are. But more or less at the time of The Historical Novel, alongside the rise of Stalin, the ideas of all those people who used to write to Engels—Kautsky,
novelist Theodore Dreiser from the so-called naturalist movement is an appropriate figure to add to this list] non-chronological markers of the emergence of realism in its modern form; these first great realisms are characterized by a fundamental and exhilarating heterogeneity in their raw materials, and by a corresponding versatility in their narrative apparatus. In such moments, a generic confinement to the existent [the only thing you have to do if you’re a realist is talk about things as they
author counts for very little; empirically [that is to say, “based on my experience”], in the case of Orientalism, and perhaps nowhere else I find this not to be so.” In other words, the “author” is in this case the philologists, social historians, explorers, and demographers who have written so extensively on this part of the world and filled our heads with information that goes completely unchallenged by any prior knowledge of any kind. They are unrivaled oracles who can browbeat with
equivalence—call it metaphor, call it a principle of similarity or dissimilarity—from the axis of selection: from that perhaps virtual axis along which language is a system (note again the dotted line) to the actual axis of combination, that real axis—“real” because nobody doubts the existence of speech—along which language is not a system but a combination of signs augmented through time. Thus the poetic function, or projection of the principle of equivalence onto the axis of combination,
uses: a writing on the ear. The distinction that Saussure wants to make, which Derrida takes to be “metaphysical,” between something primary, something immediate and underivative—voice—and something merely reproductive of voice—namely, writing—needs to be questioned. Derrida does so in one of his most influential early books, Of Grammatology. Speech and writing for Derrida are binary correlates of each other, but Derrida argues beyond this contention, if only to offset opposed prejudices, that