Literary Theory Manifesto: James George

In our English 220 class we’ve discussed many different ways in which literature can be analyzed. We have applied this knowledge while reading the texts of Mrs. Dalloway, Othello, and various poems. We have also read and discussed many articles from the leading authorities on these literary theories such as Foucault’s “What is an Author?” and Wimsatt and Beardsley’s “The Intentional Fallacy.” Now the time has come for us to decide which of these theories (if any one) do we consider the best. This question can be daunting because there is such a wide variety of theories to choose from.

Every theory offers a unique and enlightening perspective on most literary texts, but I find Gender Theory particularly interesting. Of course my choice to use this theory would depend greatly on the evidence found in the text, but I feel that I can find a sufficient amount of evidence in most texts. The important question to consider when choosing a theory to analyze a text with is, “What evidence can I use to support this theory?” There are elements of almost all theories in almost all texts, but to make a truly convincing argument, there must be enough evidence to strongly support your thesis.

There is no right literary theory, but there are more convincing arguments. The choice of a theory by a literary critic depends on the text. Although having a great amount of evidence for a particular theory can be helpful, it may be more interesting to identify the way in which obscure theories apply to texts. Broadening the thematic implications of a text is the purpose of literary theory and applying obscure theories that would not be ordinarily applied to a text can make the reader read the text in a very different way.

In the future when I read literary works I will make sure to keep as many of these theories as possible in mind. Focusing on one theory can be limiting although it may be helpful when gathering evidence for a paper. Keeping a broad perspective on literature and not ignoring it’s many layers is important and I plan on considering as many theories as possible while reading literature. Exploring the application of these theories in the works I have previously read will also be helpful in understanding the different theories. The pursuit of understanding more theories is never ending, but I also plan on researching other theories that we did not discuss in class in order to gain a better understanding of the ever expanding breadth of literary theory.

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About James George

James is an undergraduate English major at Dickinson College located in Carlisle, PA. In his free time he collages, sings in vocal ensembles (Infernos a cappella and Collegium), and writes poetry. His perfect night would involve all three of those activities and a thanksgiving dinner where everything looks like food but is in fact candy.

13 thoughts on “Literary Theory Manifesto: James George

  1. I’ll be honest, when I first read this I thought: “Why Gender Theory?” But I was also tired as all hell and in a bad mood, so you’ll have to let that snap comment go.

    Honestly, Gender Theory is much broader then it appears. While it is far from the be-all end-all, gender and its effects has had at least a modest effect on an author and their writings. Even the most gender-neutral of books was written by someone who has, more likely than not, been in the presence of gender inequalities.

    It’s a very interesting premise! And definitely one that I didn’t consider until after reading your post.

  2. James I agree with you, there is no right literary theory. However since there are so many literary theory’s available, one should select a theory. As well as they should be able to find supporting evidence to connect that theory to. An individual should make sure that the theory that they have chosen is clear to them. In which, in their own words they are able to define the theory.

  3. I will give my reasoning for preferring Gender Theory. When I think back about previous literary works I have read can find a lot of strong evidence for a thesis based in Gender Theory. While reading Judith Butler’s article “Gender Trouble,” I began recognizing the hidden implications of interactions and relationships between the sexes in literary works. I also believe this criticism mixes well with other criticisms such as biographical and racial. For example Oscar Wilde’s homosexual identity and how that affected his portrayal of the relationships in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray such as, Dorian/Sibyl and Dorian/Basil. The way in which different genders are represented within this work (as well as in any work) is fascinating. What can an analysis of these relationships reveal about the significance of the text? Gender Theory is still in its early stages because gender equality is still an issue of debate. I look forward to following its development and continuing to consider gender role analysis while reading literary works.

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