Thursday, April 17, 2008

Against Theory?

After reading “Against Theory” I would have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with the authors on some issues and completely disagree with them on others. In examining the question as to whether or not one should apply some sort of theory to their critical analysis of literature I would have to say that theory is not as rigid as the authors make it out to be and that it greatly helps in the analysis process. The authors of the article seem to think, and in some cases I am sure that they are correct, that theory limits the analysis of literature. I would argue that while there are some limiting characteristics of a theory it is ultimately beneficial. I believe that theory is a tool that allows the individual analyzing literature to retain focus and give them a means of simplifying and breaking down robust pieces of literature. In fact, I would view theories much like a I view stereotypes, in some situations stereotypes allow one to quickly assess a situation based on previous knowledge, but there are many instances in which the stereotype is not applicable and is harmful. The danger with theories is that sometimes I find myself oversimplifying literature according to some theory or attempting to make round literature fit into the square-hole of theory. In this I am kind of on the fence between agreeing and disagreeing with the article.
The one aspect of the article that I did not necessarily agree with was the section dealing with the importance of words that have no author. The article states that if one was to read a passage that seemed to have been written by the ocean in the sand, then it would not be language or words but would just resemble language and words. What I found problematic about this was that they did not seem to consider certain pieces of canonical literature that do not have known authors. Beowulf and Sundiata are two examples that immediately come to my mind. While neither epic has a known author, since they were passed down orally, they are still very much collections of language and words that combine to create powerful stories.
Overall I found the article to be interesting and helpful, although I am sure that if you really wanted to you could make a case for the article being somewhat postmodern, which would seemingly disrupt the main point of the article.

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