Up until now the English course has consisted almost entirely of literature, (excluding a fun module that included some socio-linguistics and the development of the English language) something with which every student of English is (or really should be!) comfortable. Even if the literature is tricky, Chaucer for example, the way you look at it and analyse it is the same skill.
This term things are getting complicated. For the first time I ever I am studying Critical or Literary theory. It is incredibly daunting.
The module consists of 5 theoretical spheres:
- culture and history
- race and ethnicity
- language and structure
- identity and desire
- gender and sexuality
We will be looking at how ideas relating to these themes can be applied to literature and thus shape and inform interpretations of texts. In other words, Critical Theory complicates reading a text! It even questions common-sense. Apparently meaning cannot necessarily be traced back to authorial intention. Apparently some theorists think that literature is separate from historical or social context. On the other hand some are convinced that meaning is fundamentally linked to context. If I sound a little perplexed it’s because so far I am.
It seems to me the theorists go out of their way to make it all as complex as possible! For example, this week I had to read Mikhail Bakhtin’s ‘Discourse in the Novel’. A particularly baffling sentence:
‘With each literary-verbal performance, consciousness must actively orient itself amidst heteroglossia, it must move in and occupy a position for itself within it, it chooses in other words, a “language”’.
If you think that knowing the context of that sentence helps it make any more sense you’d only be partially right. It’s going to be tricky but hopefully interesting! I’m relying on my tutors to illuminate me – I’ll update you with any insights I gain!