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GOING AFTER THEORY

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Description Not too long ago, literary theorists were writing about the death of the novel and the death of the author; today many are talking about the death of Theory. By Patai and Corral's standard, we might as well blame Shakespeare if a student thinks MacBeth advocates regicide.

Most of the essays here were written in the s and the early s to be precise: two essays are from the s, six from the s, 27 from the s, and 12 from the s.


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At the risk of seeming faddish, it could be said that times have changed. For instance, we get D. Turning to this familiar punching bag as a way to condemn "Theory" tout court not only seems to ignore how Butler's language is unrepresentative of current critical discourse, but also makes it clear that Myers is unaware of how often this dismissive strategem has been invoked.

Alan Spitzer's essay about the contradictions between deconstruction's commitment to antifoundationalism and its "fact"-based defense of Paul de Man's pro-Nazi writings is at once an excellent article and somewhat of a museum piece.

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The subsection titled "Linguistic Turns" contains some excellent writing, in particular John Searle's detailed rebuttal of Derrida. It's a wonderfully reasoned piece, but—if one may be so bold as to play weatherman—the wind doesn't blow that way anymore.


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  • Derrida is dead, quite literally, and the controversies this volume dredges up do not seem to dominate the work being done in current academic scholarship, which has by and large moved on. One nagging issue with this volume, as mentioned earlier, is the unavoidable suspicion that there really is no such thing as Theory, at least not in the ways in which this anthology supposes. Many of the book's early essays spend a lot of time defining the term, and the amount of energy it takes to do so should suggest how fraught such an enterprise really is. It is reductive and misleading to say that there is some monolithic, unified movement afoot, some conspiratorial group of leftist academics arrogantly protecting their cultural capital.

    Yes, theoretical language is often deployed to obscure scant knowledge of and engagement with literature, and yes, part of "professionalizing" oneself in academia includes becoming conversant in a torrent of discursive regimes. For example, a common tactic many writers use is to condemn certain theoretical positions because they fail to conform to other theoretical positions.

    The Empirical Turn of Literary Studies

    Raymond Tallis's attack on Derrida again with the Derrida relies on the charge that Derrida "misreads" Saussure by failing to distinguish between langue and parole, eventually dismissing the French philosopher as not Saussurean enough: "Most of the errors in. After all, they call it post-structuralism for a reason. Tallis's argument tautologically rejects post-structuralism because it is, well, post-structuralist.

    Does Tallis understand that Derrida meant to overturn Saussure? Of course, it is difficult not to agree with some of what is said in this volume about the abuses of Theory. But you might say that Theory is like fire: it can destroy a village, or be used wisely in a control burn to avoid the destruction of a village. Or it is like a sword: it can be plunged into an innocent victim's chest, or it can defend an innocent victim's life.

    Theory's Empire: An Anthology of Dissent

    Perhaps the N. There were bad, reductive readers before Wimsatt and Beardsley came along, and there are surely more to come. But with the turn of the new millennium, which begins a period that falls beyond the moment of all but a quarter of these essays, things have started to change.

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