Tag Archives: Literary Theory

Literature as a Basis for Social Change

Italian activist Antonio Gramsci believed that the common people have an unconscious philosophy that, if harnessed, can become the basis for social change. I argue that they also have unconscious literary taste that can also be harnessed.

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Can Lit Help Build an Egalitarian World?

Neo-Marxist literary theory calls for us to see literature as relevant to building an egalitarian society.

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Does Studying Lit Truly Change Things?

Some claims for literature’s power have been inflated, such as those of F. R. Leavis, and sometimes lit has failed to change bad people. Still, it can play an important role in our lives.

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How Is Lit Useful? Let Me Count the Ways

A recent issue of “New Literary History” explores a number of ways that literature is useful.

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Riveted by Competing Campaign Narratives

Political campaigns have come to be seen as competing narratives, providing those who understand fiction with special insight.

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Great Political Novels Not Agenda Driven

Great political novels are rich in spiritual attitude. Poor ones are agenda driven.

Posted in Conrad (Joseph), Dostoevsky (Fyodor), Ginzburg (Natalia), Gordimer (Nadine), James (Henry), Llosa (Vargas), Naipaul (V.S.), Pamuk (Orhan), Roth (Philip K.), Stendahl, Turgenev (Ivan), Yeats (William Butler) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Lit Theory that Affirms Readers

The students in my “Theories of the Reader ” course found the theorists we read affirming.

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The Classics, Guides to Our Best Selves

Wayne Booth describes the classics as friends in the deepest and most productive sense of the word.

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Lit’s Precondition: People All the Same

I’ve just come across an illuminating contrast between literature and war.  Theater director Mary Zimmerman is currently staging a version of the Arabian Nights at Washington’s Arena Stage, and in the program notes she responds to the question, “Are you saying that you believe certain feelings are universal, or perhaps that we share an essential […]

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Neuro-Lit Riding to the Rescue?

I wrote last Thursday about neuro-lit, which an article in the New York Times has trumpeted as English’s “best new thing.”  Certain practitioners are analyzing the way readers become absorbed in stories—fictional identification—by scanning their brains as they read.  Practitioners of this new approach are contending that fictional identification has played a key role in the […]

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Neuro-Lit: English’s “Next Big Thing”?

A number of my friends have sent me the following New York Times article about the “next big thing in English”: neuro-lit.   Apparently fictionally identifying with story characters and plots is being studied from a brain point of view.  Researchers are looking at how many levels of abstraction the mind can hold (Virginia Woolf is credited […]

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Fish’s Claim that Lit is of No Use

Stanley Fish    Last week I was talking to my colleague in philosophy Alan Paskow about a Stanley Fish New York Times column. (Cancer update: Alan had one of the five tumors in his lungs removed two weeks ago through cyberknife surgery.) Although an old post—last January—it had stuck with us because it contradicts so […]

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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