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Contents:
  1. Dangerous Pleasures: An Introduction to Literary Studies (1016LHS)
  2. Dates and locations
  3. Literature: An Introduction to Theory and Analysis: Mads Rosendahl Thomsen: Bloomsbury Academic
  4. Introduction to Literary Study - EN11001
  5. Literature: An Introduction to Theory and Analysis

The book does not include entire literary texts, but rather draws on a number of very short excerpts to illustrate major issues of literary studies as an academic discipline. An Introduction to Literary Studies deals with questions concerning the nature of "literature" and "text," discusses the three major textual. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. No cover image. Read preview.

Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-X pbk: alk. Criticism — History — 20th century. Literature — History and criticism — Theory, etc. Tide PN E2 '.

Dangerous Pleasures: An Introduction to Literary Studies (1016LHS)

Since it first appeared in , I am gratified to report that it has been studied by lawyers as well as literary critics, anthropologists as well as cultural theorists. In one sense, perhaps, this isn't all that surprising. As the book itself tries to demonstrate, there is in fact no 'literary theory', in the sense of a body of theory which springs from, or is applicable to, literature alone. None of the approaches outlined in this book, from phenomenology and semiotics to structuralism and psycho- analysis, is simply concerned with 'literary' writing.

On the contrary, they all emerged from other areas of the humanities, and have implications well beyond literature itself. This, I imagine, has been one reason for the book's popularity, and one reason which makes a new edition of it worthwhile. But I have also been struck by the number of non-academic readers it has attracted. Unlike most such works, it has managed to reach a readership beyond academia, and this is especially interesting in the light of literary theory's so-called elitism. If it is a difficult, even esoteric language, then it seems to be one which interests people who have never seen the inside of a university; and if this is so, then some of those inside universities who dismiss it for its esotericism ought to think again.

Dates and locations

It is encouraging, anyway, that in a postmodern age in which meaning, like everything else, is expected to be instantly consumable, there are those who have found the labour of acquiring new ways of speaking of literature to be worthwhile. Some literary theory has indeed been excessively in-group and obscurantist, and this book represents one attempt to undo that damage and make it more widely accessible.

But there is another sense in which such viii Preface to the Second Edition theory is the very reverse of elitist. What is truly elitist in literary studies is the idea that works of literature can only be appreciated by those with a particular sort of cultural breeding.


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There are those who have 'literary values' in their bones, and those who languish in the outer darkness. One important reason for the growth of literary theory since the s was the gradual breakdown of this assumption, under the impact of new kinds of students entering higher education from supposedly 'uncultivated' back- grounds. Theory was a way of emancipating literary works from the stranglehold of a 'civilized sensibility', and throwing them open to a kind of analysis in which, in principle at least, anyone could participate.


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Those who complain of the difficulty of such theory would often, ironically enough, not expect to understand a textbook of biology or chemical engineering straight off. Why then should literary studies be any different? Perhaps because we expect literature itself to be an 'ordinary' kind of language instantly available to everyone; but this is itself a very particular 'theory' of literature. Properly understood, literary theory is shaped by a democratic impulse rather than an elitist one; and to this extent, when it does lapse into the turgidly unreadable, it is being untrue to its own historical roots.

Preface If one wanted to put a date on the beginnings of the transformation which has overtaken literary theory in this century, one could do worse than settle on , the year in which the young Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovsky published his pioneering essay 'Art as Device'. Since then, and especially over the past two decades, there has been a striking proliferation of literary theory: the very meaning of 'literature', 'reading' and 'criticism' has under- gone deep alteration.

But not much of this theoretical revolution has yet spread beyond a circle of specialists and enthusiasts: it has still to make its full impact on the student of literature and the general reader. This book sets out to provide a reasonably comprehensive account of modern literary theory for those with little or no previous knowledge of the topic.

Though such a project obviously involves omissions and oversim- plifications, I have tried to popularize, rather than vulgarize, the subject.

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Literature: An Introduction to Theory and Analysis: Mads Rosendahl Thomsen: Bloomsbury Academic

Since there is in my opinion no 'neutral', value-free way of presenting it, I have argued throughout a particular case, which I hope adds to the book's interest. The economist J. Keynes once remarked that those economists who disliked theory, or claimed to get along better without it, were simply in the grip of an older theory. This is also true of literary students and critics.

There are some who complain that literary theory is impossibly esoteric - who suspect it as an arcane, elitist enclave somewhat akin to nuclear physics. It is true that a 'literary education' does not exactly encourage analytical thought; but literary theory is in fact no more difficult than many theoretical enquiries, and a good deal easier than some. I hope the book may help to demystify those who fear that the subject is beyond their reach.

Some x Preface students and critics also protest that literary theory 'gets in between the reader and the work'. The simple response to this is that without some kind of theory, however unreflective and implicit, we would not know what a 'literary work' was in the first place, or how we were to read it. Hostility to theory usually means an opposition to other people's theories and an oblivion of one's own.

One purpose of this book is to lift that repression and allow us to remember. Introduction: What is Literature? If there is such a thing as literary theory, then it would seem obvious that there is something called literature which it is the theory of. We can begin, then, by raising the question: what is literature? There have been various attempts to define literature.

Introduction to Literary Study - EN11001

You can define it, for example, as 'imaginative' writing in the sense of fiction - writing which is not literally true. But even the briefest reflection on what people com- monly include under the heading of literature suggests that this will not do. Seventeenth-century English literature includes Shakespeare, Webster, Marvell and Milton; but it also stretches to the essays of Francis Bacon, the sermons of John Donne, Bunyan's spiritual autobiography and whatever it was that Sir Thomas Browne wrote. It might even at a pinch be taken to encompass Hobbes's Leviathan or Clarendon's History of the Rebellion.

French seventeenth-century literature contains, along with Corneille and Racine, La Rochefoucauld's maxims, Bossuet's funeral speeches, Boileau's treatise on poetry, Madame de Sevigne's letters to her daughter and the philosophy of Descartes and Pascal. A distinction between 'fact' and 'fiction', then, seems unlikely to get us very far, not least because the distinction itself is often a questionable one. It has been argued, for instance, that out own opposition between 'historical' and 'artistic' truth does not apply at all to the early Icelandic sagas. Novels and news reports were Introduction: What is Literature?

Moreover, if 'literature' includes much 'factual' writing, it also excludes quite a lot of fiction. Superman comic and Mills and Boon novels are fictional but not generally regarded as litera- ture, and certainly not as Literature. If literature is 'creative' or 'imaginative' writing, does this imply that history, philosophy and natural science are uncreative and unimaginative? Perhaps one needs a different kind of approach altogether. Perhaps litera- ture is definable not according to whether it is fictional or 'imaginative', but because it uses language in peculiar ways.

On this theory, literature is a kind of writing which, in the words of the Russian critic Roman Jakobson, represents an 'organized violence committed on ordinary speech'. Literature transforms and intensifies ordinary language, deviates systematically from everyday speech. If you approach me at a bus stop and murmur 'Thou still unravished bride of quietness,' then I am instantly aware that I am in the presence of the literary.

I know this because the texture, rhythm and res- onance of your words are in excess of their abstractable meaning - or, as the linguists might more technically put it, there is a disproportion between the signifiers and the signifieds. Your language draws attention to itself, flaunts its material being, as statements like 'Don't you know the drivers are on strike? The Formalists emerged in Russia in the years before the Bolshevik revolution, and flourished throughout the s, until they were effectively silenced by Stalinism.

A militant, polemical group of critics, they rejected the quasi-mystical symbolist doctrines which had influenced literary criticism before them, and in a practical, scientific spirit shifted attention to the material reality of the literary text itself. Criticism should dissociate art from mystery and concern itself with how literary texts actually worked: literature was not pseudo-religion or psychology or sociology but a particu- lar organization of language. It had its own specific laws, structures and devices, which were to be studied in themselves rather than reduced to something else.

The literary work was neither a vehicle for ideas, a reflection of social reality nor the incarnation of some transcendental truth: it was a Introduction: What is Literature? It was made of words, not of objects or feelings, and it was a mistake to see it as the expression of an author's mind. Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, Osip Brik once airily remarked, would have been written even if Pushkin had not lived. Formalism was essentially the application of linguistics to the study of literature; and because the linguistics in question were of a formal kind, concerned with the structures of language rather than with what one might actually say, the Formalists passed over the analysis of literary 'content' where one might always be tempted into psychology or sociology for the study of literary form.

Far from seeing form as the expression of content, they stood the relationship on its head: content was merely the 'motivation' of form, an occasion or convenience for a particular kind of formal exercise. Don Quixote is not 'about' the character of that name: the character is just a device for holding together different kinds of narrative technique. Animal Farm for the Formalists would not be an allegory of Stalinism; on the contrary, Stalinism would simply provide a useful opportunity for the con- struction of an allegory.

Literature: An Introduction to Theory and Analysis

It was this perverse insistence which won for the Formalists their derogatory name from their antagonists; and though they did not deny that art had a relation to social reality - indeed some of them were closely associated with the Bolsheviks - they provocatively claimed that this relation was not the critic's business. The Formalists started out by seeing the literary work as a more or less arbitrary assemblage of 'devices', and only later came to see these devices as interrelated elements or 'functions' within a total textual system. What was specific to literary language, what distinguished it from other forms of discourse, was that it 'deformed' ordinary language in various ways.