Literary Theory Demystified by Lawrence J Clark PhD

well hello everybody and welcome to literary theory demystified by Laurence J Clark that's me hmm well I can demystify literary theory but I can't demystify this PowerPoint which doesn't want to go alright let's try that again hello everybody and welcome to literary theory demystified by Laurence J Clark PhD that's me first of all we're going to ask the question what is literary theory anyway well all literary theory could be considered a response to Plato the famous Greek philosopher who said in his book the Republic that anybody who is a poet should be kicked out of the country now why would he say such a thing and who is he talking about well at the time they didn't really have authors because they didn't have printed books as we know them but they did have poets and they did have playwrights so what poets and playwrights did was they made up stories and when you make up a story you're telling a lie because that didn't really happen so he said the poets are liars so we can't trust them so they should all be kicked out right now I have a thing or two to say about that one of the things I have to say is that and we're going to talk about types of theory in just a second but one of the things I have to say about it is that Aristotle would say something different he would say that the poets are actually good for society because they help people to have a moment of what is called catharsis catharsis that's a really important term and what that means is even though the story is a lie it can be good for people because they can experience some emotions or experience something without really having experienced it in real life so for example let's say someone had a lot of anxiety and wanted to just go and kill everybody that they worked with all right so they were really upset well then they go and they see a play now remember they didn't have movies back in Plato's day so they go see a play instead and in the play there is a big scene where there's a battle and the good guys are fighting against the bad guys and then the good guys kill all the bad guys and everybody and they win and everybody stands up and applauds at the end and everybody feels really good because the good guys want well the person who had the feeling inside that they wanted to kill their boss and all their co-workers because they were mean to them and they were bad guys and the employee feels like a good guy well they get the feeling and the emotions out of having that action done without that without actually having to do it themselves so that's what we mean by a cathartic experience all right now other people might say well if you have violence in a play or in a movie or in a video game then that's bad for society because that's actually encouraging violence and then some people can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy so here we have the age-old argument is it's good for people to experience lies in stories or in a play or in a movie or is it better for them to experience it or is it bad for them to experience it because it's encouraging it so this argument about violence and video games for example that's in the news right now is nothing new it the same thing that the Greeks were arguing about 2500 years ago so there are four different types of literary theory according to MH Abrams who wrote a book that I have on my bookshelf is called the mirror and the lamp a real thrill action-packed thriller about literary theory in the 20th century if you ever want to have a good night's sleep you can open that book and it'll help put you to sleep but if you are really really interested in literary theory and MH Abrams did a really great job of explaining it so what he did was he broke literary theory down into four different parts four different types and he called them the mimetic the pragmatic the expressive and the objective and we're going to look at each one now first of all the mimetic that is imitation from the Greek word mimesis and the mimetic theory says that the best poems and when I say poems I mean short stories I mean all novels I mean plays I mean any kind of literature all right so we're just using the word poem to represent all those so the best poems capture reality and the reality as we see it or know it and they imitate it so for example sometimes we've seen photographs and I'm sorry a painting that looks like a photograph and when we see a painting that looks like a photograph sometimes we have to look really closely and see is that a painting or is that a photograph and then we see wow that's a painting wow that artist is really talented right we think that well that's a one type of art that is really closely imitating reality we know that other artists are talented as well Impressionists are really talented Cubist's are really talented but in different ways they have a whole different view of reality than the rest of us see but they're not trying to capture reality maybe they're trying to capture an emotion okay or a sense of beauty or something like that so we have again we have aristotle thinking that art is good if it brings us closer to reality and Plato thinking that poetry brings us further away from reality and it's a bunch of lies and we should just get rid of it now the mimetic theories are concerned with the essence of a poem what does it mean that's really all all that matters and we're going to talk more about that in a little bit the pragmatics this is concerned with the social function of a poem does it have a purpose is it it doesn't matter what that purpose might be it might be to teach maybe teach a moral lesson or teach a religious principle or a philosophical or political point or it might be just to please the audience or entertain them right but it does have a purpose so a pragmatic theorist would try to look at a poem and say okay does it fulfill either one of these functions does it teach or does it please or entertain and it its main impact is the main thing that we're looking at is the impact that it has on the reader that's the important thing the impact that it has on the reader whereas the mimetic was we're looking at how well does that reflect or imitate reality now the expressive is we're looking at the relationship between the poem and the person who wrote it the poet and this whole idea is based on the romantic notion that poetry is an expression of our inner ourselves of our inner being and then it's it's the writer or the poet's own thoughts and feelings and the soul the actual soul of the poet is there being bared on the paper and it doesn't really matter it doesn't really have a purpose it doesn't have to be imitate reality its main its main reason for being is just that it is expressing the thoughts and feelings of the writer so an example of this might be oh let's say a freshman girl in college and she's writing in her diary about her boyfriend that just broke up with her and broke her heart hey she's going to write and write and write and write and get all her feelings down on the paper now is she reflecting reality maybe maybe not but it's her reality right it's her feelings and thoughts is she reflecting is she trying to teach something is she trying to please someone else or entertain someone else well someone else might be entertained if they come by and read her diary like her big brother or something might be entertained if he finds her diary and says oh you got your heart broken right but that's not the whole point the point of her writing it is not to teach anyone not to entertain anyone not to imitate the world but to just express her inner thoughts and feelings all right and then the final type of literature as literary criticism as MH Abrams would say it is the objective and this is where we're looking at just the poem itself we're not really looking at its imitation of the world we're not looking at its function of teaching or pleasing or entertaining we're not looking at its ability to express the inner thoughts and feelings of the author what we're really looking at is just the poem itself in its own little world so we're looking at the structure we're looking at the the meter we're looking at the number of feet we're looking at the rhyme structure we're looking at the metaphors and the symbolism that kind of stuff so those are our four basic types and now what we're going to do is we're going to look at some 20th century literary criticism starting with formalism which is related to the objective type of theory that MH Abrams was talking about so we will then move on to several other types of criticism that have become very popular there are even more types of criticism than this and this is why literary theory seems so confusing to a lot of people especially to college students when you are first trying to understand what is literary theory what is literary criticism I just don't even get that what does that mean and how am i how does it relate to me or my life or what I'm studying or anything like that I didn't well I went through my whole undergraduate career without even ever hearing the word literary theory I was not an English major I was a communications major mostly journalism and I took a few creative writing courses but I was a communications major with a music minor and the word literary theory never entered my poor little freshmen sophomore junior or senior brain now it was not until I was almost 30 years old I was studying for a master's degree in English and they had a course called literary criticism and I asked my professor my adviser I said well what is that course he said oh you're going to under learn how to analyze literature I said do I have to take he said well no but since you're going to take a lot of literature classes and you're going to have to write a bunch of papers it might be interesting for you to learn about different ways of analyzing and that's all literary theory is really just different ways of looking at literature so that you have more choices of how to analyze it because otherwise you're stuck analyzing it the way you were taught by your seventh or eighth grade English teacher which was probably your formalist type critique which is the one we're going to start with so the journalism stresses the importance of the form the literary form and then trying to figure out what the work means where it doesn't look at the biographical information of the author or the historical information the what was going on in the society at the time or what historical influences there were on the author it doesn't even matter who wrote it in order to find out what the work quote really means so again just like when we're talking about the objective criticism we're looking at the organization and the structure we're looking at the words themselves different types of meanings of each word we're looking at the Demeter and the feet the you know the the structure of it so this movement was started by a guy named I a Richards and a group of other people around him but he's the one that wrote the book that pretty much started this movement and he wrote a book in 1929 almost a hundred years ago called practical criticism and what he did was he had this idea hmm instead of studying the lives of the authors and instead of studying the history and the psychology and all that other stuff why not just give a poem to a student and say here read this poem tell me what it means let's talk about the bone only about the poem let's read it very closely let's look at the rhyme structure let's look at the tone the style the number of syllables the exact meanings of certain words and let's try to figure out what it means without knowing anything about who wrote it and I have actually tried this experiment in classes myself it's kind of fun I've done it with poems that I have written myself and I didn't tell the students I've done it with poems that I have some friends of mine had written and they were in the process of getting a book published and then I would have the students read the poem give me some feedback on it or write a paper about it and then I would send all the papers without the students names on them but I would send the papers to the author of the poem and so it was always very interesting and fascinating for the author to see what other people think about what he or she wrote so the whole point though is to not you don't really need to know according to this theory you don't need to know anything about the author or society or what year it was written or anything you can just read it and try to figure it out now when this movement came over to America we called it the new critical theory and the famous new critics in America there were a group of them but two of them that were really famous were plants Brooks and Robert Penn Warren now if your name was Clint you probably have no choice in life except to be an English professor what other thing would you do in the world if your name was clean up okay sorry to his mother all right anyway clan's Brooks and Robert Penn Warren and they made some talk college textbooks and those textbooks were used for years and years and years and years and years the new critical movement was just dominated the most of the 20th century up until say the 70s really and then it still still went on now starting though in the early 60s people started thinking about hmm aren't there some other ways we look at this literature this is we're kind of bored with this method now we also had some societal changes going on in the 50s and 60s we had the beatniks and the hippies and the the sexual revolution and the drug culture and the rock and roll and all these different things that happened to come along and influence our society so because of that we people were rebelling against what was seen as normal or the the status quo and people said I don't want to grow up and be just like my mother or I don't want to grow up and be like my dad and work in the same office building or the same factory for 40 years get a gold watch and retire and people said I want to do something different and so life was changing in America so at the same time people's attitudes towards life were changing and their attitudes towards what they were reading were changing so people came up with some different ideas one of these ideas is called reader-response criticism and this is the idea that the reader actually helps to invent or create the story or poem as it's being written a read excuse me so this is kind of the opposite of formalism which says that the meaning lies within the text within the text itself instead a reader-response critics would say that the reader interacting with the text is what really makes it and get have meaning so for example you have a 22 year old man reading a work of literature you have a 17 year old girl reading of work of literature you have a ten year old boy reading it you have a 60 year old who is a grandparent who has lived through a lot of life you have a businessperson you have a nurse you have a factory worker all those people reading the same work it's actually a different work every time it's being read this is what a reader-response critics would say because each person comes to the reading with their own experience with their own prejudices with their own biases with their own political views religious views ethnic background ideas about life that they've had from anywhere and from other people that they have run into so this actually because all of these thoughts and experiences have influenced the reader so much then it actually influences the reading of the work and therefore changes the work just being read I'm hoping that makes some kind of sense I'm trying to just explain it in really really easy to understand because my whole point here is to demystify literary criticism and so I'm trying to take very very complicated complex subjects invented by people with PhDs who have nothing else to do but sit around and think all these intellectual thoughts and then explain them to normal people okay like us so what happened was when I stride to start learning about this stuff there was nobody to come along and explain it to me the way I'm trying to explain it to you and I thought wow this stuff is really complicated and I just didn't get it because it was just it was just too complicated and they they tried to make more out of it than there was and as people with PhDs do especially PhDs with English in English they would write these articles and books with these big long convoluted sentences and and you know compound sentences and using polysyllabic phrases and words that that were just they were trying to show off their education mystically and one of the things somebody one of the best compliments I ever got was a book review that was on a website where they they read my book and then did a review of it and the thing that they said is he overcomes his education in order to write accessible prose Oh meaning that I don't write in big you know long sentences and a lot of high vocabulary even though I have a high vocabulary elevated vocabulary compared to a lot of people but I try to say things in a way that people will understand so anyway I hope that's working for you here and I'm going to move on now and talk a little bit about recursive reading because recursive reading is really important this is the idea oopsy-daisy let's try that again okay this is the idea of reading something more than once so if you've ever seen a movie you have probably watched if it's a favorite movie of yours you've probably watched it more than once well years ago we didn't do that we watched a movie at the theater when it came out and then maybe three years later it might be shown on TV on a Thursday night at 7 o'clock but if you missed it then and sat through all the or if you saw if you had to sit through all the commercials too but if you missed it then then it might not be on for another three or four or five years again so we didn't have DVDs and VHS tapes and all that I mean I was born before even beta tapes and Betamax tapes that was the big deal and I remember I think I was in either high school or college before the first time I saw a recording where you could actually watch a movie I mean except for in school they had the film strips and they had 35 millimeter movies that the school could buy they were really expensive though but for home use we didn't have movies that we could just sit there and watch over and over and over and over so like when my kids by the time my kids came along they would get movies on VHS tapes and they would just watch them over and over and over so Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty and the Little Mermaid and The Lion King and all those movies I've seen a kazillion times because they could watch them over and over well by watching them over and over they got a different view they interpreted the movies differently so if you are watching a movie and you know what the next line or the next scene is going to be before it even happens well you're going to react to it differently than if you've never seen that and then you're shocked by it or surprised right so in reading it's the same thing maybe you're reading a poem and it has a surprise ending or you're reading a short story and it has a plot twist well the first time you read it you're surprised the second time you read it you you're not quite as surprised the fifth or the seventh or the tenth times you read it you know it's coming and you have been able to look at the structure of how it was happened and then you can still enjoy it but you're appreciating it in a different way because you can actually see what techniques foreshadowing or whatever that the author used to help you to get to that point so recursive reading is really important especially for reader-response there's now reception theory says that each new generation of people will read the literary work differently and this is because different things have happened in the world the different historical events have happened and it and different theories have come along but also life is just different so for example when people first read Huckleberry Finn so the book Huckleberry Finn when people first read it it was written they might have said oh well that's that's kind of funny the way Huckleberry Finn talks yeah he talks like some country hick and stuff and they would just kind of laugh at the way he talks well nowadays people read Huckleberry Finn and they can't get past the fact that he uses to n-word because the n-word has been deleted or just about from our vocabulary and for good reason it's very offensive to some people okay but people reading it today read that differently than they would back then so because of that that's what we call reception theories that is the reception of the of the work is different depending on what else has happened beforehand same thing with any mention of any ethnicity or or maybe things are read differently now if it was happening something happened in New York City every time I read something or watch a movie about New York City I always look to see if the Twin Towers are mentioned or if the Twin Towers are pictured in the film or if they're mentioned in a book because that's a marker in our society right that was for us anyway maybe a hundred years ago it won't be that big of a deal but for us in in my generation that was a defining moment in our world when our world changed at least in America it changed significantly now I mean I used to be able to go to the airport and I would fly around the country and if I was going to fly through Atlanta I would just call my uncle and my aunt and uncle and say hey I'm I'm flying through Atlanta I want to come to the airport restaurant and just you know meet me for an hour I've got a layover and they say oh yeah and they drive down an airport and they'd walk right in and talk to me and you didn't go through security until right before you got on the plane basically and if they even had it yeah I mean they had it in some of the bigger airports I don't know if they had it on even some of the smaller airports well nowadays you can't do that I mean you can't even get through security unless you have a ticket in your hand so if I want to stop and go see my aunt and uncle in Atlanta if I'm flying through I have to go out the gates go meet them outside somewhere then I have to come back in through the gates again and then I better not bring a doggie bag with me if it has any soup in it because it's a liquid and I'm not allowed on the plane with liquid because it might be a liquid ball or something right a friend of mine got bought a whole case of salsa in New Mexico who's going to bring the salsa back to New York or New Jersey or somewhere for gifts well security people took all their salsa away because I mean a whole case really expensive ten bucks a bottle homemade salsa because the salsa is quote-unquote a liquid and wasn't allowed on the plane because it might be have explosives in it so anyway it would be different today that's a real long tangent off on a whole different topic but let's get back to literary criticism here okay all right Stanley fish you just need to know that name Stanley fish wrote a really interesting book is there a text in this class meaning yes there is a text in this class every literature class has a textbook but is there one text is there one text is it the same text that all the students are reading well you can say yes it's the same words printed on the page but as soon as one student and then another student another student and another student look at those words on the page absorb that information mix it up with all of their experiences and thoughts and and biases and political religious beliefs whatever that becomes a different text any students hands so that was his point but it was kind of funny that a guy named fish said is there a text in this class I read an article one time is there a fish in this class making fun of his ideas even though I agree with them I tend to agree anyway sociological criticism is our next one sociological theorists think that a work of literature cannot be separated from the social context in which it was made and they look at different ways that it might have been written if different sociological events might have taken place now two branches of sociological criticism that are very well-known now are feminist criticism and Marxist criticism and we're going to talk more about each one of those so feminist criticism began in around the late 60s or so and there were two really important books in this area mary ailments thinking about women and kate millets sexual politics and basically what feminists kritis critics believe is that the world culture and literature is all dominated by men and at that time that was pretty much true because if you looked at a college textbook and if you looked at all the stories and the poems that were in that book almost all of them would have been written by men you might have a couple of token women in there you might have Emily Dickinson for example or Sylvia Plath maybe a couple of women but mostly all the work in there would have been written by men well there are some women who were not real happy about hat and they also had some different ideas about what is male what is female and the idea that well are people actually born male or female and how do you define that well obviously we know that people are born with different body parts which makes them a male or a female but culturally how is it that a female acts and behaves in society as opposed to how a male acts and behaves that according to these theorists is all culturally learned behavior rather than inborn now having then I mean being a father of three kids two girls and a boy I can say that from my experience there are definite differences between the males and the females in their behavior even without doing anything so for example when my oldest daughter was born we had this rule no guns or knives no toy guns or knives in the house I didn't want any kind of violent behavior violent toys well then my son came along and little boys you don't have to teach them that guns exist you can keep them away from the fact that guns exist you don't have to let them have toy guns in the house they will find a stick and turn it into a gun and start shooting other people even if they've never seen a gun they will find a stick and beat their sister over the head with it so there are definitely some male aggressive type behaviors but on the other hand some be and my daughter would beat the you-know-what out of my son just as much so was that learned behavior I don't know so you know we would always tell her oh yes you need to be more ladylike and all that right well so much for that yeah anyway so feminist critics look at the paternalistic society meaning the male oriented society and look at how some of those stereotypes that that are from that type of a society appear in literature the other thing that feminist critics have done is that they have added more female works to the literary canon meaning the group the literary canon is the group of works that are generally accepted as the great classics of literature and because there are more feminist critics out there and more females in the profession of literary criticism there are now more females included so if you look at the Norton Anthology of literature from the 1960s and then look at how many females were in it how few females run it now look at it the one that's published last year or the whenever the latest edition was you'll see a lot more females that are in there now alright so again they have helped to redefine the literary canon another thing they've done is gone back and found writing by women that they consider to be good quality literature but maybe it wasn't published because not as many women got published back say in the 1800s for example doesn't mean that they weren't writing it just meant that they weren't published so some of those women have now been published 150 years after they died and rediscovered and now you have masters and doctoral students writing their theses and dissertations about them okay so let's move on now to Marxist criticism Marxist criticism is not communist criticism but it is based on the ideas of Marx and Engels who wrote the Communist Manifesto their ideas that the middle class would eventually be overthrown by the working class and the reason why is because according to them the middle class and it's their dad a different little different definition of middle class than we do now but for them the middle class was the merchant class the people who were owned the stores and owned the factories they were the middle class at that time not the as opposed to the royalty all right the aristocracy so these people were considered to be corrupt and tainted and they were always pushing down the workers and trying to exploit the workers now what Marxist criticism does is looks at literature and tries to figure out the economic situations that are going on in the literature and how they affect the production and consumption of that literature and also how those economic situations are portrayed within the work okay New Historicism new historicist look at the text and look at it in relation to its historical and cultural context of the weight of the time that it was created so this is really really important one of the things that they will say is that history is not fact and we all know that history is written by whom written by the victors right written by the people who won the battle if one country fights against another country or if somebody takes over in politics well the people who are in charge get to decide what goes in the textbooks and this there are many many many examples one is obvious one is Stalinist Russia where they killed off a bunch of the intellectuals and then created their own and then rewrote the history to show that they were wonderful and that the people who came before them were horrible and evil now there might be some truth in that obviously the czars and that the aristocracy in Russia did take advantage of the little people and and lived like kings and queens because well they were kings and queens okay they lived high on the hog as we would say at the expense of the little people but then along came the revolution and then the people who got in power in the revolution they started to live really well and then the workers were still being exploited so unfortunately that's just the way things go but the idea of New Historicism is that we can go back and look at history and we can if you've ever heard the term revisionist history we can actually go back and revise history and rewrite it sometimes based on new information that we find out because the history that we have is tainted it's not really real because it was written by the people who were in power so it wasn't necessarily fact it was just their point of view all right Louis all through Sarah was is very important in this field and he talks about ideology and how ideology can get in the way of people's interpretation of fact and also of literature so certain ideologies if if you have a certain ideology let's say a capitalist ideology where you think that it's good to work hard and that people should keep their own money and private property is good for society for example you will have a different view of certain scenes or certain characters then someone who believes in more of a social socialist ideology which says that people should work more for the common good private property is not necessarily good for society etc so whatever your ideology is it affects your writing of literature and it also affects the way you read it and understand it Michele Foucault is also a very important literary theorist and he liked to look at the interaction of power and the different systems of power and how they change and like their literary theories based on his views of society changing and the power structures that exist ok Mikhail Bakhtin he wrote the dialogic imagination I did a lot of work studying him in my doctoral studies and he talked about discourse meaning conversations ok between people and that there there's this whole idea of dial ahjussi where people are talking out their issues rather than fighting them out okay so if you can get people to talk and reach some kind of consensus then you come and you arrive at a at a created or agreed upon truth so for example in our country right now we have discussed the issue of racism for example in our country and we have decided as a society that racism is not to be tolerated and is not good and we have pretty much agreed on that there are a few holdouts you have your white supremacist groups and your KKK groups and your neo-nazi groups but they're very very small most of our society has come to an agreement not by any kind of revolution or force or anything like that but just by discussing the issue and most people have agreed that it's not right to judge someone just because of the color of their skin or the country that they were born in or anything like that so that's a good thing according to Mikhail Bakhtin and he will anyway okay so that's Mikhail Bakhtin dialogic dialogic City all right so new historical criticism is looking at literature in that it cannot exist outside the time and place in which it was written so as opposed remember to the formalist formalism we looked at the objective criticism only looked at the poem or the story and the way that it and its internal structure and it doesn't matter about the history where it was made what was going on in real life at that time well historical critics believe that the reader the writer and the reader are both influenced by the culture and the history of what's going on when they're either writing it or reading it okay feminist critics we talked about and Marxist critics we talked about all right let's go on to psychoanalytical criticism and we just have a couple more here and then we'll be done psychoanalytical criticism is based on the works and the writings of the most famous psychiatrist in the world Sigmund Freud now some of his ideas are based on our subconscious and what the things that are most important are not the things that we consciously think about but that we subconsciously think about or that we have been conditioned to repress so we have a lot of our our thoughts and feelings and ideas and emotions that are suppressed deep within us and when we look at different characters in novels or in poems or in stories we can analyze them based on this psychoanalytic criticism where we look at the different psychosis that they might have Jacques Lacan took some of the Freudian theories and then combine those with some structuralist theories that we're going to talk about just a minute – and his point was that the thing that alienates people and is their acquisition of language and that language is the dividing point and language is the problem okay basically all right so I have some psychoanalytical terms here I won't go through all these in detail but we've heard them all before we have the ED we have the ego we have the super-ego we have condensation and symbolism we have displacement we have the Oedipus complex we have projection so all of these psychological terms can also be used because remember literature is about human beings human beings are nuts okay human beings are a bunch of psychos with dysfunctional behavior codependency bipolar tennessee's all these different things and because when we analyze literature we're analyzing the characters then it seems fitting that we use some psychological terms in order to describe so there's our psychological criticism okay as I mentioned we're going to talk about structuralism just a little bit this idea is based on the idea that literature is created by a bunch of symbols and signs so semiotic is also a subdivision of structuralism so we only know that the word T wo is a number because we spell it T wo if if we were speaking from another country is that where they spoke a different language and we saw those three letters in a row that said T wo we might not even know what that meant because maybe in our language we spelled it differently or if we used Arabic numerals or we might have a totally different system of writing just such as in Chinese or in Hebrew where they have different styles of even writing it out so the only way we know and understand what things mean is by the way that we write them out there were some linguists such as so sir Vernon Ferdinand de Saussure and he says that the relationship between an object and what we call it is arbitrary so for example right there well Huff's going to use an example he said he has an example of a chair is a chair because why because well it's not a desk a desk is a desk because it's not a chair so if but if we wanted to change those two words after awhile we would start associating one word with the object and the other word with the object and then we could our mind understands that and we would have a different meaning from that so there it's very complicated I mean you can they're books and books and books and books written about linguistics and about saussure's ideas and structuralism and everything but that's part of the main idea is that an object is not the language that we assign to it okay and a piece of language is not the object that we're representing from it it's that that's all arbitrary and can be changed at any moment so a chair in English is chair in Spanish it's sigue the object is the same thing but we might call it two totally different things all right and then structuralism makes us think of literature literary works as part of a larger system of language and of the fact that everything we know one thing is something because it's not something else that's the whole the idea of different roles if you've ever heard that word about difference it's a French word but it means based on difference in deconstructionist definitely use this term a lot okay so deconstruction is the last one we're going to look at and this was developed out of structuralism and deconstruction says that every text has within itself some way of unravelling it and upcoming taking it apart and coming finding these consistent inconsistencies within a work so that you can say it doesn't really mean what it does it means and this one is very controversial because basically it says that nothing means anything or everything means nothing and you can take everything apart and and just totally turn it over upside down and there people have had a lot of fun making fun of this theory of deconstruction because basically you're just taking everything apart and saying well nothing means anything anymore and so there is no meaning but it does have a purpose and it's kind of it's an interesting intellectual exercise to do that so one of the one of their points is not that nothing everything means nothing but that everything could mean something else so that's kind of the idea here and that's one of the things that I like about it is you can have multiple meanings to the same text similar to but different than the reader-response Theory in which you have the different people looking at something and thinking something different having a different interpretation this means that this the deconstruction the same theorist could look at something and assign different meanings to it it could look at a poem so you don't have to have different people looking at it in order to get that okay so I think that's about it so if you'd like some more information I would highly recommend a couple of books here one is called beginning theory by Peter berry and he does a really good job of explaining a lot of these different theories and then also a book by Louis Marcos called from Plato to post-modernism in which he takes you for a wonderful thrilling action-packed ride through the history of literary theory all the way from Plato to the 20th century oh I hope you learned something today I am dr. Lawrence J Clark and I'm going to sign off here so I'd like to say thank you for listening god bless and have a great day you

34 thoughts on “Literary Theory Demystified by Lawrence J Clark PhD

  1. Why is this topic fun when he teaches..?? Its suppose to be a boring topic. Either way, loved your explanation.

  2. If you could record the audio not down a telephone line during a rain shower, that'd be… great.

  3. thank you. for more info, check this post on Coleridge. enjoy!

  4. This video is so helpful in making me understand literary criticisms. Thank you.

  5. Thank you! Your commentary provided a great balance between being informative and entertaining. I enjoyed it very much and in the spirit of repetitiveness, I am going to watch it again!

  6. I enjoyed the lecture. He somehow made learning funny and conversation like. A good summary of literature theory.

  7. hello . telepaphy is well worth demistifying then we can daze sribe quiet natural conscious experiences . with regards

  8. Thank you for this. I'm 18 mins into the vid (1 hour after pausing to take notes and google phrases) and I feel like I am learning something new already. Great humor too I can imagine you are a brilliant teacher.

  9. not joke but the meanings of the words in a phrase are obscured

  10. Hi Lawrence. Thank you for a great presentation. I would like to pose a question to you if I may.

    When considering the authorial intent vs. the readers perception of the works regardless of genre, language or medium how then can the works be confirmed to convey a specific meaning?

    Especially in the cases where an author has passed away and there are numerous theories how then can there really be a conclusion?

    My point being, if we as either author or reader have a responsibility to either competently compose or comprehend where then is the breakdown and if there is a communication breakdown how to we determine where the responsibility lies?

    Please make no mistake. I am passionate about literature and the intent of the question is to simply gain an additional perspective. Possibly NOT something that is the standard textbook response.

    Warmest regards.


  11. Greetings from India!!
    Thank you so much. You have explained it all too well. I am going to write my exam tomorrow and all I've done is to go through this video. Wish I had a teacher like you.

  12. I think I have a fair grasp of Psychoanalytic, Marxist, Feminist, and (sort of) Deconstructionist–what I DON'T get is how I'm supposed to apply these theories that isn't just "criticism" in my prof's opinion?

  13. A highly entertaining presentation of a rather dry topic. 🙂

  14. Thank you for this.
    My professor for my Intro to Literary Studies course was a complete failure (edit: in her defense theory was not her area, it was rhetoric, and she was required to take a turn teaching it) and we all walked away having learned nothing about literary criticism or the different lenses to use to write about/talk about texts properly. Here I am doing my senior English thesis and I have to relearn what should have been made clear two years ago.
    I'll share this with my classmates from that course as we're all in the same boat right now and it's glaringly obvious when compared to our classmates for Engl400 who had different Intro instructors. This has been a great help to get me started on the right path.

  15. Literary theory now makes sense after watching your video. Can you demystify postmodernism?

  16. Thank you for making this video, Dr. Clark.

    Greetings from a student of History of the University of Buenos Aires.

  17. thank you bvery much, it was really uselful I think by now I understand more literary theories. At first it was really difficult to get the meaning but I know that I need to read more or watch more videos about it to make it clearer for me.

  18. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together. I especially appreciate that you understand the difficulties for students who are trying to learn literary theory. Without going into too much detail, I agree that many articles are inaccessible and seem to be a tool to demonstrate one's level of education or intelligence as opposed to teaching (sharing knowledge). Thank you again

  19. Thank you sharing. This has been so helpful. I would like to watch more of your uploads

  20. …..umm, and RACE issues in the 1950's and 1960's….. just to round out that element of the discussion.

  21. The fact that you repeated the introduction has me hooked.   #NoWords

  22. I'm really enjoying this, thanks! 

    i think your personality really helps get the points across in a fun a warm manner 🙂


  23. @lawrence clark Brilliant lecture. Easy learning experience. Tnq

  24. Thats a wonderful explanation about what was Greek and Latin to me which is now absolutely clear. Ur language is quite understandable Thanku so much!

  25. You literally saved my life ! I was actually cramming for exams, hinging upon a nervous breakdown , and then, while watching funny cats videos, I stumbled upon your videos and everything seemed fine in my life ! Thank you so much for making new historicism worth the trouble of having an exam on it 😀 you are awesome !

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