Welcome To The World of Literary Theory
Literary theory. Just the name sounds boring, ancient, and predictable. The concept may make you cringe or even hide behind an education filled with far less intimidating subject matter. As a student you picture some tenured teacher attempting to enlighten you with his or her knowledge of authors who have been long gone or nearly there. You think of endless hours slaving over an anthology of stories you have already read. You do not understand how all of this pertains to your life, your present, or your future. Therefore, you do not go to class, or when you do go you eagerly count down the minutes of torture, and when the semester ends and you get a grade that reflects your misery with literature, you swear off all English related subjects for life. You are just happy it’s over. As an individual who has been down your road, I encourage you to rethink this plan.
If you think about it, can you ever truly push English out of your life for good? In its very basic sense, English is communicating. You will always have a need for the language and you will always have a need for writing it down. English shapes your life more than you may think. I know I am repeating to you things you already know. So I will get back to the dreaded subject of literary theory. I will start by telling you I once had the same thought process as many of you as you begin your journey into the world of literature. I will also tell you to discard this negative notion of literature and prepare to begin a journey into the understanding of life. I bet you did not know it, but that is the essence of this concept students run away from in fear - life. When you begin to understand literary theory, you begin to understand how the world works and how we as people fit into it. I was once a skeptical student myself, that is why you should believe me when I tell you literary theory will lead you to profound understandings on the meaning of life. Enjoy the ride, for the best is all ahead of you.
To fully realize the implications literature can have on your life you must forget the “old definition” of literature. Literature is not just the books on the library shelf, the texts you bought for class or the latest People magazine you read. Literature is not brainy intellectuals obsessed with the sound of their own words or people attempting to analyze all phases of life. Literature encompasses aspects of culture many people never thought about before. People do not recognize it as such because it is constantly changing form, particularly as we embark into the new century. Our world began based purely on an oral culture – those who spoke and those who listened. No papers, no pens, no information to seek, and of course, no computers. We may find this type of culture difficult to familiarize ourselves with as we feel we have divulged so far from it. However, Hobart & Schiffman describe in Orality and the Problem of Memory...