Follow posts tagged #formalism in seconds.Sign up
A brief note on theory
Literary theory is a curious thing. It intimidates people and it seems dauntingly unfathomable. As an English major, I still struggle with it every day. But I don’t think it’s that hard to grasp these basic concepts. I think English professors and theorists deliberately make things literary because it keeps the riff raff out. This is part of, I believe, the dead white male society. That is, the English programs (mine included) that choose to teach dead, and almost always white, authors. In all three my literature surveys (classes all English majors have to take at UWYO to gain a foundation in literature) there was only one non-white, still alive person whose book we read: Toni Morrison. The rest fell within either the dead or the white, or in most cases, both, categories.
But I digress. I will try in the following sentences to distill certain literary theories into terms anyone can understand in an attempt to convey that these concepts are not unhackable. Here we go.
Formalism: There were two distinct groups here-
The Russian Formalists: The text is all that is important
The New Critics: All texts lead to concrete higher truths
Structuralism: The structure (think skeleton) of a text is what is important
Rhetoric: Texts have no meaning until readers give them meaning