25 January 2008

Literary Theory

Ever since my Poststructuralism class three years ago (man, I'm getting old), I have loved Oxford Press's Very Short Introductions series. They are so simple and I love their perfectly-applicable illustrations. Can you see that? It's a guy saying to two people, "You're a terrorist? Thank God, I understood Meg to say you were a theorist." Ha ha.

I did a lot of reading today, hoping that after three hours I could really dig into my essay writing. All I learned was that I have a lot more to learn.

"Theory makes you desire mastery: you hope that theoretical reading will give you the concepts to organize and understand the phenomena that concern you. But theory makes mastery impossible, not only because there is always more to know, but, more specifically and more painfully, because theory is itself the questioning of presumed results and the assumptions on which they are based."

I read this paragraph from Catherine Belsey (Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction) and thought, "That explains it exactly." Now I'm tempted to just turn in my essays with that quotation repeated on all of the pages (45 in all). Nah, it's that desire for mastery that keeps me going, even if it's impossible to reach.


  1. I think there is a form of mastery. . . when you have read the majority of theories that are published on one topic that are available. You can do it!

  2. Wow, so many memories from Comparative Literature 2010. It really is a great series.