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lyryk in theoryishotcrew

My list

Hello, all. :-)

I'm currently working on a dissertation, and I didn't want everything on my list to be interconnected in some way. Ergo, I'm picking ten works that I believe have been formative to my thinking over the years, rather than (only) the theorists presently making themselves cosy on my desk.

(1) Agha Shahid Ali, Preface to Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English. 2000.
(2) Christine Brooke-Rose, "Palimpsest History." From Interpretation and Overinterpretation. 1992.
(3) Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria. 1817.
(4) Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory. 1996.
(5) Antonio Gramsci, "The Modern Prince." From The Modern Prince: And Other Writings. 1957.
(6) Annette Kolodny, "A Map for Rereading: Or, Gender and the Interpretation of Literary Texts." 1980.
(7) Anthony Minghella, Minghella on Minghella. 2005.
(8) Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet. 1990.
(9) Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism." 1985.
(10) J.R.R. Tolkien, "On Fairy-Stories." From The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays. 1938.

Edit: I withdraw my application. Thank you for your time.


I personally am on vacation, so my question to you is: If you caught a striped bass in the Atlantic ocean, which work of theory would you recommend the bass read for personal edification, and why?
To be perfectly honest, I believe it's entirely hubristic to assume that a text of human origin would be remotely edifying to a striped bass. I'd probably ask her what I could learn from her.

That aside, I'd recommend the Minghella. Reading the book convinced me that film was the most potent (and complex) of all the arts, and that, given skill and vision, the art of creating a film from scratch requires absolutely precise application of theory. If theoretical frameworks can help us understand structures and improve on them, then this is one of the best guides to the practical application of theory that I've ever read. It's not theory that engages with other theories and loses itself in abstractions that are ultimately nothing more than facetious, as so many theoretical works become. It really gets into the nuts and bolts of how one goes about creating specific works of art, and I love that.
Tolkien. How has it shaped your thinking? Why did it make your list?
To answer your second question first, the Tolkien made my list because it was one of the first texts I'd read that actively and seriously examined fantasy as an 'authentic' literary form. In academia, especially when one is a student, it can sometimes seem as if only certain forms of writing are worthy of careful reading and reflection. The academic in me was as delighted to discover the essay as the child had been to discover Middle Earth.

How it has shaped my thinking: it led me into more reading on the theory and practice of literary genres that include alternative histories and magic realisms. Most of my current research focuses on mythical realism and imagined realities, and among the origins of this interest is Tolkien's marvellous endorsement of the authenticity and relevance of storytelling.
I have difficulty in willingly suspending my disbelief when you - apparently - willingly include a rather poor primer of literary theory with Eagleton's textbook. Surely, you didn't mean it?
As always, you are more succinct than I.
I did mean it. As I mentioned in my post, my list reflects books that helped shape my thinking, and not necessarily texts that I would endorse at present. At the time that I read this "rather poor primer", I was convinced that everything is economic and was rather fascinated by Eagleton's ability to neatly categorise the world into public and private spheres.

Because someone already asked about Tolkein

Please talk to me about the Eagleton. A few questions:

1. Eagleton's work is a survey of literary theories. In what way, then, does it operate as theory itself, rather than simply an introduction to literary theories more thoroughly developed elsewhere? (That is, in what way is this work outlining a theory, rather than cataloging other theories?)

2. What makes Eagleton's introduction to literary theory better than the others available? That is, of all such introductions, why does this one make your list?

3. Eagleton's work, like the work of many others, ignores the vast history of literary theory before the Romantics. What are your thoughts on the general approach to the teaching of literary theory that avoids an historical approach?

Re: Because someone already asked about TolkIEN

#3 b/c Marxists hate history

Re: Because someone already asked about Tolkein

Although Eagleton merely surveys literary theories, it seemed to me (when I read the book) that he was colouring his persective from his own theoretical standpoint, particularly when he made generalisations. I should probably restate here that I chose this list to reflect works that seemed seminal when I read them, and introduced me to things I hadn't learnt or thought about yet. Eagleton's ability to link theory and literature in direct, understandable terms (unlike, one may argue, a Spivak) seems to be one of his strengths.

An example of this is the way he differentiates between facts and value judgements; while a fact merely states a truth (such as the year in which a building was made), a value-judgement focuses on the stylistic attributes of a work (such as the type of architecture that has been used in the construction of the building). In short, it's his approach to the idea of theory that helps remind his readers of the purpose of theory itself. This is probably one of the primary reasons that his introduction is one of the better ones that students can use (much better, for instance, than the horrendous one by Peter Barry).

The historical approach seems to have a significant drawback, which is the assumption that any school of thought necessarily supersedes its predecessors and makes them redundant. While theory does constantly evolve, it seems preferable to sum up different approaches for students, rather than adopt a method of teaching that forces a linear, mono-dimensional approach to the study of literary theory. However, as you pointed out, this cannot be at the cost of ignoring entire schools of thought.

What is a "palimpsest" history? And what is the "palimpsest" way (e.g. page 128)
A palimpsest is a tablet with a surface that can be written on and erased multiple times. Brooke-Rose is one of the theorists who use the idea of the palimpsest as a metaphor to suggest that history is rewritable. She differentiates between various genres, and declares that only magic realism (as opposed to fantasy and science fiction) may be granted the status of palimpsest history. In theoretical terms, there is a difference between alternative worlds and alternative histories. Brooke-Rose argues that fantasy and science fiction are capable only of creating alternative worlds, whereas magic realism, in its habitual way of setting narratives in 'real', easily identifiable locations, can write alternative histories (or rewrite histories from the point of view of formerly marginalised peoples).
The Minghella is a strange choice. Are you interested in his thoughts on film theory, adaptation studies, or something else entirely? How would you summarize his theoretical intervention into whichever field you chose for the previous question?
The previous question was on palimpsests, so I'll link that theory, if I may, to one of the reasons Minghella's book is relevant as theory. While he doesn't delve much into pure theorising, Minghella details much of the thinking that went into the construction of some of the scenes in his films. Describing a scene from a film in which a character was to conduct a choir in the organ loft of a cathedral, Minghella reveals that the church the scene was filmed in didn't actually have an organ loft; what the audience sees in the film is actually a temporary structure that was set up only for the film. "Geography," he says, "is only what the film establishes." This specific idea relates to palimpsests in the sense that one creates something that synthesises the real and the imagined, and the entire book resonates with such insights.
Gramsci's been on my oh-dear-I-should-read-this-at-some-point list for ages, but I still haven't gotten around to it. Why don't you tell me a little about "The Modern Prince" and we'll take it from there?
As the title suggests, the work refers to the relevance of Machiavelli's model of the prince to the politics of Gramsci's contemporary Italy. Gramsci seems fascinated with the idea that Machiavelli essentially created a "political myth" (Gramsci's term) to validate an ideology. Gramsci outlines how Machiavelli takes something that doesn't actually exist and uses it to illustrate his view of the perfect ruler, and he sees this propagation of a myth as an unprecedented exercise in political theory, which, Gramsci argues, was purely scholarly before Machiavelli.

One of Gramsci's most intriguing arguments is that Machiavelli himself was a poor Machiavellian. It is the practice of most political rulers, Gramsci argues, to overtly reject Machiavelli's model while simultaneously attempting to implement Machiavelli's principles. It's this idea of the way in which political myths are created and implemented that most interests me in terms of Gramsci's work.
Does Gramsci say anything about Machiavelli's Discourses when doing so? (I.e., on how republics should be governed -- drawing a good deal on historical models)? And why would propagation of a myth be an "unprecedented exercise in political theory" -- surely the Republic stands as an obvious counterexample?
Gramsci in general, or this Gramsci in particular?
I'd like to hear about the Sedgwick (which I haven't read).

In what sense is the word 'epistemology' being used here?

My (limited) experience of works attempting to 're-examine' the canon in search of evidence of some hidden demographic influence or contemporary concern is that many appear to be reaching way too far. For instance, when you're looking for homosexuality and homophobia, you tend to see them just about everywhere - even places they are not. How does this book avoid that problem?
What? How did I miss this for 24 hours.

Sedgwick is an overhyped theorist with no meaningful contributions beyond a massive success at getting attention for studying Teh Ghey.

True or false? Why?
Where do these people come from who think they want to talk about theory but run away as soon as we dig below the surface? Theory isn't surface. Theory is depth.
Oh come on! You guys, we keep scaring off the applicants! I didn't even have a chance to come look.

It's less than 24 hours later. Jesus. And we already scared it off.
maybe the "panel" should look into having an open door policy-or risk losing the best minds of their generation.

I.e. wine and cheese mixer.