Selected Papers from the IAUPE Malta Conference in 2010
The Aw(e)ful Spread of Literary Theory: Val Cunningham
The Aw(e)ful Spread of Literary Theory Val Cunningham Corpus Christi College, Oxford An aweing phenomenon of our time has been the spread of Literary Theory, its complete canonization as a set of tools for analysis and interpretation – and not just for things literary, but in so many areas of thought and research. Vicisti, the literary-critical world has to say, ‘Thou hast conquered’, as Julian the Apostate is said to have cried, about Jesus the Galilean: ‘Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean’, in those words of Swinburne in his ‘Hymn to Proserpine’. Theory and theorists have indeed conquered the business of literary study, have completely reshaped reading and interpretative practices, have effected paradigm shift – shifts in fact – across the whole scene of literary hermeneutic. And, in turn, literary theory, or theories, have colonized every interpretative practice there is. Literary theory has leapt over the literary-critical wall; its branches (to use a Biblical metaphor) have spread exuberantly. Derrida famously once said that genres, like texts, transgress all boundaries assigned to them. Literary Theory has wonderfully exhibited such boundlessness. Critique across the board is now thoroughly literary-theorized; often without much, or any, remembrance of its literary-critical roots. So that Literary Theory is often Theory tout court. And the extent and interpretative power of modern (Literary) Theory – what’s been promoted and promulgated as analytically essential in the wake of the linguistic turn, in our post-Saussurean world, commanded by the two giant masters of modern critique, namely Derrida and Foucault – is indeed awesome....
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