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Natural and Conceptual Design

Radical Confusion in Critical Theory


Joseph M. Ditta

Critical theory, if it is ever to rise above interminable contro- versey, must at some point in its self-elaboration be concerned with the problems of internal consistency. Psychoanalysis, structuralism and deconstructionism, and Marxism are major critical modes primarily because of their claims to scientific, methodological, and philosophical validity. Yet these critical discourses are beset by logical and programmatic inconsistencies: the psychoanalytic approach to literary structure is theoretically committed to the «reconstruction» of a phantom psyche; the structuralist and decon- structionist approaches share an inability to broaden linguistic theory into an account of literary value; and Marxist theory is plagued by a political program which takes precedence over its function as critical theory. However, by reintroducing the critical concept of intentionality, the conceptual design of literary struc- tures can be elicited, providing a presently lacking focus for most critical approaches.
Contents: Literary Critical Theory: Psychoanalysis, Structuralism and Deconstructionism, and Marxism.