all right now I thought I'd begin today this is by the way a regular practice this is as close as I get to bulleted PowerPoint it's all there I ought to have got through those topics by the end of the lecture if I don't not to worry I'll pick up wherever the dotted line emerges in the subsequent lecture but in any case I thought I'd begin today by making a few remarks about the title of our courts because it has some big words in it theory and literature but also introduction I think it's worth saying a word or two about the word introduction as well now theory has a very complicated etymological history that I won't trouble you with the trouble with the etymology of theory and the way in which the word has been used traditionally is that sometimes it actually means practice and then at other historical periods it means something very different from practice something typically from which practice is derived well that's the sense of theory that I I like to work with and I would pause over it by saying that after all there is a difference in which and we shouldn't too quickly at least confuse the terms there's a difference between theory and methodology yes it's probably fair enough to say that methodology is applied theory but there's a great danger in supposing that every aspect of theory has an immediate application theory is very often a purely speculative undertaking it's an hypothesis about something the exact nature of which one needn't necessarily have in view it's a supposition that whatever the object of theory might be it must – whatever intellectual constraints one can imagine be of such a form and at this level of abstraction plainly there isn't all that much incentive to apply thinking of that kind but on the other hand undoubtedly theory does exist for the most part to be applied very frequently courses of this kind have a text listeners The Rime of the Ancient Mariner a short story and then once in a while they disquisition of the lecturer will pause the text will be produced and whatever theory has recently been talked about will be applied to the text so that you'll get a post-colonial reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner something by the way which is absolutely fascinating and important to do and so on through the corpse now I suppose it's my reluctance to get into the intricacies of questions having to do with applied theory that makes me prefer to keep it simple our text is a story for toddlers called Tony the tow truck I've decided not to pass it out today because after all I want to get it into the right hands you can't read it unless you take the course and and so you know I'm going to wait a little bit we don't we don't come back to it at least for the moment and but you see that it's mercifully short and as time passes we will do some rather interesting tricks with it we will revert as others revert to licit us to tony the tow truck for the purpose of introducing questions of applied theory now this may suggest a certain condescension both towards theory and toward literary texts which is not at all intended it's much more a question of reminding that reminding you that if you can do it with this you can do it with anything but also of reminding you that after all reading reading just anything is a complex and potentially almost unlimited activity that's one of the good things that theory teaches us and that I hope to be able to get across in our in the in the course of our our varied approaches to Tony the tow truck now theory resembles philosophy perhaps in this that it asks fundamental questions and also at times builds systems that is to say theory has certain ambitions to a totalization of what can be thought that resembles or rivals philosophy but theory differs from philosophy and this is something that I'm going to be coming back to persisting Lee in the second the second half of this lecture and many times hereafter very different from most philosophy in that it involves a certain and this is by no means self-evident why should this be is one of the questions we're going to be asking it involves a certain skepticism there seems to be a doubt of a variety of doubts about the foundations of what we can think about the basis of our opinions that pervades Theory seen somehow or another to characterize its history not all theory that we read in this course is skeptical some of the most powerful and profound thought that's been devoted to the subjective theory of literature is positive in its intentions and in its views but by and large you will happily or unhappily come to terms with the fact that much of what you're going to be reading this semester is undergirded or perhaps I should say undermined by this persisting skepticism it's crucial as I say and I'm going to be come back coming back to it but it's just a point I want to make in passing about the nature of theory now turning to the word literature this is not theory of relativity theory of music theory of government this is a course in theory of literature and theory of literature shares in common with other kinds of literature other kinds of theory the need for definition that is to say may be the most central and for me and for me possibly the most fascinating question theory asks as well what is literature how do we know it when we see it how can we define it now much of what we'll be reading takes up the question what is literature and provides us with fascinating and always for the moment I think enticing definitions there are definitions based on form circularity symmetry economy of form lack of economy of form repetition there are definitions based on psychological complexity psychological balance psychological harmony sometimes psychological imbalance and disharmony and there are also there are also definitions which which insists that somehow there's an epistemological difference between literature and other kinds of utterance whereas most utterances purport to be saying something true about the actual state of things in the world literary utterance is under no such obligation the argument goes and ought properly to be understood as fiction making it up as opposed to referring all right now all of these definitions have had currency will be going over them again and I and and finding them I hope more fascinating as we learn more about them but at the same time even as I rattle off this list of possibilities probably you felt yourself an upsurge of kepta sysm is that right goodness I can easily find exceptions to all those rules it's ridiculous to think that literature could be defined in any one of those ways or even in a combination of all of them literature is many things a many splendored thing you say to yourself and it simply cannot be confined or trapped within a definition of that kind well in good properly ecumenical of you but at the same time it gives rise to a sense that possibly after all literature just isn't anything at all in other words that literature may not be susceptible of definition of any one definition but it is rather and this is the so called neo pragmatist argument but it is rather whatever you think it is or more precisely whatever your interpretive community says that it is and this isn't really a big problem it's kind of unsettling because we like to know what things are but at the same time it's not really a big problem because as long as we know about the fact that lit that a certain notion of literature exists in certain communities we can begin to do very interesting work precisely with that idea and we can say there's a great deal to learn about what people think literature is and we can develop very interesting kinds of thinking about the variety of ways in which these in which these ideas are are expressed and so it's not perhaps crippling if this is the conclusion we reach but at the same time it's not the only possible conclusion possibility of definition persists definition is important to us and we're certainly not going to give it short shrift in this course we're going to make every effort to define literature as carefully as we can now in addition to defining literature literary theory also asks questions obviously not unrelated but which open up the field somewhat what causes literature and what are the effects of literature and in a way there's a subset of questions that arises from those to the effect and this is of course what will be taking up next time the question what is an author that is to say if something causes literature there must be some sort of authority behind it and therefore we find ourselves asking what is an author and by the same token if literature has effects it must have effects on someone and this gives rise to the equally interesting and vexing question what is a reader and literary theory is very much involved with questions of that kind and organizing those questions is basically what rash Eliza's the structure of our syllabus you'll notice that we move in the syllabus after a couple of introductory talks that I'll be that I'll mention in a minute we move in the syllabus from the idea that literature is in some sense caused by language to the idea that literature is in some sense caused by the human psyche to the idea that literature is in some sense caused by social economic and historical forces and there are corollaries for the for those ideas in terms of the kinds of effects that literature has and what we might imagine ourselves to conclude from them and finally literary theory asks one other important question asks many but this is the way at least I'm organizing it for today it asked one other important question the one with which we will actually begin not so much what is a reader but how does reading get done that is to say how do we form the conclusion that we are interpreting something adequately that we have a basis for the kind of reading that we're doing what is the reading experience like how do we meet the texts face-to-face how do we put ourselves in touch with the text which may after all in a variety of ways be remote from us now these are the questions that are asked by what's called hermeneutics a difficult word that we will be taking up next week it has to do with the god Hermes who conveyed language to man and a certain sense among many other functions the god of communication and it is after all obviously about communication so hermeneutics will be our first topic and it's at and it attempts to answer the last question that I'll mention which is raised by theory of literature all right now let me pause quickly over the word introduction I first started teaching this course in the late seventies 80s when literary theory was a thing absolutely of the moment as I told the Teaching Fellows I had a colleague in those days who looked at me and really and said he wished he had the black leather concession at the door theory was both hot and cool and it was something about which following from that one had not just opinions but very very strong opinions in other words the Teaching Fellows I had in those days who knows they may rise up against me in the same way this semester but the Teaching Fellows I had in those days said you can't teach an introduction you can't teach a survey you can't say if it's Tuesday it must be Foucault if it's Thursday it must be lock on you can't approach theory that way theory is important and it's important to know what you believe in other words what the basis of all other possible theory is I'm a feminist I'm Alec a nyan I'm a student of Paul Demong I believe that these are the foundational moments of theorizing and that if you're going to teach anything like a survey you've got to derive the rest of it from whatever the moment I happen to subscribe to might be right that's the way it felt to teach theory in those days it was awkward teaching an introduction and probably for that reason while I was teaching let 300 which was called lit why Paul Newman was teaching lit C he was – he was teaching a lecture course nearby not at the same time which was interpretation as practiced by the school of the month that was lit Z and it did indeed apply imply every other form of theory and it was extremely rigorous and interesting but it wasn't a survey it took for granted in other words that everything else would derive from the fundamental idea but it didn't for a minute think that a whole series of fundamental ideas could share space could be a kind of smorgasbord that you could mix and match and in a kind of happy-go-lucky eclectic way which perhaps we will be seeming to do from time to time in our introductory course well now do what does one feel any nostalgia for the coolness and heat of this moment yes and no it was fascinating to be as Wordsworth says bliss was it in that dawn to be alive it was fascinating to be around in those days but at the same time I think it's rather advantageous for us to be still in theory that is to say we still have views we still have to recognize that what we think derives from this or that understanding of theory and these are those theoretical principles and we have to understand the way in which what we do and say what we write in our papers and articles is grounded in theoretical premises which if we don't come to terms with them we will simply naively reproduce without being fully aware of how we're using them and how indeed they're using us and so it is as crucial as ever to understand theory at the same time we have the vantage point of I suppose what we can now call history some of what we'll be studying is no longer practiced as that which is the absolutely necessary central path to methodology some of what we're studying has had its moment of flourishing has remained influential as a paradigm that shapes other paradigms but is not itself perhaps today the paradigm which gives us the opportunity of historical perspective so that from time to time during the course of the course I'll be trying to say something about why certain theoretical issues and ideas push themselves into prominent at certain historical moments and that too then can become part of our enterprise so an introduction is not only valuable for those of us who simply wish to acquire knowledge it's also valuable I think in lending an additional perspective to the topic of theory and to an understanding about how theory is on the one hand perhaps in a certain sense now and historical topic and is on the other hand something that we're very much engaged in and still committed to so all that then by way of rationale for teaching and introduction to theory right now the question how does the history of how does literary theory relate to the history of criticism now this is a course that I like to teach to usually teach it Plato to TS Eliot or Plato to I a Richards or some sort of important figure in the early 20th century and it's a course which is absolutely fascinating in all sorts of ways and it has one very important thing in common with literary theory that is to say literary criticism is to perpetually concerned with the definition of literature many of the issues that I raised in talking about defining literature are as relevant for literary criticism as they are for literary theory and yet we all instinctively know that these are two very different enterprises literary theory loses something that literary criticism just takes for granted literary theory is not concerned with issues of evaluation and it's not really concerned with concomitant issues of appreciation literary theory just takes those for granted as part of the the sense experience as one might say of any reader and prefers rather to dwell on questions of description analysis and speculation as I've said now that's what's lost in theory but what's new in theory and here I come to the topic which will occupy most of my attention for the remainder of the lecture what's new in theory is the element of skepticism that literary criticism by and large which is usually affirming a canon of some sort doesn't reflect literary theory as I say is skeptical about the foundations of its subject matter and also in many cases about the foundations of what it itself is doing so the question is how on earth did this come about it's an historical question as I say and I want to devote the rest of the lecture to it why should doubt about the veridical or truth affirming possibilities of interpretation be so widespread in the 20th century now here a big glop of intellectual history I think it arises from what one might call and what often is called modernity not to be confused with modernism an early 20th century phenomenon but a the history of modern thought as it usually derives from the generation of Descartes Shakespeare Cervantes notice something about all of those figures Shakespeare is preoccupied with figures who may or may not be crazy Cervantes is preoccupied with a figure who is crazy we're pretty sure of that but he certainly is it he takes it for granted that he is the most rational and systematic of all thinkers and raises questions about since we all take ourselves to be rational to raises questions about just how we know ourselves not to be paranoid delusions like Don Quixote and so that too can be unsettling when we think of this as happening at a certain contemporary and contemporaneous moment in the history of thought not Descartes you remember in his meditations begins by asking a serious as a series of questions about how we can know anything and one of the skeptical questions he asks is well might I not be crazy in other words Descartes is still thinking along these same lines he says well maybe I've been seized by an evil of some kind or maybe I'm just crazy now why and here's the question why do we get this nervousness about the relationship between what I know and how I know it arising at this moment well I think it's characterized at least in part by what Descartes goes on to say in his meditations Descartes settles the matter perhaps somewhat sweeping the question whether he's crazy under the rug because I still not sure he answers that question but he settles them at the matter famously by saying I think therefore I am and furthermore as a concomitant I think therefore all the things that I'm thinking about can be understood to exist as well now the Cartesian Revolution establishes something that is absolutely crucial for what we call the enlightenment of the next hundred hundred fifty years in other words the idea that there is a distance between the mind and the things that it thinks about but that this distance is a good thing in other words if you look too closely at a picture or if you stand too far away from it you don't see it clearly it's out of focus but if you achieve just the right distance from it it comes into focus and the idea of scientific object objectivity the idea that motivates the creation of the great encyclopedia by the figures of the French enlightenment this idea all arises out of the idea that there is a certain appropriate objective distance between the perceiver and the perceived gradually however the idea that this distance is not too great begins to erode so that in 1796 Kant who isn't exactly enlisted on the side of the skeptics by most of his serious students nevertheless does say something equally famous as that that as that which Descartes said and ah a good deal more disturbing we cannot know the thing in itself now as I said Kant erected such an incredibly magnificent scaffolding a on the thing in itself that is to say the variety of ways in which although we can't know it we can sort of triangulate it and come to terms with it obliquely that it seems churlish to enlist him on the side of the skeptics but at the same time there's a sense of a danger in the distance between subject and object that begins to emerge in thinking of this kind now by 1807 Hegel and the phenomenology of mind is saying that in recent history and in recent developments of consciousness something unfortunate has set in we have unhappy consciousness unhappy consciousness which is the result of estrangement and trendle which drives us too far away from the thing that we're looking at we are no longer certain at all of what we're looking at and consciousness therefore feels alienated all right so you can already begin to see a development in intellectual history that perhaps opens the way to a certain skepticism but the crucial thing hasn't yet happened because after all in all these accounts even that of Hegel there's no doubt about the authority of consciousness to think what it thinks it may not clearly think about things about objects but it has a kind of legitimate basis that that generates the sort of thinking that it does but then and here's where I want you to look at the passages that I've handed out the here's where three great figures there are others but these are considered the seminal figures begin to raise questions which complicate the whole issue of consciousness their argument is it's not just that consciousness doesn't clearly understand what it's looking at it's also and and is therefore alienated from it it's also that consciousness is alienated from its own underpinnings that it doesn't have any clear sense of where it's coming from any more than what it's looking at in other words that consciousness is not only estranged from the world but that it is in and of itself inauthentic so let's just quickly look at these passages Marx is in the famous argument about commodity fetishism and capital is comparing the way in which we take the product of human labor and turn it into a commodity by saying that it has objective value by saying that we know what its value is in and of itself he compares that with religion the argument is what God is a product of human labor in other words it's not a completely supercilious argument you know I mean so God is brought into being the same way objects that we make use of are brought into being God is a product of human labor but then we turn around and we say God exists and has value objectively Marx's argument is that the two forms of belief belief in the objective value of the commodity and belief in God are the same now whether or not any of this is true believe me is neither here nor there the point that Marx is making the point that Marx is making is that consciousness that is to say the way in which we believe things is determined by factors outside its control that is to say in the case of Marxist arguments social historical and economic factors that determine what we think and and and which in general we call ideology that is to say ideology is driven by factors beyond the Ken of the person who thinks I do a lot ideologically so you see the problem for consciousness now is not just a single problem it's twofold it's it's inauthentic relationship with the things that looks at and also it's inauthentic relationship with its own underpinnings the argument is exactly the same for Nietzsche only he shifts the ground of attack for Nietzsche the underpinnings of consciousness which make the operations of consciousness inauthentic are the nature of language itself that is to say that when we think we're telling the truth we're actually using worn out figures of speech what then is truth a mobile army of metaphors baton Amis anthropomorphisms in short a sum of human relations which became politically and rhetorically intensified etc etc etc and now no longer and are now no longer of account as coins but our debase now that word now is very important it suggests that Nietzsche does somehow believe that there's a privileged moment in the history of language when perhaps language is a truth serum when it is capable of telling the truth but language has now simply become a question of worn-out figures all of which dictates what we believe to be true I speak of you know I I speak in a figurative way about the relationship between the earth and the sky and I believe that there's a sky god I I speak because I simply don't believe that I'm using figures of speech all of this is implied in Nietzsche's argument in other words language the nature of language the way language is received by us in turn determines what we can do with it which is to say determines what we think so that is so that for Nietzsche the distortion of truth that is to say the distortion of the power to observe in consciousness has as its underlying cause language the state of language the status of language freud finally argues for exactly the same relationship between consciousness that is to say what i think I am thinking from minute to minute and the unconscious which perpetually in one way or another unsettles what I'm thinking and saying from minute to minute you know that in the psychopathology of everyday life Freud reminded us that the Freudian slip isn't something that happens just sometimes and nobody knows better than those knows that's better than a lecturer it's something that happens all the time and the and and the front the Freudian slip is something that one lives with simply as a phenomenon of the slippage of consciousness under the influence of the unconscious now in the passage I gave you Freud says a very interesting thing which is that after all we have absolutely no objective evidence that the unconscious exists you know I mean the unconscious if I could see the unconscious that it be conscious right the unconscious what Freud is saying is something that we have to infer from the way consciousness operates we've got to infer something we've got to figure out somehow how it is that consciousness is never completely inhibited never completely does and says what it wants to say so the spin on consciousness for Freud is the unconscious now someone who didn't fully believe marx nietzsche and freud a very important modern philosopher in the hermeneutic tradition named paul ricoeur famously said in the first passage on your sheet that these great precursors of modern thought and particularly I would immediately add of modern literary theory together dominate a school of suspicion there is in other words in recurs view a hermeneutics of suspicion and skepticism or suspicion is a word that can also be appropriated perhaps more rigorously for philosophy as negativity that is to say whatever seems manifest or obvious or patent in what we're looking at is undermined for this kind of mind by a negation which is counterintuitive that is to say which would seem not just not just to qualify what we understand ourselves to be looking at but to undermine it altogether and these tendencies in the way in which marx nietzsche and freud have been received and when we read fucose what is an author next time we'll return to this question of how marx nietzsche and freud have been received and what we should make of that in view of bukoza idea that this well you know not that there's no such thing as an author but that it's rather dangerous to believe that there are authors well if it's dangerous to believe that their authors what about marx nietzsche and freud Foucault confronts this question in what is an author and gives us some interesting results of his thinking for us the aftermath particularly v'n precisely of the passages I've just quoted but certainly of the irv of the three authors i've quoted from can eat to a large degree be understood as accounting for the topic the phenomenon of literary theory as we study it in other words literary theory because of the influence of these figures is to a considerable degree a hermeneutics of suspicion recognized as such both by its proponents and famously i think this is perhaps what is historical for you by its enemies during the same period when i was first teaching this course on a veritable six-foot shelf of diatribes against literary theory was being written in the public sphere there was the most I mean you can you can take or leave literary theory fine but the idea that there would be such an incredible outcry against it was one of the most fascinating results of it that is to say for many many many people literary theory had something to do with the end of civilization as we know it that's one of the things that seems rather strange to us today from an historical perspective but the undermining of foundational knowledge which seemed to be part and parcel of so much that went on in literary theory was seen as the central crucial threat to rationality emanating from the academy and was attacked in those in those terms and as I say at least six feet of lively polemics all of that is the legacy of literary theory and as I say it arises in part from this element of skepticism that I've thought it that I thought it best to emphasize today now I think that excuse me one thing recur leaves out and something that will that that we can anticipate as becoming more and more important for literary theory and other kinds of theory in the twentieth century as Darwin that is to say it strikes me that Darwin could very easily be considered a fourth her Minuten of course dark Darwin was not interested in suspicion but he was certainly the founder of ways of thinking about consciousness that are determined socio biologically determined determined in in the realm of cognitive science determined as artificial intelligence and so on all of this is Darwinian thinking and I think increasingly will be central and importance in the 21st century what what what will alter the the shape of literary theory as it was known and studied in the 20th century is I think in increasing emphasis on cognitive science and sociobiological approaches both to literature and to interpretive processes that will derive from Darwin in the same way that strands of thinking of the 20th century derived from the three figures that I've mentioned but what all this gives rise to and this brings me finally to the passages which you have on both sides of your sheet and which I don't want to take up today but just to preview passages from James ambassadors 19:03 and from check-offs the cherry orchard 1904 in other words I'm at pains to remind you that this is a specific historical moment in which in a variety of ways the speaker argues that consciousness that is to say the feeling of being alive and being someone acting in the world no longer involves agency the feeling that somehow to be conscious has become to be a puppet that there is a that there is a limitation on what we can do imposed by the idea that consciousness is determined in ways that we cannot control and cannot get the better of so that stressor in the ambassador's and you pick it off in the Cherry Orchard speak for a point of view which is a kind of partially well-informed gloom and doom that could be understood to pervade texts that are much better informed that we will be considering but nevertheless are especially important as an aspect of their historical moment and I want to begin the next lecture by taking up those passages please do bring them and I will also be passing around Tony the tow truck and I'll give you a brief description of what the little children's book actually looks like and then we will plunge into the question what is an author so I'll see you on Thursday

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *