Reading After Theory

Reading After Theory

by Valentine Cunningham
     
 

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Valentine Cunningham's controversial manifesto asks what will and should happen to reading in the post-theory era. His account examines the spread of literary theory from the 1960s, when it was considered highly contentious, to the present time, when theoretical approaches are taken for granted across a range of disciplines. Whilst acknowledging the necessity of

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Overview

Valentine Cunningham's controversial manifesto asks what will and should happen to reading in the post-theory era. His account examines the spread of literary theory from the 1960s, when it was considered highly contentious, to the present time, when theoretical approaches are taken for granted across a range of disciplines. Whilst acknowledging the necessity of theory for reading and recognising the good it has done, he strongly criticises it for encouraging bad reading, and for diminishing the richness, scope and human connection of texts.

Cunningham argues that theory has made texts secondary to questions of ideology, oppressions and resistance (important though they are) and proposes that what is needed in order to rescue literary studies is a return to close and "tactful" reading. His manifesto insists on the primacy of texts over all theorising about them, and on the restoration of the human to literary studies.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
For the well-educated contemporary reader, the issue of approaching a text no matter how casually is shadowed by the influences cast on its apprehension by multiple literary theories that have become embedded in our shared intellectual landscape. We may not agree with this or that theory or even be conscious of its prevalence in our literary lives, yet our reading is done in a world where theory comes first and the texts we now take up come after them. This publisher's "Manifestos" series seeks to offer educated but general readers chewy presentations of contemporary ideas, and Cunningham (English language and literature, Oxford) is stellar in his honing to that theme. He traces modern English-language literary criticism back to Dr. Johnson's Lives of the Poets (1783) and then goes as far afield as Roland Barthes's explication of mapping, that 20th-century French theorist having "discovered" his symbolic surroundings in Japan. How does one read after Freud? Was Freud doing anything, really, except offering literary theory as a means of disclosing himself? This book is fun, involving, and inviting as both a social book-discussion subject and an important text that graduate students and literary specialists need to consider. Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"This publisher's 'Manifestos' series seeks to offer educated but general readers chewy presentations of contemporary ideas, and Cunningham (English language and literature, Oxford) is stellar in his honing to that theme. This book is fun, involving, and inviting as both a social book-discussion subject and an important text that graduate students and literary specialists need to consider. Library Journal

"Valentine Cunningham's sharp, amusing critical polemic" Times Literary Supplement

"In the process of developing his argument and attempting to refocus critical attention on the text - both the literary and the critical text - and what it says, Cunningham displays an intimate knowledge of the major works of contemporary literary theory." Choice

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780631221685
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
02/11/2002
Series:
Wiley-Blackwell Manifestos Series
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
968,127
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.65(d)

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