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Once it was anathema to speak about the content of a work of art in the wake of high modernism and formalism. Critical practice has moved beyond such limits, and today the focus on themes is the hallmark of feminist, new historicist, ethnic, and even deconstructionist approaches, though that focus may not always be openly declared. This manifesto reasserts the validity of the thematic approach to criticism in our day, bringing together for the first time an international group of critics and theoreticians who ...
Once it was anathema to speak about the content of a work of art in the wake of high modernism and formalism. Critical practice has moved beyond such limits, and today the focus on themes is the hallmark of feminist, new historicist, ethnic, and even deconstructionist approaches, though that focus may not always be openly declared. This manifesto reasserts the validity of the thematic approach to criticism in our day, bringing together for the first time an international group of critics and theoreticians who have thought deeply about literary motifs and themes.
How can we determine the theme of a given text? May the focus on form be the theme of a certain moment? Can the motif be understood as a formal category? What operations permit us to say that three or four texts constitute variants of the same theme? The contributors challenge the conventional dismissal of "merely" thematic approaches and offer the reader different ways of tackling the issue of what a piece of writing is "about."
The work here comes out of such diverse intellectual traditions as Russian film theory, French phenomenology, Foucault, narratology, the Frankfurt School, intellectual history (Geistesgeschichte), psychoanalytic criticism, linguistics, ideological criticism, Proppian folklore studies, and computerized plot summary models. In addition to a collection of aphorisms from Plato to Robert Coover and a group of general and theoretical essays, this volume contains examples of practical engagement with such topics as literary history, Shakespeare, autumn poetry, anti-Semitism, fading colors, bachelors, Richard Wagner, and the Mexican Revolution. No comparable volume exists.
This collection of essays on thematic criticism, edited by Werner Sollors, can be considered among the most successful and useful examples of the genre...The Return of Thematic Criticism gives a new turn to, and offers new points of observation on, a critical debate that has reached a phase of general confusion and has entered some blind alleys. It should stimulate a broad discussion of international scope, given the importance of the subject and the numbers of centers of research interested in it. The book can also be of notable help to scholars and students, for it can give new theoretical awareness to those who are engaged in some form of thematic criticism without having a theoretical awareness of what they do and without being bothered to consider the methodological problems involved.
— Remo Ceserani
This study of thematics opens up afresh the problems of literary theory...It also might be an impetus to re-examine the history of postmodernist theory which has co-opted one aspect of thematics in response to modernism but appears to have blithefully ignored what remains problematic.
— John Stephen Martin
This is a judicious, wide-ranging study.
— J. F. O'Malley
|"Theme" as a Theme||1|
|Theme and Interpretation||21|
|A Brief Genealogy of "Theme"||38|
|Concept and Theme||46|
|A Generative Approach to Thematics: Poetics of Expressiveness and Modern Criticism||60|
|Motif and Theme as Structural Content Units and "Concrete Universals"||80|
|The Concept of Motif in Literature: A Terminological Study||92|
|On Thematic Practice|
|Literary Histories and the Themes of Literature||109|
|Thematics and Historical Evidence||121|
|Autumn Poems: Reflections on Theme as Tertium Comparationis||146|
|The Thematics of Jean-Pierre Richard||161|
|In Search of the Narrative Theme||169|
|Shakespeare's Themes, with Variations||191|
|"Topoi" of Realism: The Metamorphosis of Colors||209|
|Bachelors in Paradise: The State of a Theme||217|
|Topology and Typology: A Study of Shifting Sign/Code Relations||242|
|Wagner's Parsifal between Mystery and Mummery; or, Race, Class, and Gender in Bayreuth||261|
|Love and Death||288|
|Reflections on Stoffgeschichte||290|
|Themes and the "Kernel of Truth"||294|
|Beyond "Form vs. Theme"||297|