Literary and Cultural Theory 1. What Is Literary Theory? Literary theory refers to any principles derived from internal analysis of literary texts or from knowledge external to the text that can be applied in multiple interpretive situations. All critical practice regarding literature depends on an underlying structure of ideas in at least two ways:
Initially outlined by Max Horkheimer in his Traditional and Critical Theorycritical theory may be defined as a self-conscious social critique that is aimed at change and emancipation through enlightenment and that does not cling dogmatically to its own doctrinal assumptions. A certain sort of story a narrative was provided to explain what was happening in society, but the story concealed as much as it revealed.
The Frankfurt theorists generally assumed that their task was mainly to interpret the areas of society Marx had not dealt with, especially in the superstructure of society. Drawing upon Max Weber, Horkheimer argued that the social sciences differ from the natural sciences inasmuch as generalizations cannot be easily made from so-called experiences because the understanding of a "social" experience itself is always fashioned by ideas that are in the researchers themselves.
The facts which our senses present to us are socially performed in two ways: Both are not simply natural; they are shaped by human activity, and yet the individual perceives himself as receptive and passive in the act of perception.
Although various theoretical approaches would come close to breaking out of the ideological constraints that restricted them, such as positivism, pragmatismneo-Kantianismand phenomenologyHorkheimer argued that they failed because all were subject to a "logico-mathematical" prejudice that separates theoretical activity from actual life meaning that all these schools sought to find a logic that always remains true, independently of and without consideration for ongoing human activities.
According to Horkheimer, the appropriate response to this dilemma is the development of a critical theory. Critical theory defends the primacy of neither matter materialism nor consciousness idealismand argues that both epistemologies distort reality to the benefit, eventually, of some small group.
What critical theory attempts to do is to place itself outside of philosophical strictures and the confines of existing structures.
While critical theory must at all times be self-critical, Horkheimer insisted that a theory is critical only if it is explanatory. Critical theory must, therefore, combine practical and normative thinking to "explain what is wrong with current social reality, identify actors to change it, and provide clear norms for criticism and practical goals for the future.
Critique of Political Economy. They thus emphasized that Marx attempted to create a new kind of critical analysis oriented toward the unity of theory and revolutionary practice rather than a new kind of positive science.
Critique, in this Marxian sense, means taking the ideology of a society for example, the belief in individual freedom or free market capitalism and critiquing it by comparing it with a posited social reality of that very society for example, social inequality and exploitation.
Frankfurt School theorists grounded this on the dialectical methodology established by Hegel and Marx. Dialectical method The Institute also attempted to reformulate dialectics as a concrete method. The use of such a dialectical method can be traced back to the philosophy of Hegel, who conceived dialectic as the tendency of a notion to pass over into its own negation as the result of conflict between its inherent contradictory aspects.
History may thus be seen as an intelligible process which Hegel referred to as Weltgeistwhich is the moving towards a specific condition —the rational realization of human freedom. The study of history is thus limited to the description of past and present realities.
This was fiercely criticized by Marx and the Young Hegelianswho argued that Hegel had gone too far in defending his abstract conception of "absolute Reason" and had failed to notice the "real" — i. This method—to know the truth by uncovering the contradictions in presently predominant ideas and, by extension, in the social relations to which they are linked—exposes the underlying struggle between opposing forces.
For Marx, it is only by becoming aware of the dialectic i. Accordingly, critical theory rejected the historicism and materialism of orthodox Marxism.
Contrary to orthodox Marxist praxiswhich solely seeks to implement an unchangeable and narrow idea of "communism" into practice, critical theorists held that praxis and theory, following the dialectical method, should be interdependent and should mutually influence each other.
Frankfurt School theorists would correct this by arguing that when action fails, then the theory guiding it must be reviewed. In short, socialist philosophical thought must be given the ability to criticize itself and "overcome" its own errors. While theory must inform praxis, praxis must also have a chance to inform theory.
Historical context Weberian theory Comparative historical analysis of Western rationalism in capitalism, the modern state, secular scientific rationality, culture, and religion; analysis of the forms of domination in general and of modern rational-legal bureaucratic domination in particular; articulation of the distinctive, hermeneutic method of the social sciences.
Freudian theory Critique of the repressive structure of the " reality principle " of advanced civilization and of the normal neurosis of everyday life; discovery of the unconsciousprimary-process thinking, and the impact of the Oedipus complex and of anxiety on psychic life; analysis of the psychic bases of authoritarianism and irrational social behavior.
Critique of positivism Critique of positivism as a philosophy, as a scientific methodologyas a political ideology and as everyday conformity ; rehabilitation of — negative — dialecticreturn to Hegel; appropriation of critical elements in phenomenology, historicism, existentialism, critique of their ahistorical, idealist tendencies; critique of logical positivism and pragmatism.
Aesthetic modernism Critique of "false" and reified experience by breaking through its traditional forms and language; projection of alternative modes of existence and experience; liberation of the unconscious; consciousness of unique, modern situation; appropriation of KafkaProustSchoenbergBreton ; critique of the culture industry and "affirmative" culture; aesthetic utopia.
Responding to the intensification of alienation and irrationality in an advanced capitalist societycritical theory is a comprehensive, ideology-critical, historically self-reflective body of theory aiming simultaneously to explain domination and point to the possibilities of bringing about a rational, humane, and free society.
Frankfurt School critical theorists developed numerous theories of the economic, political, cultural, and psychological domination structures of advanced industrial civilization. The Institute made major contributions in two areas relating to the possibility of human subjects to be rational, i.Editor’s Note: This is a milestone article that deserves careful metin2sell.comtivism should not be con fused with constructivism.
George Siemens advances a theory of learning that is consistent with the needs of the twenty first century. Introduction. Ecocriticism is a broad way for literary and cultural scholars to investigate the global ecological crisis through the intersection of literature, culture, and the physical environment.
New Criticism. A literary movement that started in the late s and s and originated in reaction to traditional criticism that new critics saw as largely concerned with matters extraneous to the text, e.g., with the biography or psychology of the author or the work's relationship to literary history.
Overview. Critical theory (German: Kritische Theorie) was first defined by Max Horkheimer of the Frankfurt School of sociology in his essay Traditional and Critical Theory: Critical Theory is a social theory oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole, in contrast to traditional theory oriented only to understanding or explaining it.
Editor’s Note: This is a milestone article that deserves careful metin2sell.comtivism should not be con fused with constructivism.
George Siemens advances a theory of learning that is consistent with the needs of the twenty first century. The Idea of a Critical Theory: Habermas and the Frankfurt School (Modern European Philosophy).