Theory will turn out to be only another practice, from which there can be no escape or transcendence. Ironically, it was F. R. Leavis himself who recognized this back in the 1930s when he refused, under challenge by Rene Wellek, to theorize his own practice. He was right to do so, not for his mock-humble pretext that he had better leave it to philosophers to do what he, as a mere practitioner, could not do. He was right, because the philosophers cannot do it either. For since Leavis's time, the philosophers themselves, so long preoccupied with ‘ordinary’ language and establishing a first philosophy of it, have grown more humble. That first- or ground-philosophy, so long sought as a kind of master-key to all understanding, has come increasingly to be regarded as an illusion, an institutional mirage or myth, and the work done toward it as more ‘literature’. This chapter discusses literary theory and literary criticism, the concept of Leavisism, the transition from philology to theory, the politics of interpretation, deconstruction, and structuralism and poststructuralism.
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.