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Notes on Theory

Notes on Theory

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Published by James Nauenburg
Mary Klages is professor of literary theory at University of Colorado-Boulder. Here are some distillations from her "guide for the perplexed." I like her writing and I recommend her to whomever needs a helping hand with theory. She's plainspoken.
Mary Klages is professor of literary theory at University of Colorado-Boulder. Here are some distillations from her "guide for the perplexed." I like her writing and I recommend her to whomever needs a helping hand with theory. She's plainspoken.

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Published by: James Nauenburg on Nov 16, 2009
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Analytical Theory | Some points from on reading from Mary Klages
examining how something remains the same across a span of time
examining how something changes across a span of timeThe structure of English in a single sentence:
“The adjectival noun verbed the direct object
The stupid boy slipped and kicked the ball too hard.
“The adjective noun auxiliary verbed the direct object adverbially main
The stupid boy slipped and the ball too hard kicked.
“The noun adjective verbed adverbially the direct object.”
The boy stupid slipped and kicked too hard the ball.
Metaphor is the establishment of a relation of similarity between two things (A is like B).Metonomy is an equating of one thing for another (crown for king).
The point is that relations between units in a system can only be analyzed in pairs
.Cthonic, meaning
 from the underground gods
, is used to describe something’s origin in the earth,or merely external to one’s self in some instances.
 Poststructuralist ideas are provisional and ambiguous. Poststructuralist theory is difficult becausemost theorists adopt a writing style that highlights the provisionality and ambiguity of meaning.They do not want to speak, or write, clearly, because to do so would be to affirm that there issuch a thing as absolute meaning.Derrida says that every philosophical system, every attempt to explain the relations among themind, the self, and the world, posited some sort of a center, or a point from which everythingcomes and to which everything refers. In some systems the center is the concept of God; inothers it is the human mind, or the unconscious, or space aliens.
The importance of binaries, or two terms placed in relation to each other, is deconstruction’s
second critical point. Being/Nothingness; each term has meaning only in reference to the other.Being is what is not nothingness; presence takes precedence over absence.Psychological TheoryFreudIn Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud theorizes about two fundamental principles at work in
civilization, and he calls these the “pleasure principle” and the “reality principle.” The first tells
us to do whatever feels good; the second tells us to subordinate the first in favor of what needsdoing, to work. This is accomplished by a psychological process Freud calls sublimation,wherein you take desire that cannot or should not be fulfilled, and turn their energy into
something useful and productive. The unfulfilled desires are then packed, or “repressed,” into a
place in the mind which Freud labels the unconscious.
Without an unconscious, or the repression that creates it, or the reality principle that demandsrepression (which is associated with what Freud calls the superego), the child has no gender. AsFreud describes it, going through the Oedipus Complex as a developmental stage in childhoodturns us from the incestuous sexual developmental stage to the exogamous sexual stage.LacanCentral to the conception of the human for Lacan is the notion that the unconscious, whichgoverns all factors of human existence, is structured like a language. Patriarchy, as our center,
limits the play of elements and gives stability to the whole structure. In “The Agency of theLetter in the Unconscious,” he makes to drawings: the first is the word tree over th
e picture of atree, which is the classic Saussurean concept of signifier (word) and signified (object). Thesecond is of two identical doors
; over one door is the word “ladies” and over the other is theword “gentlemen.”
A patriarchal culture is one which aligns all the left-side terms as the valuedones, and consigns all the right-
side terms to the position of “other.”
She also links binary structures to Western cultural practice, and she follows Freud’s lead
regarding gender, maintaining that women are aligned with otherness, and men with selfhood. In
writing about this she refers to women as “they,” as non
-speakers and non-writers, stating that as
“others” women enter the symbolic by taking up a subject position, being assigned a name, and
then being assigned a meaning. Novels, she says, are allies of this representationalism; they aregenres, which try to speak a stable language, a language where one signifier points to onesignified. For Cixous, what has been repressed into the unconscious is female sexuality and thefemale body. For Freud, the basic idea of hysteria is that the body produces a symptom whichrepresents a repressed idea; thus, the body speaks what the conscious mind cannot say.We are the only species that can copulate more or less at will, and that alone separates sexualbehavior from reproduction. Sexual behavior in human culture is almost always about somethingmore than just pleasure or reproduction: it is often about forms of power and dominance.HistoryHistory is a story a culture tells itself about its past.MarxismMarxAccording to Marx, the economic base is the primary determining factor in all social relations:everything that happens in a society is in some way related to, and determined by, the economic
 base. The existence of a society’s economic base permits the construction of a superstructure, or 
a set of social systems determined by the base. Marxist theory asks how the base does this. How,for instance, does the feudal mode of production determine religious beliefs and practices?Ideology and its ideologies are the kinds of ideas that exist in the superstructure. How does theeconomic
 base influence the form and content of that society’s literature?
 AlthusserHe distinguishes between ideologies and Ideology. Ideologies are specific, historical, anddiffering; we can talk about various ideologies, such as Christian, democratic, feminist, Marxist.

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