What's Left of Theory?: New Work on the Politics of Literary Theory
“For several years,” write the editors of What’s Left of Theory, “a debate on the politics of theory has been conducted energetically within literary studies. The terms of the debate, however, are far from clear. What is meant by politics? What is meant by theory?”
What’s Left of Theory is a vigorous engagement with that thorniest of critical questions: how today are theory and progressive thought connected? Michael Warner, activist and critic, examines ‘zones of privacy and zones of theory’ while law professor Janet Halley considers theory and its applicability to sex harassment. Jeff Nunokawa examines Oscar Wilde, Marjorie Levinson reads Elizabeth Bishop alongside National Geographic; John Brenkman considers ‘extreme criticism’, Michael Berube the ‘future of contingency’; William Connolly addresses the matter of secularism, Gayatri Spivak explores what she calls ‘theory-remains’, and Jonathan Culler demonstrates once again his gift for explaining the complex in an essay that identifies ‘the literary in theory’.
Editors Butler, Guillory, and Thomas have brought together not only outstanding questioners, but outstanding questions. As their introduction puts it, “Are there ways of pursuing a politically reflective literary analysis that have definitively left theory behind, and must ‘theory’ be left behind for left literary analysis to emerge? Has the study of literature passed beyond its encounter with theory? If so, in passing beyond theory, has it remained unchanged? Does the recent cry for a ‘return to literature’ signal the surpassing of theory, the fact that literature remains after theory? Does literature remain (the same) after theory?” For students of literature and the humanities in general, these questions are not only left: they endure.
Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Film and Media Studies | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences
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Butler, Judith; Guillory, John; and Thomas, Kendall, "What's Left of Theory?: New Work on the Politics of Literary Theory" (2000). Faculty Books. 259.