Literary Theory 101

Hello everyone and welcome to the first of many posts in my Theory Thursday series. Firstly, if the word ‘theory’ scares you or worse, bores you, do not panic! I promise that theory is not as complicated or dull as it may seem, in fact I would bet that some of the most enthusiastic readers and movie buffs already understand a lot of the things that I am going to be breaking down in this series, and just don’t know it yet.

Struggling students listen up. Do you have a book report due? An essay that you have to write but you are finding the question daunting? Are you in secondary school trying to figure out how you are going to answer a question about Shakespeare in the leaving cert? If you fall into any of these categories then let me help you.

Disclaimer – I am not a teacher or a tutor, nor am I claiming to be one. The purpose of Theory Thursday is to break down aspects of literary theory so that anyone who enjoys discussing books, plays, poetry and films in depth can enjoy more detailed blog posts however if you are a struggling student who finds these simple breakdowns helpful, then that is a bonus. So stay tuned and enjoy.

Let’s dive into Literary Theory 101. What is literary theory and why is it important?

Literary theory is a style of literary analysis that allows readers to discuss and critique literature. Still confused? Keep reading. There are many schools of literary theory, for example structuralism, postmodernism, feminist etc. Don’t worry, I won’t be talking about these schools of thought today, it would be too much for day one.

The key thing that you should take away from this Theory Thursday is the idea that applying a literary theory to a text is basically like choosing to read a book or watch a film through a filter. That’s right, filters really are everywhere. Welcome to 2021.

Let me use an example – Literary theory = the filter I’m going to read/watch a text through. My filter of choice? Feminist theory. I’ve chosen my filter so now I’m going to watch a movie through a feminist lens and this means that I’m paying close attention to the women in this film. Are there many women in this film? What is their role? How are women represented in this film? Are they love interests to male characters? Are they in leadership roles? Are they treated well? Are they spoken about negatively or positively? Are the female characters well rounded? – These are just a few of the questions I could ask when watching a film and applying feminist theory.

Why do we use literary theory?

Applying different literary theories and exploring works through different lenses allows audiences to develop a much broader appreciation of literature as exploring different perspectives can really widen a text’s meaning, making it more enjoyable and more impactful to the reader/viewer.

Why is it important?

English Literature opens many doors. I could talk about it endlessly which is why I have created Katelovesliterature.com. I want to share my passions and explain why I love it so much. I wanted to create a space where readers who love the arts can browse and enjoy themselves. I wanted to share the joys of reading, and poetry, and plays, and movie watching and help others wrap their heads around the different aspects that make literature so wonderfully entertaining. So, that is a very simple breakdown of literary theory and why it’s important. I hope I’ve sparked some interest.

What’s happening next week on Theory Thursday?

I’m going to be talking about form and theme so simply that it will save the day if you’re a struggling student. Stay tuned!

Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below and I can answer them on Theory Thursday.

Kate xo.

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