Literary theory

I have a bookcase devoted to literary theory, sitting next to the three on philosophy. Sometimes I have difficulty deciding where a new book belongs.

I developed a serious interest in litcrit and its various cousins in the 1970s. I was especially drawn to reader-response theory, including Elizabeth Freund (The Return of the Reader), Jane Tomkins, Stanley Fish, Norman Holland, Wolfgang Iser, and others. I found Louise Rosenblatt to be especially interesting, particularly idea of the poem as an emergent phenomenon based on the transaction between the reader and the text and because of the connection to the Dewey-Bentley theory of transactional knowing. I taught a course on reader response and saw it as a guide to thinking across many domains of inquiry.

I had a special interest in hermeneutics, which can be conceived as understanding understanding. I found Walter Kaufmann on the art of reading to be valuable. David Hoy and Richard Palmer introduced me to Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jürgen Habermas.

Questions such as: How does understanding differs from explanation? How is knowing in the natural sciences the same or different from that of the human sciences? How is meaning constructed or conveyed? still demand more investigation.

Robert Scholes offers clear introductions to many of these topics.

I also became interested in the rhetoric of inquiry and how discourse communities and discourse per se both reflect and shape inquiry across the disciplines.