Literary Theory Quotes

Quotes tagged as "literary-theory" Showing 1-30 of 43
Arthur Schopenhauer
“The business of the novelist is not to relate great events, but to make small ones interesting.”
Arthur Schopenhauer, The Works of Schopenhauer: The Wisdom of Life and Other Essays

Joshua Reynolds
“There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.”
Sir Joshua Reynolds

Jeffrey Eugenides
“Reading a novel after reading semiotic theory was like jogging empty-handed after jogging with hand weights. What exquisite guilt she felt, wickedly enjoying narrative! Madeleine felt safe with a nineteenth century novel. There were going to be people in it. Something was going to happen to them in a place resembling the world. Then too there were lots of weddings in Wharton and Austen. There were all kinds of irresistible gloomy men.”
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot

Individuals often turn to poetry, not only to glean strength and perspective from the words
“Individuals often turn to poetry, not only to glean strength
and perspective from the words of others, but to give birth
to their own poetic voices and to hold history accountable
for the catastrophes rearranging their lives.”
Aberjhani, Splendid Literarium: A Treasury of Stories, Aphorisms, Poems, and Essays

Roman Payne
“I ran across an excerpt today (in English translation) of some dialogue/narration from the modern popular writer, Paulo Coelho in his book: Aleph.(Note: bracketed text is mine.)... 'I spoke to three scholars,' [the character says 'at last.'] ...two of them said that, after death, the [sic (misprint, fault of the publisher)] just go to Paradise. The third one, though, told me to consult some verses from the Koran. [end quote]' ...I can see that he's excited. [narrator]' ...Now I have many positive things to say about Coelho: He is respectable, inspiring as a man, a truth-seeker, and an appealing writer; but one should hesitate to call him a 'literary' writer based on this quote. A 'literary' author knows that a character's excitement should be 'shown' in his or her dialogue and not in the narrator's commentary on it. Advice for Coelho: Remove the 'I can see that he's excited' sentence and show his excitement in the phrasing of his quote.(Now, in defense of Coelho, I am firmly of the opinion, having myself written plenty of prose that is flawed, that a novelist should be forgiven for slipping here and there.)Lastly, it appears that a belief in reincarnation is of great interest to Mr. Coelho ... Just think! He is a man who has achieved, (as Leonard Cohen would call it), 'a remote human possibility.' He has won lots of fame and tons of money. And yet, how his preoccupation with reincarnation—none other than an interest in being born again as somebody else—suggests that he is not happy!”
Roman Payne

Roman Payne
“Favoring 'resolution' the way we do, it is hard for us men to write great love stories. Why?, because we want to tell too much. We aren’t satisfied unless at the end of the story the characters are lying there, panting.”
Roman Payne

Northrop Frye
“It doesn't matter whether a sequence of words is called a history or a story: that is, whether it is intended to follow a sequence of actual events or not. As far as its verbal shape is concerned, it will be equally mythical in either case. But we notice that any emphasis on shape or structure or pattern or form always throws a verbal narrative in the direction we call mythical rather than historical.(p.21)”
Northrop Frye, Biblical and Classical Myths: The Mythological Framework of Western Culture

Tzvetan Todorov
“When the critic has said everything in his power about a literary text, he has still said nothing; for the very existence of literature implies that it cannot be replaced by non-literature”

Northrop Frye
“The genuine artist, Harris is saying, finds reality in a point of identity between subject and object, a point at which the created world and the world that is really there become the same thing. [p.211]”
Northrop Frye, The Bush Garden

Charles Simic
“The ambition of much of today's literary theory seems to be to find ways to read literature without imagination.”
Charles Simic, The Unemployed Fortune-Teller: Essays and Memoirs

Luce Irigaray
“Your body expresses yesterday in what it wants today. If you think: yesterday I was, tomorrow I shall be, you are thinking: I have died a little. Be what you are becoming, without clinging to what you might have been, what you might yet be. Never settle. Leave definitiveness to the undecided; we don't need it.”
Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which Is Not One

Maurice Blanchot
“Art is not religion, 'it doesn't even lead to religion.' But in the time of distress which is ours, the time when the gods are missing, the time of absence and exile, art is justified, for it is the intimacy of this distress: the effort to make manifest, through the image, the error of the imaginary, and eventually the ungraspable, forgotten truth which hides behind the error.”
Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature

C.S. Lewis
“The truth is not that we need the critics in order to enjoy the authors, but that we need the authors in order to enjoy the critics.”
C.S. Lewis

“Imagination and the pure delight in stories drive out fear.”
W.P. Ker

Roland Barthes
“The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text's unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. Yet this destination cannot any longer be personal: the reader is without history, biography, psychology; he is simply that someone who holds together in a single field all the traces by which the written text is constituted…Classic criticism has never paid any attention to the reader; for it, the writer is the only person in literature…we know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author. [Final passage in "The Death of the Author," in Image-Music-Text, by Roland Barthes, Trans. Stephen Heath (1977)]”
Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author

“To the jaded eye, all vampires seem alike, but they are wonderful in their versatility. Some come to life in moonlight, others are killed by the sun, some pierce with their eyes, others with fangs, some are reactionary, others are rebels, but all are disturbingly close to the mortals they prey on. I can think of no other monsters who are so receptive. Vampires are neither inhuman nor nonhuman nor all-too-human, they are simply more alive than they should be.”
Nina Auerbach

C.S. Lewis
“A clever schoolboy's reaction to his reading is most naturally expressed by parody or imitation.”
C.S. Lewis

“Some have speculated that the way [Albert] Camus died made his theories on absurdity a self-fulfilling prophecy. Others would say it was the triumphant meaningful way he lived that allowed him to rise heroically above absurdity.”
Aberjhani, Illuminated Corners: Collected Essays and Articles Volume I.

Anne Elizabeth Moore
“Punctuation was, it is sad to say, invented a very long time ago. Even more frustrating, it has remained with us ever since.”
Anne Elizabeth Moore, The Manifesti of Radical Literature

William H. Gass
“Normally, we are supposed to say farewell to the page even as we look, to see past the cut of the type, hear beyond the shape of the sound, feel more than the heft of the book, to hear the bird sing whose name has been invoked, and think of love being made through the length of the night if the bird's name is nightingale; but when the book itself has the beauty of the bird, and the words do their own singing; when the token is treated as if it, not some divine intention, was holy and had power; when the bird itself is figured in the margins as though that whiteness were a moon-bleached bough and the nearby type the leaves it trembles; and when indigo turbans or vermilion feathers are, with jasmines, pictured so perfectly that touch falls in love with the finger, eyes light, and nostrils flare; when illustrations refuse to illustrate but instead suggest the inside of the reader's head, where a consciousness is being constructed; then the nature of the simple sign is being vigorously denied, and the scene or line or brief rendition is being treated like a thing itself, returning the attention to its qualities and composition. -- From "The Book As a Container of Consciousness”
William H. Gass, Finding a Form

“Faced with the numbering logic of neoliberal regimes, literature offers an intervention in order to consider identity and voice, to consider representation in both the political and artistic sense of the term... [Literature and art] cultivate tension between an unresolved past and present, between invisibility and exposure, showing the dualities of face and mask that leave their trace on identitarian struggles today.”
Francine Masiello, The Art of Transition: Latin American Culture and Neoliberal Crisis

Jeremy Hawthorn
“The literary text seems like "a fortified medieval town –foreigners and outsiders are repelled, or allowed in only after rigorous checks, but within all is bustling life; exchange, mutual interdependence and influence are the rule.”
Jeremy Hawthorn, Unlocking the Text: Fundamental Issues in Literary Theory

“Like any other artist, the writer is a licensed critic, traditionally given the leeway to have a long and critical look at society, to satirise its conventions, to be subversive, to question and challenge, and, ultimately to construct new ways of looking at the world that society comes to value and eventually to use in shaping new conventions, new rules of thumb for behaviour.

— From a lecture "What Is Literary Value," given 15 October 1997

Ms. Hunter was the Gresham Professor of Rhetoric between 1997 and 2000”
Lynette Hunter

Wendy Lesser
“By virtue of the literary work over which they meet, the reader and the writer both begin to loosen their hold on selfhood.”
Wendy Lesser, Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books

Pierre Macherey
“To deprive the bourgeoisie not of its art but of its concept of art, this is the precondition of a revolutionary argument.”
Pierre Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production

Leon Trotsky
“It is very true that one cannot always go by the principles of Marxism in deciding whether to reject or to accept a work of art. A work of art should, in the first place, be judged by its own law, that is, by the law of art. But Marxism alone can explain why and how a given tendency in art has originated in a given period of history; in other words, who it was who made a demand for such an artistic form and not for another, and why.”
Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution

Leon Trotsky
“The Formalist school represents an abortive idealism applied to the question of art. The Formalists show a fast ripening religiousness. They are followers of Saint John. They believe that "In the beginning was the Word." But we believe that in the beginning was the deed. The word followed, as its phonetic shadow.”
Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution

Brian Leiter
“Theory," recall, is the term for bad philosophy in literature departments.”
Brian Leiter

Ezra Pound
“The proper METHOD for studying poetry and good letters is the method of contemporary biologists, that is careful first-hand examination of the matter, and continual COMPARISON of one ‘slide’ or specimen with another.

No man is equipped for modern thinking until he has understood the anecdote of Agassiz and the fish:

A post-graduate student equipped with honours and diplomas went to Agassiz to receive the final and finishing touches.
The great man offered him a small fish and told him to describe it.
Post-Graduate Student: “That’s only a sun-fish”
Agassiz: “I know that. Write a description of it.”
After a few minutes the student returned with the description of the Ichthus Heliodiplodokus, or whatever term is used to conceal the common sunfish from vulgar knowledge, family of Heliichterinkus, etc., as found in textbooks of the subject.
Agassiz again told the student to describe the fish.
The student produced a four-page essay.
Agassiz then told him to look at the fish. At the end of the three weeks the fish was in an advanced state of decomposition, but the student knew something about it.

— ABC of Reading (1934; New Directions)”
Ezra Pound

C.S. Lewis
“If literary scholarship and criticism are regarded as activities ancillary to literature, then their sole function is to multiply, prolong, and safeguard experiences of good reading. A system which heads us off from abstraction by being centred on literature in operation is what we need.”
C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

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