Barry 2002

Barry, P. (2002). Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

Learning Log entries about Barry

Literary and Cultural Theories

Liberal Humanism
Post-structuralism and deconstruction
Psychoanalytic criticism
Feminist criticism
Lesbian/gay criticism
Marxist criticism
New historicism and cultural materialism
Postcolonial criticism

Recurrent Ideas in Critical Theory

(pp. 34-36) Barry offers a list of five recurrent ideas in theory.

  1. There is no such thing as fixed, reliable, essential truth. Identity and meaning are fluid. The opposite of this stand is essentialism.
  2. Every criticism begins with some kind of theoretical perspective. To deny this places our own presuppositions beyond scrutiny. This is a form of relativism.
  3. Language constructs reality, instead of just recording it. Meaning is constructed jointly, between the reader and the writer.
  4. There is no definitive reading of a work. The author is always absent and the theorist can generate infinite webs of meaning. Every text is ambiguous, multi-faceted, and self-contradictory.
  5. To elevate a book to "great" status denies the socio-political situation from which it arose. Saying that a book expresses something essential about human nature is usually Eurocentric and androcentric.

Barry then "sums them up" into these five points, which don't seem to correspond neatly to the five recurrent ideas.

  1. Politics is pervasive.
  2. Language is constitutive.
  3. Truth is provisional.
  4. Meaning is contingent.
  5. Human nature is a myth.